23 June 2014

Tanzania: Court Rules Construction of Road Across Serengeti National Park Unlawful

Photo: Marc Patry/Unesco

press release

Arusha, Tanzania — East African Court of Justice Arusha, 23 June 2014: The first Instance Division on 20 June 2014, as it concluded the session which begun in May 2014, declared that the initial proposed action by the United Republic of Tanzania to construct a high way road across Serengeti National Park was unlawful and an infringement of Articles 5(3)(c) which provides for the promotion of sustainable utilisation of the natural resources of the Partner States and the taking of measures that would effectively protect the natural environment of the Partner States; and others of the Treaty for the Establishment of the East African Community.

The Articles provide on the promotion of sustainable utilization of the natural resources of the Partner States and the taking of measures that would effectively protect the natural environment of the Partner States; Action by the Community relating to the environment objectives and Management of Natural Resources.

The Court also granted a permanent injunction restraining Tanzania from operationalizing the action of constructing or maintaining a road across the Serengeti National Park subject to its right to undertake such other programs in future which would not have negative impacts to the environment and ecosystem in the Serengeti National Park.

The Court in its judgment said that the matter raises issues that are today the subject of wide debate across the World, including; environmental protection, sustainable development, environmental rule of Law and the role of the State in policy formulation in matters relating to the environment and natural resources.

In addition added that the role of the Court in balancing its interpretation jurisdiction against the needs of ensuring that Partner States are not unduly hindered in their developmental programs.

The Court added that all these issues must however be looked at from the common thread running through the matter in the need to protect the Serengeti ecosystem for the sake of future generations and whether the road project has potential for causing irreparable damages to the environment.

Furthermore the Court in its findings held that according to the orders sought by the Applicants, it is proper to ensure that Tanzania as a Partner State stays within its obligations under the Treaty. The Court therefore ordered each party to pay their own costs because the litigation was in the wider public interest.

The case was filed by a Kenyan None Governmental Organization - Africa Network for Animal Welfare (ANAW) contesting the United Republic of Tanzania's intention to build a "super highway" crossing the Serengeti National Park, with the Kenyan organization arguing, it would be detrimental to wildlife and the ecosystem as a whole.

Representative of ANAW, Mr. Wachi Benson, and His Lawyer Mr. Saitabao Kanchory Mbalelo appeared in Court to receive the Judgment.

Meanwhile, the First Instance Division granted an application for the withdrawal and discontinuance of the consolidated matters filed by Hon. Margareth Nantongo Zziwa, Speaker of the East African Legislative Assembly (EALA) and Mbidde Foundation Limited versus the Secretary General of the East African Community and the Attorney General of the Republic of Uganda (Respondents) restraining the motion for the removal of Rt. Hon. Margaret Nantongo Zziwa from the Office of the Speaker of the Assembly.

As the Court expected to proceed with scheduling conference on the matters the two Applicants, Hon. Zziwa and Hon. Fred Mukasa Mbidde applied for the withdrawal and discontinuance of the case on the grounds that the matter had been overtaken by events.

The Secretary General and Attorney General of the Republic of Uganda were represented by Hon. Wilbert Kaahwa and Ms. Christine Kaahwa respectively did not oppose the Application for withdrawal arguing that following the ruling in the previous consolidated applications any further pursuit of this litigation was inconsequential.

The Court on 29 May 2014 declined to grant an injunction in the consolidated applications by Hon. Margaret Zziwa and Hon. Fred Mbidde to the effect that the matters did not disclose a prima facie case with a likelihood of success (the Applicants' pleadings that the Assembly has no rules of procedure, that the Respondents did not seek an advisory opinion of the Court on the Assembly's handling of the Motion and that there is a likelihood of bias all lacking merit or being speculative).

The Applicants have also withdrawn their appeal filed in the Appellate Division, challenging the ruling on the consolidated applications.On Thursday 5th June Rt. Hon Margaret Nantongo Zziwa ruled against her censure Motion terming it to have fallen short of the requirements and thus collapsed. Rt. Hon Zziwa pegged her ruling on Rule 82(2) of Rules of Procedure that grants the Speaker of the Assembly, the final powers on the interpretation and the application of the same.

She remarked that three Members from the United Republic of Tanzania, namely, Hon. ShyRose Bhanji, Hon. Adam Kimbisa and Hon. Maryam Ussi had withdrawn their signatures, originally appended to support the Motion and said it was thus improper to hold on to the signatures against their intention to withdraw from the pursuit.

Rt. Hon Zziwa further stated that under Rule 9, the removal of the Speaker needed to be followed by the strict observance of the rights protected under Article 6(d) of the Treaty governing the establishment of the EAC.

Other lawyers present in Court were Dr Charles Kallu-Kalumiya, Justin Semuyaba and John Jet Tumwebaze for the Applicants and Stephen Agaba, Jimmy Oburu Odoy, and Geoffrey Wangolo Madete for the Respondents. The Court ordered each party in both matters to bear its costs.

About the EACJ

The East African Court of Justice (EACJ or 'the Court'), is one of the organs of the East African Community established under Article 9 of the Treaty for the Establishment of the East African Community. Established in November 2001, the Court's major responsibility is to ensure the adherence to law in the interpretation and application of and compliance with the EAC Treaty.

Arusha is the temporary seat of the Court until the Summit determines its permanent seat. The High Courts of the Partner States serve as sub-registries., on her remarks delivered by Hon Dr Martn Nduwimana, underscored the need to empower Persons with Disabilities(PWDs) within the East African region cannot be over-emphasized.

"I for one I am a firm believer in the allegory that; disability is not inability"

Hon Speaker informed delegates that EALA will continue to prioritize concerns of the PWDs in all its current as well as future programs and policies. She also mentioned that EALA is in the process of considering a bill on Disability.

The EAC Deputy Secretary General in charge of Productive and Social Sector Hon Jesca Eriyo informed the delegates that an EAC Policy on Policy on People with Disabilities (2012) is now in place.

The policy is expected to among other things, facilitate greater awareness of the importance of empowering people with disabilities to enjoy a decent quality of life and all fundamental human rights including the right to employment, stated Hon Eriyo.

She called for an urgent need to discuss the critical role that Partner States governments and Legislators must play in providing leadership through national level commitments, legislation and providing enabling environments to allow for persons with disabilities to contribute as effective and full participating members of societies.SOURCE East African Court of Justice (EACJ)

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