East African Oil Pipeline in Court Again: Hearings Reserved for June at the Earliest

The 1,443 Kilometre East Africa Community Oil Pipeline (EACOP) has had another day in court; and the East African Court has decided it would rule whether it was qualified to hear the case against its construction or not, between June and August 2023.

The last court attempt to halt the construction -before this one- was dismissed in Paris, France on February 28, 2023. The Paris Civil Court, after more than three years and a lengthy procedural battle, threw out the case  brought by Friends of the Earth France, Survie and four Ugandan civil society organizations (AFIEGO, CRED, NAPE/Friends of the Earth Uganda and NAVODA) against French oil giant TOTAL, regarding its oil mega-projects (the upstream development, Tilenga and the midstream work, EACOP) in Uganda and Tanzania.

The installation of the massive EACOP infrastructure; a heated pipeline which would allow Uganda to export its crude via Tanzania’s port of Tanga, is ongoing. Its contractors include China Petroleum Pipeline Engineering (CPP), Bollore, Schneider Electric and Worley. In January 2023, Ruth Nankabirwa, Uganda’s Minister of Energy and Mineral Development, issued the license authorizing the project, following the application submitted on July 1, 2022, “in compliance with various acts and regulations, including the Petroleum (Refining, Conversion, Transmission, and Midstream Storage) Act 2013, Regulation 59 of the Petroleum (Refining, Conversion, Transmission, and Midstream Storage) Act 2016, and the East African Crude Oil Pipeline Special Provisions Act 2021”..

In the current suit against the project, the East African Court of Justice (EACJ) reserved judgment after hearing arguments for and against the objection to the court’s jurisdiction filed by the Secretary General of the East African Community, the Republic of Tanzania and Republic of Uganda in response to the case challenging the construction of the East African Crude Oil Pipeline (EACOP) “until the questions of environmental, social justice, and climate justice concerns raised in the case are heard and determined.”

The preliminary objection sought to dismiss the case before the Applicants Natural Justice, Centre for Strategic Litigation, the Centre for Food and Adequate Living Rights (CEFROHT) Limited, and Africa Institute for Energy Governance (AFIEGO) – got the opportunity to ventilate the real issues at the main hearing.

The contention of the Respondents’ was threefold: One, that the court did not have the power to entertain the case since it was brought outside the statutory period of two months. Secondly, they contested the jurisdiction of the court to entertain issues of violation of human rights- according to the Respondents, this matter fell outside the court’s purview when human rights issues arose. Finally, the Respondents argued that the matter was not ripe for hearing due to the Applicants’ submission being defective.

The Applicants – asked the court to dismiss this preliminary objection on the basis that it was not properly framed. The nature of the objection raised by the Respondents is argued on points of law only. The Applicants argued that the issues raised by the Respondents required the court to go into questions of fact, which the court should not consider at a preliminary stage. Specifically, the court could not, at this point, evaluate the contested dates on which The Intergovernmental Agreement and the Host Government Agreement were signed.

Ruling on the preliminary objection will likely be handed down when the court sits again in June or August 2023. If the preliminary objection on the court’s jurisdiction is successful, the case shall be dismissed, and if the court determines that it has jurisdiction, then the matter shall proceed, and will be heard on merits.



  1. Taka Tono says:

    EACOP is the critical part of the very long Voyage to Uganda’s First Oil.

  2. Greg Coleman says:

    This project is critical to the oil from Uganda to get to market. CNOOC as operator of Kingfisher has already commenced drilling of the production wells.

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