Specks on Law & Africa

Specks on Law & Africa

So I was about to go about my day and not publish anything today. But after several threats from Ennie and Steph, I couldn’t risk walking the hallways on campus next week without dropping this note.

For those of you still reading, thank you. And if you know anyone who stopped reading, please tell him or her I will agree to go out on a date with him or her, so long as they cover the tab. Think I am feeling myself? #AllowMeToFeelMyself.

I will be giving my specks on a law and Africa. As most of you know, I am a comedian by day and a law student at night. This is to say, my reasoning may be flawed, but they wholeheartedly mine.

The lawlessness in the African continent is appalling, but such is not because we do not have written laws in place. The laws on paper are not a reflection of our culture, history and its struggle.

Where am I getting with this? Africa, post colonialism was not ready for democracy. Post colonialism, Africa was fragile—the people were accustomed to two types of leadership, the western bureaucracy and the monarchic leadership. The French and Belgian colonies were ruled directly by the westerners, and the colonial masters were physically present in those regions. The British on the other hand ruled indirectly, from Britain and considered their colonies as an extended part of the country—thus less physical presence. Could this be why most former British colonies like Nigeria, Ghana are ahead democratically thus economically? Most likely, yes. They figured out how to run their states with little influence from the West—they learned to be lead the “western way”. Is it also fair to infer that democracy and economic growth have a positive correlation? Yes (please note that that’s the only thing I retained from my Statistics class). Looking at former French and Belgian colonies, Cameroon, Congo, Ivory Coast, ring any bells and we can really ask did the French really leave? Connecting the dots?

Pardon the economical growth and democracy relation digression; I will address that at a later date. Democracy, even though seemingly a useful tool was not one Africa was ready for. The tribal wars disguised as civil wars post colonialism evidently proves my point. A perfect understanding of the tribal disparities and an incorporation of the monarchical structures in governance would have saved lives.

How? I urge you upcoming leaders to think it through too. I firmly believe that the successful future of the African governance lies in the fusion of ethnic representation, monarchical involvement and bureaucratic systems.

Back to my point, Africa’s laws are hardly a reflection of the culture, history, and its struggles. If the laws were a reflection of the history and struggle, Africa would have laws in place mandating high standards of scrutiny when it comes to African governments entering business contracts with the West. This may seem regressive, but I am trying to make a point pertaining to the historical lag that is not mirrored in African laws. Most colonies engaged into bloody battles to gain independence, but approximately forty-fifty years post independence, why are the laws in place most favorable to doing deals with the West? Try to alienate the foreign aid aspect that may be a catalyst in itself.

To show how U.S. laws are a reflection of their history for instance, looking back at the mindset of Revolutionary Era Americans, a standing army was the devil incarnate. Before and during the War for Independence in the U.S., the King of England’s Army had oppressed the nation’s inhabitants. The new rules had to prevent that from ever happening again, thus the Second Amendment, rights to bear arms. A law that has seen many generations and will come to see many. This is how history factors into law.

I mean, as African history dictates, the inception of slavery was an unfair contractual agreement, gun powder for our fellow brothers and sisters (pardon my over simplification), African business laws should be a reflection of such history. Instead, the West gets the best part of the cake.

A progressive African legal system very generally will incorporate the following:

Tribal leaders will consist of a majority of interstate and interprovincial leadership.

Remorse will be a critical element in the criminal law codes.

Trade by barter will be a form of compensation for legal settlements.

Tax codes will be relaxed on locals and higher for foreign investors.

Contract and Securities law will be stricter and require more disclosure for foreign investors.

Ethnic representation will be an essential part of government—countries are slowly adopting this.

Democratic terms will be longer—even after effective control methods are put in place, there is a monarchical hierarchy that is a norm.

My outmost wish is that, human rights laws should be replicated in African legal dicta; it is worldwide obligation to respect and preserve human dignity.

The aforementioned are doable and some nations have adapted these in some shape or form. However I have a wish list, which, in itself is non-exhaustive. My list in summary is that, when it comes to an enforceable legal system, Africa cannot afford to copy and paste from the West. Some disciplines like engineering and health care may enjoy such privileges with some adaptation, not the law. Law is an art that must be crafted with care to fit and solve the current and foreseeable problems of a nation or state.

With some research help from www.idiotsguide.com

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3 thoughts on “Specks on Law & Africa

  1. As agreed:
    Dear Ama, one may question your claim that democracy and economic growth have a positive correlation… Look at China; it is arguably the world’s largest economic power now, but is it a democracy? Singapore, also a big player wasn’t/ isn’t exactly democratic… read the story on the rise of Singapore. It took a benevolent dictator to make it happen.
    Cameroon was never a colony. It was a protectorate under German rule, a mandate of France and Britain under the League of Nations and a Trustee territory of the United Nations after World War One, administered courtesy of Britain and France still. As a legal mind, sure you can measure the weight of these legal terms, sweetheart.
    In my opinion, the laws and the cultures etc are in disparity largely because those who fought for independence are not those who got it. Take camer for instance. Um Nyobe etc were killed, while manipulable persons like Ahidjo were taken (fabricated) from least representative parties to rule their countries on condition that the colonial master has n dictates the economic game… as u know it’s all about the economy.
    About ur propostion of tribal leadership etc, this would only work if they are as educated and aware as today’s world dictates. the Germans may have shared ur opinion; reason why princes like Douala Manga Bell, Charles Atangana and Paul Soppo Priso were sent on scholarships for better education in Germany… with the understanding that they would rule their tribes/citizens better and of course for the good of Germany too
    U are right about remorse, it has brought about the reconciliation courts which sprang up in post-apartheid South Africa and post genocide Rwanda and even Liberia etc- but again African cultures also had clauses like banishment for crimes considered abominations- which could range from sleeping with a Fon’s wife to murder or defaulting a secret society.
    Ethnic representation is a lousy way of running government (my opinion)- it begs the question, “Are we serving a village/ tribe or a nation? In the words of prof Emmanuel Pondi, “Excellence has no language, it only has results”. I think competence should triumph. Once you’ve set the right n clear criteria for excellence, mediocres won’t contest. It is shady recruitment practices etc that make the whole ethnic or regional representation thrive. Take for instance med school: if the criteria for entry consists of A grades in physics, chemistry, biology n maths, persons with less can resit to score these grades, or move to other things. But cos with schools like ENAM, no one can define clear qualification criteria, we go into the dangerous practice of regional balance.
    But ur point is also interesting in that it begs the question, are we citizens of a state or a nation?.. Certainly ur underlying thesis makes the case that we are structured into states but do not necessarily live or act as citizens of a nation. Nation building takes conviction and common struggle- we may not be near that yet. I agree with u
    The British have solved monarchical representation by maintaining the traditional house of lords where people qualify by blood/ birth (upper house of parliament)- n then also running the lower house of commons (british ngwerong if u like)- where elections etc thrive. And because vox populi = vox dei (voice of d people is d voice of God), the house of commons has more powers cos of d democracy… infer with the house of chiefs of the southern cameroons where fon mbinglo, galega etc sat to represent their peoples.
    Africa’s problem is largely that of leadership, hinged on greed. because this blog post touched on legal issues, I thought we should exchange, dear. Look forward to hearing ur thoughts on my take. one love and kudos for d good work

  2. Paschal, thanks for your graceful and well thought-out insights. You make an interesting observation in re economic growth and democracy by pointing to the China and Singapore exception- notice how these are just a few anomalies. Time will tell whether these succeed. I will get to that some other day as mentioned in my initial post.

    You relay the “legal terms” thus disqualifying Cameroon as a colonized territory, but yet a few sentences down you mention, they fought for their independence and you mention colonial masters sent village leaders to go study abroad. Sweetheart, as a legal mind there is such a thing as ‘legal fiction’. Cameroon was a colony of Germany and then split between the Brits and French.

    You raise an important point that those who fought for independence didn’t stay to rule based on the visions they had for the countries. That’s an assertion that implicitly supports my point. The ‘western trained’ democrats came in with their rhetoric and completely ignored the values and the plights the freedom fighters sort. These freedom fighters included tribal leaders and regional leaders. Their vision and mood of ruling completely disappeared on the platform, which the west trained politicians came in with – hence the struggle and history is not replicated in the laws of the nations.

    A good balance of Ethnic representation is harmless, if a solid comprehension of the sociological structure of the African tribal system can be adapted to the laws. Remember how I didn’t say, ethnic representation should rule, I clearly stated “a fusion of ethnic representation, monarchical involvement and bureaucratic systems.” (amanjodzeka.wordpress.com). This is to denote a good mixture of all.

    Per the statement of the wise one, Emmanuel Pondi, “Excellence has no language, it only has results”, well, I urge you to find language in this. Results seem to be his desired end goal, to the extent that our sophisticated minds as they seem to be can recognize that “language” is part of we are and how Africa runs, he will agree with my thesis today. If we utilize many languages to get to the end goal ‘results’ then be rest assured, Hon. Pondi will smile at us where’re he may be.

    You rightfully identify the British system of rule. On a meme I was searching for of Mugabe asking Christine Amanpour of CNN how long the queen of England had been on reign as such no one should tell him to retire. Lol right? Is that a mix up African leaders are experiencing today and could this be because we didn’t consider the history and struggle before adapting democratic laws verbatim?

    Back to the message, the law is an art, we can’t afford to copy and paste. Democracy is just one example. More care needs to be taken.

    Thanks once again for the insightful and well thought out contributions. We should co-author at some point. We can pin pong on our varying points. What do you say to a response to anti gay laws in Uganda?

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