For two senior African judges, this is a particularly momentous month. Justice Joseph Wowo of Nigeria, former Chief Justice of Gambia, has been effectively exonerated by a regional court after his humiliating treatment at the hands of the courts in Gambia and his dismissal by the then-President, Yahya Jammeh. Justice Wowo has also been awarded significant damages for the way he was treated. But though his trials and tribulations may now be over, serious trouble is only just starting for a member of Kenya’s Supreme Court, Justice Jackton B. Ojwang’. Chief Justice David Maraga is reported to have written to President Uhuru Kenyatta, recommending that a special tribunal be established to consider the impeachment of his suspended colleague, Justice Ojwang’.
Official security networks in Uganda and neighbouring Sudan were set buzzing in 2013 when a Sudanese diplomat was expelled from Uganda. Shortly afterwards the story broke of the arrest of a Ugandan clerk in his country’s foreign intelligence agency, the External Security Organisation. Stephen Kisembo, a staffer of the ESO, had been found with secret documents, according to the story, and was to stand trial. He was alleged to have been delivering similar documents over several years to Sudanese diplomats, in a plan devised by the expelled envoy. However, six years later, and despite the apparently strong case against him, the high court has now found Kisembo not guilty.
TWO regional magistrates who felt they were being badly treated by the authorities over promotion and then recused themselves in protest, have now been ordered back to work by Namibia’s top court. The magistrates stood down from several part-heard cases to highlight what they considered unfair treatment. The two, who held office in the district magistrates’ courts, had been asked to hear regional court cases in an acting capacity. But they were also informed by the magistrates’ appointment body that they were not suitable for full-time appointment to the regional court. This was because new regulations restricted regional court appointment to magistrates with certain qualifications only. According to the Supreme Court their protest actions were “sheer insubordination of great magnitude”, and though the justices expressed some sympathy with the magistrates, they reversed the recusals and ordered them to continue the delayed cases “with deliberate speed”.
The Swazi courts have been battling to resolve the question of where the judges of the industrial court and the industrial court of appeal fit into the court hierarchy. In a long, complex and technical decision, that country’s highest court has laid down the law: the two industrial courts are inferior in the legal hierarchy to the high court and the supreme court, not equal to them. In a unanimous decision, five judges of the supreme court have sorted out the problem, but not without an immense struggle, for while they stress that the intention of the law makers has to be respected, that “intention” was clearly exceedingly difficult to fathom. “Mind-boggling”, in fact, to use the supreme court’s own words.
Judges of the West African regional court have joined the fight against money laundering. They have delivered a major new decision permitting the Liberian government’s continued freezing of an account through which vast sums of money have been moving back and forth. This despite the account-holders allegedly not having carried out a single business activity. At the same time, however, the court was not afraid to hold that government to account, criticising it for tardy investigation of the matter. The new judgment is also significant for clarifying an ambiguity that has troubled the court’s jurisprudence for some time and has given rise to contradictory decisions.