Conference on the rule of law in Sub-Saharan Africa: promises, progress, pitfalls and prospects
29-30 June 2017
University of Pretoria, South Africa
This conference which was jointly organized by the Konrad Adenauer Stiftung, Rule of Law Program for Sub-Saharan Africa and the Institute for International and Comparative Law in Africa, Faculty of Law, University of Pretoria, South Africa. The conference sought to identify and discuss the contemporary challenges to, and reasons for the steady decline in the rule of law in the Sub-Saharan region. The conference also looked at possible solutions and the prospects for the future.
The two - day conference brought together about 45 legal practitioners, constitutional and human rights activists, civil society representatives, scholars, judges and students from various parts of sub-Saharan Africa including South Africa, Ghana, Nigeria, Kenya, Ethiopia, Malawi, Zimbabwe, Nigeria, DRC, Eritrea and Cameroon.
The conference was organized around eight thematic sessions. The opening session had brief welcoming remarks from Mr Peter Wendoh, the Project Advisor, Rule of Law Program for sub-Saharan Africa of the Konrad Adenauer Stiftung, Prof André Boraine, the Dean Faculty of Law, University of Pretoria and Dr Arne Wulff, Director, Rule of Law Program for sub-Saharan Africa of the Konrad Adenauer Stiftung. Prof Charles Fombad of the Institute for International and Comparative Law in Africa, University of Pretoria, then set the tone for the conference by giving an overview of the crisis of the rule of in the sub-Saharan region.
The first session, which focused on the rule of law and democracy had three presentations. The first presentation, from Mr Chikosa Banda, discussed administrative justice, environmental governance and the rule of law in Malawi. Prof André Mangu also made a presentation on ‘Joseph Kabila’s third term campaign and the complicity of the Constitutional Court and others in the crisis of democracy and the rule of law in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).’ From the Ghanaian perspective, Mr Kwaku Agyeman-Budu and Prof Kwame Frimpong discussed the tension between the rule of law and democracy since independence in Ghana.
The second session considered various issues on the rule of law and access to justice. This session too had three presentations. The first was from Ms Delis Mazambani and it considered citizens’ perception on challenges and opportunities of the rule of law and access to justice in Zimbabwe. The second presentation, from Dr Admark Moyo, examined the very important issue of standing, access to justice and the rule of law from the Zimbabwean perspective. Mr Derek Inman also discussed international crimes, national trials and victim participation as an avenue to enhance the rule of law and tackle impunity in the DRC.
Session three focused on the rule of law, discriminatory practices and social inequalities. Mr Tilahun Hudeya examined how large-scale agricultural land acquisitions and Ethiopia’s ethnic minorities constitute a test to the rule of law. Prof E Rudman also analysed the challenge posed to the rule of law by the absence of a committee on the rights of women in Africa.
The fourth session focused on surveillance as an emerging threat to the rule of law in sub-Saharan Africa. Two incisive presentations were made by Mr Hiruy Gebreegziabher and Dr Lukman Abdulrauf. The first presenter considered how surveillance in the age of counter-terrorism constitute a challenge to the rule of law in Ethiopia. The second presenter of this session discussed how the increasing use of electronic surveillance undermines the rule of law in sub-Saharan Africa.
Session five reflected on measures for monitoring and enforcing the rule of law in Africa. Justice Gerard Niyungeko, Mrs Makanatsa Makonese, Dr Thomes Obel Hansen and Mr Tsega Gelaye all approached this issue from various perspectives. Justice Niyungeko considered the rule of law principles in the jurisprudence of the East African Court of Justice. Mrs Makonese and Dr Hansen examined the role of National Human Right Institutions (NHRIs) and Nairobi Principles on accountability respectively as a means of enforcing and monitoring the rule of law in sub-Saharan Africa. Mr Gelaye then considered the role of the African Union in this respect.
The sixth session aimed at making suggestions towards addressing the crisis of the rule of law in Africa. Mr Chris Oxtoby and Prof Thomashausen reflected on developing best practice guidelines for judicial appointments and the importance of strong institutions and capacity building respectively as means of addressing the crisis of the rule of law in Africa. Mr Edward Murumi finally discussed addressing the rule of law challenges by developing benchmarks and indicators under the ACDEG.
Each of these sessions was followed by robust debate and and discussions.
Conclusion and the way forward
The last session, session eight, concluded the two-day deliberations. Dr Eric Kibet summarized the discussions and recommendations of all the presentations. From his presentation, a number of conclusions were reached on the crisis of rule of law in Africa. First, that there is an obvious decline in the rule of law. Second, that the decline goes hand in hand with reversal of democratic gains in various countries and lastly, that this problem is generally not a problem of absence of law but an absence of the culture of respect for the rule of law.
To address these challenges, a number of recommendations were made such as the need for the intervention of AU and other regional bodies, clarification of the concept of rule of law in the sub-Saharan African context and more active participation of the judiciary, electoral commissions, NHRIs and civil society in the enforcement and monitoring of the rule of law in sub-Saharan Africa.
Overall, the conference succeeded in achieving its aim of identifying challenges to the rule of law in Africa and making recommendations towards reversing this disturbing trend. The presentations were focused, incisive and specifically addressed each of the sub-themes of the conference.