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Monday, 21 March 2011

Serengeti Watch Legal Defense Fund

A court case against the Serengeti highway has been filed in the East African Court of Justice. This court is the instrument for settling disputes among members of the East African Community, which are Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda, and Burundi.

You can donate specifically to the Serengeti Watch Legal Defense Fund fund here.

If you or your organization are able to support this effort in other ways, please let us know.

The case is significant because 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.

It states that the highway is first and foremost 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 Maasai Mara Game Reserve in Kenya."

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 cited 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.

The legal action was filed last December by the African Network for Animal Welfare (ANAW), located in Kenya. See the news article below.

Activists file suit against Serengeti Highway move

Serengeti Watch is supporting ANAW in their legal fight by providing funding and seeking help from other legal and environmental organizations.

This case is important. As in any court battle, there is no guarantee of immediate or even eventual success. But it is worth the fight - this has the potential of not only stopping the highway but of warding off future threats. The next time such a plan is brought forward, there will be an important decision on the books and and legal precedent to follow.

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