Tackling South Sudan’s Oil Spills in Court

The price crash has put producers around the world under pressure – but few are facing a court challenge in a bid to stop the oil flowing.

 South Sudan is the outlier. A legal challenge mounted in late April by Hope for Humanity Africa in the East African Court of Justice, in Tanzania, aims to do just that. A temporary injunction was filed at the beginning of June. This called for the government of South Sudan and the two major producing consortia, Greater Pioneer Operating Co. (GPOC) and Dar Petroleum, to halt oil flows. The aim is to force companies to tackle environmental damage, a lawyer at Pan African Law Chambers Wani Santino Jada said. Describing the impact of the oil spills as an “environmental genocide”, Jada noted the knock-on impact on communities around oil sites.

 “Communities depend on local waters from the streams and swamps for drinking, for cooking and for bathing. But these are dangerous,” the lawyer said. The rivers and streams feed into the Nile and then into the Mediterranean Sea, making these spills a “universal disaster”. “We need the respondent [the government of South Sudan] to be directed to instruct GPOC and Dar to clean up the environment. Much of the soil is polluted. This must be remedied so that it can be useful for human use again. The export pipeline must also be replaced as there are a lot of spills and it is in bad shape,” Jada said.

The lawyer filed the case with the Arusha court on April 27. In addition to a temporary restraining order, it also asked for specific damages of $720 million. “General damages and exemplary damages can be granted by the court. It might end up in the billions,” he said.

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