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EACOP: Court to Determine Fate of Oil Pipeline Project by Chinese, Other Shareholders

A map showing the EACOP project from Hoima in the west of Uganda to Tanzania’s city of Tanga on the Indian Ocean coast.

Just days after Lloyd’s Cincinnati confirmed that it will not insure the controversial East Africa Crude Oil Pipeline (EACOP), the project faces another hurdle at the East African Court of Justice (EACJ).

The EACJ is expected to rule in the case challenging the construction of EACOP filed by Natural Justice, the Centre for Strategic Litigation, the Centre for Food and Adequate Living Rights (CEFROHT) Limited, and the Africa Institute for Energy Governance (AFIEGO).

EACOP has attracted international protests over environmental, social justice, and climate justice concerns over EACOP.

In a statement, Coal Action Network said Nick Chalk, an active underwriter with Cincinnati at Lloyd’s verbally confirmed that they “100% do not write this project and we have no intention of ever writing it.

The court case at the EACJ started hearing responses from the East African Community (EAC) Secretary General and the Republics of Tanzania and Uganda on Wednesday (April 5). The three are the respondents in the case that was filed on November 6, 2020.

Case applicants are contending that China’s National Offshore Oil Corporation (CNOOC), French oil giant Total Energies, Uganda, and Tanzania did not conduct an effective public consultation. In addition, they argue that the project proponents did not conduct climate and human rights impact assessments before commencing the EACOP project.

The applicants also claim that EACOP contravenes various provisions of the EAC treaty; the Protocol for the Sustainable Management of the Lake Victoria Basin; the post-2020 Convention on Biological Diversity, the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights; the African Convention on Conservation of Natural Resources and the Paris Climate Accords.

Why EACOP is a Controversial Project

In February this year, a French court dismissed an appeal against EACOP which allowed TotalEnergies to continue with the project development.

The project is the longest heated oil pipeline in the world and includes crude oil extraction in Uganda and a 1,443km pipeline to the Tanzanian coastline.

EACOP’s three main parts are the Tilenga and Kingfisher upstream oil fields on the shores of Lake Albert and the oil pipeline linking the oil fields via heated underground pipes to the Tanzanian port of Tanga where there is a storage and loading terminal for export.

On the one hand, developers say the project in its entirety will transform social and economic fortunes in Uganda and Tanzania but on the other, international organizations have come together claiming that oil extraction and constructing the pipeline pose a serious threat to the environment and communities in the affected regions.

Activists claim that EACOP is a risk to lakes and rivers, wetlands, protected wildlife areas, forests, and national parks in Uganda and Tanzania.

In a human rights impact assessment report by Oxfam, EACOP directly affects 100,000 people in Uganda and Tanzania and estimates that 14,000 will be displaced from the 5,300 hectares of land needed for the pipeline’s construction.

The project is also touted to create tens of thousands of jobs directly and indirectly but activists contend that this is not quantifiable and cannot also be qualified.

Africa’s Energy Poverty

As controversial as the EACOP project is, there is also the reality of energy poverty in the East African region. For Africa, the pipeline signifies a solution for addressing energy shortages and if it fails, if EACOP fails, Africa will remain energy poor.

The African Energy Chamber (AEC) Executive Chairman, NJ Ayuk, quoted by The Guardian Nigeria last year said that Ugandans and Tanzanians should not be penalized for Western and developed nations. He added that Africa deserves the right to develop its resources which includes EACOP.

WHY IS THIS IMPORTANT? Africa contributes less than 5 percent of the global greenhouse gas emissions but has to deal with significant energy poverty. An estimated 68 percent of the Sub-Saharan African population has no access to electricity and heavily relies on biomass.

A just energy transition would have to take into consideration the fact that African countries cannot be expected to transition in the same way as developed countries. The argument that African countries have to develop their natural resources to get their people out of economic and energy poverty then holds true. This includes oil and gas exploitation.


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