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Win for conservationists as East African Court stops Serengeti road

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Construction of a road across the Serengeti National Park would have had serious negative effects on the park’s animals. Photo/FILE

Construction of a road across the Serengeti National Park would have had serious negative effects on the park’s animals. Photo/FILE 

By JOHN MBARIA Special Correspondent

posted  Saturday, June 21  2014 at  17:48

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  • Tourism minister reacting to the ruling said the decision did not mean anything to Tanzania “because the government had long decided not to build the road across the Serengeti”.
  • The ruling — in a case instituted by the Africa Network for Animal Welfare (ANAW) in 2010 — affirms the East African Community Treaty’s role in protecting the region’s environment from injurious actions of member states.
  • During the case, some people termed the action by ANAW as interfering with Tanzania’s sovereignty.

“By instituting a permanent injunction, the court, in essence, ruled that the construction of the road as was planned by Tanzania was in violation of the Treaty as far as the protection of the Serengeti-Mara Ecosystem is concerned,” said Saitabao Ole Kanchory, the lawyer who represented ANAW.

Kahindi Lekalhaile, a wildlife scientist based in Nairobi, said a road through the park would have interfered with the ecosystem.

During the case, some people termed the action by ANAW as interfering with Tanzania’s sovereignty.

However, ANAW’s executive director Josphat Ngonyo said the organisation respected Tanzania’s sovereignty, besides recognising its need for national development.

“By taking the matter before EACJ, ANAW was protecting a resource that would be of future benefit not only to Tanzanians but also the entire humanity,” said Mr Ngonyo.

The ruling confirmed an earlier win by ANAW following an appeal by Tanzania’s Attorney General, who claimed that the Court did not have jurisdiction over such matters.

His case was thrown out by EACJ’s appellate division on October 19, 2011, with the court ruling that the EACJ had the mandate to hear and decide on the case.

“If the judges had given Tanzania the go-ahead to construct the road, the action would have adversely affected the movement of millions of animals particularly wildebeest and zebra, which undertake an annual migration,” said John Kuloba, an environmental impact assessment expert who had presented a witness statement during the proceedings.

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