The East African Court of Justice decided on March 15 that a case against a proposed commercial highway across the Serengeti could proceed with a full trial.
A legal case was filed in December, 2010, by the Africa Network for Animal Welfare (ANAW), a Kenya nonprofit organization, challenging the Tanzanian government’s decision to build a highway across the Serengeti National Park.
ANAW claimed that if the highway were constructed, it would have far-reaching and destructive consequences on the Serengeti-Mara ecosystem which is shared between Kenya and Tanzania. It asked that the highway stopped through a permanent injunction.
The East Africa Court of Justice Appellate Division ruled on March 15th, 2012, that the Tanzanian government does not have grounds to oppose jurisdiction of the lower court. The four-judge bench of EACJ’s Appellate Division dismissed all the grounds raised by the Tanzanian Attorney General and ruled that the regional Court did indeed have jurisdiction to determine such environmental disputes in the region. The case will now proceed to a full trial.
The legal action contends that the highway would first and foremost be an infringement of the Treaty for the Establishment of the East African Community. It would cause “irreparable and irreversible damage to the environment of the Serengeti National Park and the adjoining and inseparable Masai Mara Game Reserve in Kenya.”
It seeks to permanently restrain the government of Tanzania from the following:
“constructing, creating, commissioning or maintaining a trunk road or highway across any part of the Serengeti National Park.”
“degazetting (removing) any part of the Serengeti National Park for the purpose of upgrading, tarmacking, paving, realigning, constructing, creating or commissioning” the highway.
removing itself from UNESCO obligations with respect to the Serengeti National Park.
The East Africa Court of Justice is the instrument for settling disputes among members of the East African Community, which are Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda, and Burundi. Under the terms of the EAC Treaty, partner states are required to cooperate in the management of shared natural resources, notify each other of activities that are likely to have significant transboundary environmental impacts, and to follow protocols for Environmental Impact Assessment.
Other obligations of the Tanzanian government cited in the case fall under: the United Nations Convention on Biodiversity, the United Nations Declaration on the Human Environment, the Stockholm Declaration, and the African Convention on the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources.
Serengeti Watch is supporting the legal fight by providing funding and seeking help from other legal and environmental organizations. Donations to the Serengeti Legal Defense Fund can be made online at: http://earthisland.org/serengeti/legal
For more information on the Serengeti highway, see
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