The book is a robust piece of work that covers assessment of different subject matters in the East African Court of Justice (EACJ), the African Court of Human and People’s Rights, the defunct Southern African Development Community Tribunal, and the ECOWAS Community Court of Justice (the ECCJ). However, this review will centre on the chapters which focus on the ECCJ. This is not in any way a dismissal of chapters dedicated to other courts, it is simply in a bid to streamline this review and also a reflection of the specific research interest of the writer i.e. the quality of the ECCJ.
African Court of Human and People’s Rights
This essay reviews the chapter co-authored by James Gathii and Jacquelene Wangui Mwangi, The African Court of Human and Peoples’ Rights as an Opportunity Structure. Like the other chapters of the book, Gathii and Wangui’s chapter reiterates the main theme of the book while focusing on the African Court of Human and People’s rights (the African Court), which is the only dedicated human rights court in the region.
The Performance of Africa’s International Courts published under the International Court and Tribunals Series of Oxford University Press, should quickly become a canonical text for all scholars of international adjudication, and especially those of them concerned with its nature, uses and impact in Africa. The book’s editor (Prof. Gathii) and contributors make a significant contribution to “a second wave” of scholarship on Africa’s International courts. Previous scholarship on these courts had tended to focus on their potential to advance legal integration across the continent and offer human rights protection, and their evolution from full-time regional economic integration institutions to part-time human rights protection bodies.
The fact that Africa hosts the largest number of international courts and tribunals in the world warrants a closer review of their effectiveness. Previous scholarship has assessed these courts’ and tribunals’ effectiveness through the prism of compliance with their decisions. There has been little analysis of the wider impact that the courts and tribunals have on litigants, on the social, political and economic progress in the State concerned and on the values that the states that establish these courts seek to uphold and protect. This volume by African researchers with a record of writing on these courts and tribunals espouses a more nuanced Afro-centric approach which will serve as a further stimulus to analysing this important topic.
I got very interested in Africa’s international courts more than a decade ago when I was writing a book on Africa’s trade regimes. I was surprised to learn that Africa’s international courts, although established as trade courts had ended up being human rights courts. I soon realized that the first generation of scholarship on Africa’s international courts had transplanted analytical tools for assessing their performance that did not showcase the entirety of their impacts. The moment between that realization and The Performance of Africa’s International Courts: Using International Litigation for Political, Legal, and Social Change, OUP, 2020 was a long five years. This book project has therefore come a long way from April 2016 when I hosted an authors’ workshop.
February 15, 2020
The settlement of disputes under the AfCFTA will be governed by the Protocol on Rules and Procedures of the Settlement of Disputes which provides for the establishment of Dispute Settlement Body with authority to establish panels to receive and determine interstate trade disputes. Thus, individuals do not have direct access to the DSP. Therefore, this raises the question: Is this mechanism attractive and would states use it? It is premature to predict whether or not states will use it.