The African Law Service

The African Law Service brings diverse commentary on legal developments from across our African continent. 

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PEN Report: Criminal Defamation is Used to Stifle Dissent in Africa

As far as journalists are concerned, criminal defamation is a serious problem hampering the media and undermining the watchdog role of journalists in many African countries. Typically, criminal defamation is used by political and business leaders in particular, to prevent journalists from investigating and writing about personal corruption, corruption in government departments or corruption in business.

Ugandan Judge Sues Attorney-General

The case, heard in the country’s constitutional court, came out of a settlement order finalized by the judge. One of the parties to that dispute was a government department, and when the agreed amount was due to be paid, the Public Accounts Committee of parliament ordered the judge to appear before it and justify his decision. When he refused to do so the parliamentary committee made a report against him that was adopted by parliament, “purporting to veto” his decision in the high court.

Judge faces impeachment over drunken misconduct - 11 years later

WHEN SA TV viewers saw the video footage they could hardly believe their eyes: high court judge Nkola Motata had driven his Jaguar into the wall of a private resident in Johannesburg. Not just that. He was obviously drunk and disorderly, swearing at those who arrived to deal with the situation and resisting arrest. That was in January 2007. Since then the judge has been on suspension, with full pay.


THE man behind this extraordinary story is a 30-year-old Zimbabwean, known only as “JM”. Born HIV-positive, he struggled with health issues until, in 2002, he became really sick and his aunt advised him to go the UK and seek treatment there.

When he arrived, he said he was there for a holiday – clearly not true, said the court later, since he had gone for the clear purpose of finding treatment.

Kenyan court of appeal ruling

THANKS to the firm line taken by three appeal court judges, activist Kenyan lawyer Miguna Miguna, deported to Canada last month under unprecedented circumstances, will now be able to return to his homeland on 26 March as he plans.

His forced expulsion from Kenya, carried out in flagrant contravention of judicial orders, led to several courts issuing decisions on his arrest and deportation. Among these was a crucial ruling by high court judge Luka Kimaru that Miguna must be allowed to return to Kenya – the land of his birth – at state expense, on a day of his choosing.


Of the last four permanent presidents of the court of appeal, one was appointed twice, two were the subject of impeachment tribunals and one was “summarily removed from office” in an unlawful bid to install the favourite of a new prime minister.

The latest judgment concerns senior legal academic Kananelo Mosito. He was the first jurist to be permanently appointed as president of Lesotho’s court of appeal after the resignation of the disgraced former head of that court, Michael Ramodibedi, who handed in his resignation just as his impeachment tribunal was due to start.

Namibian Supreme Court outlaws ultra-long prison sentences


NAMIBIAN judges may no longer impose extremely long jail terms that leave a prisoner worse off than under a conventional life sentence. The country’s top court has found it unconstitutional to hand down “informal life sentences”, via jail terms that are so long that offenders have no possible hope of ever being released before they die.