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