General: This course is structured around five main themes and is intended to explore the theoretical basis of existing African Laws and Legal Systems; their structure, content and future. The themes selected for this study are; 1. African Constitutionalism - law and theory; 2. Judicial jurisprudence; 3. Statutory Legal Reforms; 4. Transitional Justice and 5. Law and Development.
Constitutionalism: The African Constitutions handed down on independence were never autochthonous. They were almost a reproduction of the constitutions or constitutional principles predominant in the former colonial power of the country concerned. Almost all the African countries revised these constitutions, some several times over time, in response to political and ideological pressures, ostensibly, to root them in the native African culture, but not always for the right reasons. Each student will be required to select a country and make a class presentation outlining the evolution of its constitution and the philosophical basis for the changes made to it from the time of independence to the present day.
Judicial: The African Legal Systems are composed of multiple rules derived from the underlying customary laws under which the majority of Africans live, foreign laws imported by the predominant colonial powers and international legal norms. In this course, students will be required to examine case law from a number of jurisdictions in Africa with a view to identify any commonality in philosophical judicial approach to resolve legal problems arising particularly from a tension in competing legal, social and economic values.
Reforms: Many African countries have introduced an array of statutory legal reforms affecting the structure of the courts and the content of both customary and written laws. The reforms have principally been devoted to unification courts, restatements or codification of customary laws and adaptation of imported laws to be aligned to discarded customs and practices in order to reconcile customary law and practice to universal values mostly enshrined in the constitution. The reforms have concentrated, mainly, on: (i) personal laws, such as marriage and divorce, inheritance, child custody and adoption; (ii) land administration, including land ownership, disposition and land grabs. The class will examine the law reforms introduced in selected countries and critically review the effect of these reforms and their efficacy. This will include examination of current burning issues such as equal protection of laws affecting women's and other people's rights; the concept of people's duties to the State and of children to their parents enshrined in the Banjul Charter; land grabbing that is distorting the distribution of land resources in many African countries and the future of customary tenure.
Transitional Justice: Many African countries have had to address challenges arising from civil unrest, genocide and apartheid that could not be handled by ordinary courts. The class will examine such alternative justice systems as Gacaca courts in Rwanda, Truth and Reconciliation in South Africa and ICC as well other international tribunals as was introduced in Sierra Leone and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Law and Development: The right to development in the Banjul Charter was a major contribution to the corps of human rights and forms the cornerstone of African legal thought in addressing social, economic and political issues. The class will review the policies and laws governing the exploration and exploitation of natural resources, the history and future of foreign direct investment and international trade, and the institutions both local and international established to promote them, with a view to identifying common problems and how to address them with a view to eliminate the scourge of poverty in Africa.