The primary purpose of this course is to explore, by the comparative method, the basic concepts of African legal theory and practice; the structure and content of African legal systems; reception of foreign laws and their interaction with African customary law; the rules developed to resolve internal conflict of laws; and the evolution of modern African constitutions. The class will also review specific topics, such as the tension between customary law and modern constitutional standards in areas of marriage, inheritance, and succession; and land tenure, administration, and conflict resolution. The class will further evaluate the role of law in fostering social and economic development to reduce poverty, disease, and malnutrition; the role of international financial institutions in Africa; and the contribution of foreign direct investment, international trade, and transfer of technology. Specific topics will be explored, including on-going legal and judicial reforms.
Major topics include (1) African legal systems: customary law and foreign law—common law, civil law, Roman-Dutch law—origins, definition and nature of applicable laws: reception of foreign law clauses, issues of integration and conflict of laws rules, (2) major topics in customary law: (a) rights issues in law of marriage, inheritance, and succession; (b) quest for justice and reconciliation in conflict resolution—Gacaca Jurisdictions in Rwanda, truth and reconciliation commissions in South Africa and Sierra Leone, and traditional healing rituals in Uganda; (c) land tenure and administration—concepts, nature, and modes of land holding; management and dispute resolution; land administration and agrarian reforms, (3) law and development: regional economic, trade institutions—African Union and its organs, the New Partnership for African Development (NEPAD), COMESA, ECOWAS, SADC, and EAC; international financial institutions and their role in fight against poverty, disease and malnutrition; the Millennium Development Goals, and (4) Constitutionalism in Africa: evolution of African constitutions, constitutional legality, and the scourge of the coup d'etat and human rights.
This course should be of interest to law students and other students from different disciplines interested in the nature and operation of law in Africa, constitutional law, international economic law and development, comparative law, and international law.