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.
East African Court of Justice
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.
Even though Africa has proven to be a fertile ground for testing international legal regimes, most scholarly accounts remain pessimistic in assessing these experiments. This book seeks to counter these depictions in a manner consistent with epistemologies of the Global South - arguing that theories and concepts developed in the Global North do not transfer with ease to other regional settings and prompts scholars to identify alternative ways of knowing
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
These cases are usually brought by public-spirited individuals, human rights lawyers, NGO’s and civil society groups; all of whom have been variously accused of inviting the court to put its jurisdictional treaty limits. Karua’s case, therefore, also invites the court to resolve and settle the debate on its express versus implied jurisdiction and powers in matters regarding human rights, democracy and rule of law.
What emerges from this case law is a unitary system of sources of law, with the EACJ having the power to police their hierarchical compatibility and invalidate a lower-ranking norm if it contradicts a higher-ranking one. Such an arrangement is typical for federal states; the EACJ positions itself as a guardian of hierarchical compatibility of norms within the federal system, and consequently as a constitutional court within such a system.
August 19, 2019
One would be justified in thinking that AU member states have intentionally created a court which they consciously know they would hardly use given the inertia identified above. If the reforms that would extend standing to private parties are not undertaken, there is little guarantee that Member States will suddenly change their habits. Assuming for once that they trigger the mechanism, it is also very likely that, consistent with their practice for political solutions to legal problems, they would not proceed beyond the consultation and good offices stages provided in Articles 7 and 8 of the Dispute Settlement Protocol.