Serengeti Highway case resumed before the EACJ in Arusha


(Posted 22nd August 2013)

When the East African Court of Justice resumed its hearings earlier this week, one of the first cases to be heard was the suit against the Tanzanian government by environmentalists and conservationists to permanently halt the construction of a highway through the Serengeti.

As the case progressed, the TANAPA Principal Ecologist Dr. James Wakibara and SENAPA’s Chief Warden William Mwakilema took to the stand, reportedly vigorously defending the highway plans.

What do you expect of them. Professional ethics no longer play a role for those. They know, if they do not sing from the government hymn sheet, they can be sacked or worse. So they leave their brains at the door when they check into court and play parrot, plain and simple’ said a regular conservation source in Arusha when discussing the merits of the case again and its current standing. ‘They surely know that a highway across the migration routes with the projected growth in traffic volume, as per the government’s own forecasts, cannot be any good to the animals. But for protecting their jobs they made a deal with the devil and are ready to say literally anything. Their professional integrity is out of the window now and they are discredited as professionals, both of them’ continued the source, hoping that the judges will see through the ‘charade and smokescreen’ as the source put it and eventually rule for a permanent injunction against the highway.

The Tanzanian government, in this case as in similar cases like the soda ash factory project in the breeding grounds of the flamingos at Lake Natron, has in the past refused to even distantly entertain the possibility of a Southern route around the park, which according to several studies would reach a far greater population. The World Bank and the German government have offered to finance the feasibility studies through grants and then assist in financing the alternative route, but clearly bound by commitments made behind closed doors to election financiers, thought to include top mining interests, the government is stuck with a plan repeatedly called ‘evil’ to link the mining concessions between the Serengeti and Lake Victoria with a direct highway, along which it has been alleged even a new railway line from Tanga to the planned new port at Musoma may run. The soda ash export is only viable via railway, giving credibility to such allegations and as it is unlikely that such a railway arm will stand alone, when only separated by a relatively short distance to Musoma, it is easy to imagine how critics of the Tanzania government’s plans have concluded what is about to unfold, should the highway be allowed to go forward.

No date could be obtained when judgment may be expected or if in fact another day of hearings will have to be scheduled or additional submissions in writing be required from the judges. Watch this space.

4 Responses

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