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Courses on climate change law, environmental law, open judges’ eyes to the coming storm

New awareness of climate change and litigation associated with it, has dramatically changed the perception of over 20 judges who attended a training course on environmental law and climate change law under the auspices of Jifa last month. Almost all of them started out unsure of what climate change law actually is, and doubting whether they would ever be involved in litigation concerning climate change.

Judges arrived for Jifa’s recent training on environmental law and climate change law, a little confused. Most knew about environmental law and some had even dealt with cases that raised issues of environmental law. But what was climate change law? Was it something different? Another branch of environmental law, perhaps? Might it actually even be the same thing? And what could the role of the judiciary be in relation to climate change? – Surely it was something that international organisations dealt with, rather than domestic courts?

Ugandan lawyer, serving time for contempt, loses bid for bail release

A Ugandan lawyer with a reputation for strongly criticising judges and demanding the recusal of those presiding in cases where he is involved, has lost his bid to be freed from prison pending an appeal. The lawyer, Male Mabirizi (pictured), was sentenced to an 18-month jail term for contempt of court by a high court judge whom he repeatedly slandered and pilloried. Though he sought release from prison pending an appeal, he had not yet filed any appeal and so the appeal court judges turned him down.

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There can be few Ugandan court-watchers who haven’t heard of Male Mabirizi. Now his antics, plus a recent decision of the East African Court of Justice against him, have brought Mabirizi even wider attention.

He has a law degree, but has not been admitted to practice. Nevertheless, he appears for himself in one legal action after another, most often unsuccessfully.

Kenya’s supreme court election petition rules set aside by high court

Kenya’s supreme court has been given a lesson on observing the separation of powers and not ‘usurping’ the legislative power of parliament. Strangely enough, this lesson has come from the high court which had been asked to consider the constitutional validity of new rules promulgated by the supreme court. The disputed rules effectively prevented litigants, advocates and advocates’ agents from commenting on the merits, or otherwise, of a presidential election challenge from the time the hearing of the matter begins until the decision is given.

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Kenyans and other observers are waiting for the outcome of legal action brought to challenge aspects of national elections held earlier this month. Just before the elections, however, there was a most unusual decision whose impact will be felt during election challenges.

Malawi court finds against judge’s claim for appeal court seat

A judge in Malawi has found himself in the unusual position of having to consider a colleague’s complaint, made before him in litigation, that the other judge had been unfairly passed over for appointment to a higher court.

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This must be one of the most unusual cases yet heard by Malawi’s high court: Judge Michael Tembo had to consider an application brought by fellow judge, Michael Mtambo, against the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) and Malawi’s president.

Court ruling poses Lesotho elections dilemma

Lesotho’s October 7 election date suddenly appears at risk. The date was announced by the country’s Independent Electoral Commission in July, but a new decision of the constitutional court has found that the delimitation of 20 constituencies doesn’t pass constitutional muster, because the range in voter numbers is larger or smaller than the 10% variation constitutionally prescribed. The decision, delivered on August 8, puts the IEC under enormous pressure and it might not be possible to redraw constituencies in time for the elections.

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A new judgment by Lesotho’s high court has left the country’s Independent Electoral Commission in a quandary: how to satisfy election timetables at the same time as fixing invalid constituency delimitations so that they fall within the bounds of the constitution.

No proof of grade 12 school certificate, so re-election of Zambian former minister declared invalid

When President Edgar Lungu lost the elections in Zambia in August 2021, one of the members of his party who was re-elected as an MP was Joseph Malanji, a former foreign minister. But that re-election was disputed by a rival for his seat who claimed Malanji did not meet the criteria because he did not have a grade 12 certificate, a requirement for election. The high court decided that the election was not valid. Malanji then appealed and the constitutional court of Zambia has now given its decision on the matter.

Last minute Kenyan court order overturns ban on manual voters’ register for polls

Kenya’s high court stepped in, just days before that country’s presidential polls of 9 August, to overturn a decision of Kenya’s Independent Electoral Boundaries Commission, the body that runs elections. The commission had decided to bar the use of printed registers of voters as a backup to the electronic system by which the elections will be run. That decision was contained in a letter that the commission had written to one of the contending parties.

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In the last days before Kenya’s August 9 elections, the high court made a crucial intervention: the country’s Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBE) was ordered to permit the use of the manual voters’ register as a backup to its electronic system.

Kenya’s constitutional court puts job interviews on hold after ads for 600 new posts

As tensions rise in many African countries over inadequate service delivery and development, Kenya’s Baringo County administration is being asked to explain its advert for 600 new posts. Human rights activist, Isaiah Biwott, has successfully argued that the constitutional court should grant an interim interdict preventing the county from going ahead with interviews for more than 600 new staff.

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Kenya’s constitutional court has granted a temporary conservatory order, preventing a county government from going ahead with a recruitment exercise: an advert in the local media, published during March, mentioned that more than 600 staff were to be hired.

Judges refused appointment suffer ‘unlawful discrimination’ says Kenyan high court

The blunt refusal of Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta to appoint or promote six judges of the more than 40 recommended during 2019 by the Judicial Service Commission, has unleashed a storm of ligitation, with human rights and constitutional groups determined that the law should intervene to give effect to the JSC decision.

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Three high court judges have decided a new round of litigation in the ongoing problem caused by President Uhuru Kenyatta’s refusal to appoint or promote six judges from among 40 named by the Judicial Service Commission (JSC). It’s a scandal that has been dragging along since 2019, still without any end in sight.

Considering the world’s response to human trafficking: the annual report

The annual report by the US state department on the efficacy and commitment of the world’s nations to fighting human trafficking is always a moment for reflection. A particular focus of the report this year is the role that should be played by people who have had personal experience of being trafficked. But most of the report, as usual, deals with how different states are shaping up in the struggle to curb trafficking and the particular challenges that they should address in the future.

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What are the kinds of actions that the writers of this highly influential report consider in deciding whether a country has progressed in the fight against trafficking?

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