Regional Court Says Can Hear Serengeti Case, Dismisses Tanzania Appeal

By East African Community (EAC)

ARUSHA, Tanzania, March 16, 2012/African Press Organization (APO)/ -- The Appellate Division of the East African Court of Justice Thursday upheld a ruling of the First Instance Division that it had jurisdiction to hear a case in which a non government organization seeks to block construction of a highway through the Serengeti National Park.

By ordering that the matter should proceed for hearing in the First Instance Division, the Court dismissed an appeal by the Attorney General of the United Republic of Tanzania challenging an earlier suit filed by Africa Network for Animal Welfare (ANAW).

In making its decision, the Court took into consideration the provisions of the EAC Treaty Article 111 on the environmental and natural resources, where the Partner States recognize that development activities may have negative impacts on the environment leading to the degradation of the environment and depletion of natural resources and that a clean and healthy environment is a prerequisite for sustainable development.

The Appellate Division also decided the EACJ would not be drawn into whether it had power to grant a permanent injunction restraining the Tanzanian Government from constructing the highway, saying the matter is premature because the case was yet to be heard on its merits.

State Attorney Mr. E. Mwenyunge represented the Attorney General of the United Republic of Tanzania and while the Respondent (ANAW) was represented by Mr. Saitabao Kanchory Mbalelo. Justices Harold Nsekela, President, Philip Kiptoo Tunoi, Vice President, Emilie Kayitesi, Laurent Nzosaba and James Ogoola presided over the case.

Kenya Government Wins on Appeal in Mount Elgon Case

Also on Thursday the EACJ Appellate Division overruled the First Instance Division and dismissed a case filed by Independent Medical Legal Unit, alleged that the act of the Kenyan Government failing to investigate, prosecute and punish those responsible for executions, acts of torture, cruelty, inhuman and degrading treatment of over 3,000 Kenyan residents in Mount Elgon District contravenes the Treaty.

The Court concurred with the Kenyan Attorney General, who had appealed the case, that IMLU's suit had been filed out of time. The Treaty under Article 30(2) provides that a case should be instituted within two months of the enactment, publication, directive, decision or action complained of, or in on the day it came to knowledge of the complainant. The Appellate Division found that the complainant had knowledge of the acts complained of 2008 but filed its case in 2010.

Justices Harold Nsekela, President, Philip Tunoi, Vice President, Emillie R. Kayitesi, Laurent Nzosaba and James Ogoola however upheld the decision that the Court has jurisdiction to entertain the case.

They cited the fundamental principles that govern the achievement of the objectives of the Community which include good governance, adherence to the principles of democracy, the rule of law, accountability, transparency, social justice, equal opportunities, gender equality, as well as the recognition, promotion and protection of human and people's rights in accordance with the provisions of the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights.

Senior Principal Litigation Officer Mr. Anthony Ombwayo represented the Attorney General of the Republic of Kenya and Ms. Kethi Kilonzo was IMLU's advocate.

The Court ordered that each party bears its costs.