The African Law Service brings diverse commentary on legal developments from across our African continent.
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As the rest of Tanzania was getting ready for year-end celebrations in December 2017, six people in the Mwanza region found themselves in deep trouble. Instead of spending time at home over the holiday they were in jail, after being arrested in relation to drugs charges. The six now find themselves charged under the Drug Control and Enforcement Act with trafficking in “precursor chemicals”.
From her many years as a judicial officer – a magistrate, a high court judge at national level and many more years as a judge at the international level – you might think that former Botswana judge, Sanji Monageng has little left to learn. But you would be wrong. If there is one thing that struck her during the Jifa Core Skills training week it was this: every teaching experience is an opportunity to learn, and this week was no exception.
Marvin Baryaruha is a familiar figure to Ugandan readers. Everyone else might benefit from a brief introduction: formerly legal officer of the Uganda National Roads Authority (Unra), Baryaruha was fingered by the Court of Appeal’s Justice Catherine Bamugemereire when she reported on her 2015/16 commission of inquiry into the country’s national roads authority.
Justice Joseph Wowo, originally of Nigeria, was jailed on corruption charges in January 2014. His trial was seen by many as involving trumped-up charges and he has now won a kind of vindication via the Community Court of Justice of the Economic Community of West African States (Ecowas).
In a special statement, the Ecowas court has announced that it has ordered Gambia to pay $200 000 in “nominal damages” to Justice Wowo. Unfortunately, however, no judgment has been released that explains the court's decision.
It made a great splash in the media when Ugandan civil servant Stephen Kisembo was arrested and charged with spying for Sudan. When the high court of Uganda acquitted him recently, however, not so much.
Recusal has become a political football in a number of African jurisdictions during the past months, but Namibia has produced a completely new scenario: magistrates who refuse to continue a case because of a workplace grievance, and recuse themselves in protest.
When part-time farmer, Matti Toivo Ndevahoma, allowed his counsin, Vilho Shimwooshili, to occupy customary land in the northern Namibia area of Eengolo-Ondjiina, he set what may seem to readers like perfectly reasonably conditions, particularly in such an ecologically sensitive area.
The solemn opening remarks by Judges John Mativo and Pauline Nyamweya signaled the gravity of the decision they were about to give and the horrors the case would disclose: torture, unlawful abduction, years in illicit detention, lives wrecked, bodies broken.
Law is the “bloodline of every nation”, the judges said. “The end of law is justice. It gives justice meaning.” It was a shield or refuge from misery, oppression and injustice.
When Malawi was gripped by a maize shortage scare a few years ago the government arranged to buy more from Zambia. But allegations of corruption soon followed against George Chaponda, then minister responsible for agriculture, as well as other officials in Malawi and in Zambia.
So great was the public outcry that a presidential commission of inquiry was established to investigate.