The African Institute of International Law (AIIL) is the brainchild of the African Foundation for International Law and was established in close collaboration between AFIL and the Tanzanian government. Many African countries achieved their independence about 50 years ago on average, but are still far from adopting many of the international laws and legal regulations.
THE GUARDIAN STAFF WRITER DANIEL SEMBERYA, did an exclusive interview with Judge Abdulqawi Yusuf, Founder of the Arusha Institute of International Law, and the Vice-President of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) on the importance of the Law Institute to the African Continent. Read on…
Question: Judge, could you tell us briefly on the Arusha Law Institute and its importance to the continent?
Answer: Arusha is becoming the capital of peace and justice in Africa; where we inaugurated the African international law of Africa last year. I said that Arusha was becoming The Hague of Africa because all the judiciary bodies are now/will be established in Arusha.
But what Arusha lack up to now or what the African continent lack was an institution which would train the people who would work in peace and justice and particularly people who are qualified in international law and the law of African Union.
There is no African university which teaches the law of African Union for example. Where as in Europe you find everywhere in all their European Union Universities courses on the law of the EU-because EU is integrating; it is moving together.
Africa is also integrating; it wants to create an African Union, a viable AU-but unless you have a qualified people who know to bring about that kind of integration in legal terms. Because you need to-do it in legal terms-but you will not succeed. That is one of the objectives/reasons why we have established the Institute.
The other reason is that the African countries have been independent for 50 years now. They have always been complaining for not having contributed to the development of the international law.
Well, now they can no longer do that because it is high time that they should start contributing to the development of the international law and to the evolution of international law as full members of the international community.
But for that purpose also they need to train their people to have highly qualified international lawyers.
And now whenever you8 have a court dealing with matters related to Africa at internal law like our ICJ court or if you have an arbitrary tribunal dealing with a case involving African states you will find that the council, the arbitrators are all not Africans.
And so we are establishing programmes training for African international lawyers, African arbitrators, the judiciary also in Africa.
And we are establishing programmes training on the law of the African Union. So, African international lawyers can contribute to world of economic and politically integration among the African States. And this has received the support of the government of Tanzania of which has been extremely effective. And that is why we have been able to go forward.
This is of course is a private initiative and not an initiative linked to my work at the Court. But rather it is an initiative that has been undertaken in the context of the African Foundation for the international law, which is based in the Hague and in Arusha. And we have received a lot of support from the government of Tanzania and we are thankful to it.
Q: You have said that there is no single African university teaching African law-and you are now introducing it at the Arusha University, who is going to train these new lawyers on the union law of the African Union?
A: Well, we have some African professors, judges, people who have worked in the AU itself. So, we have a lot of people who can teach that. But the problem up to now has been no African Institutions in which students, young lawyers; junior lawyers could actually study the law of the AU. And with the establishment of the African Institute of International Law in Tanzania-that problem will be solved.
Q: What is the importance of training African Lawyers as Europe and America do?
A: Because unless your people are capable of advising you on how to integrate Africa-you can’t all the time depend on foreigners to come and advise on African economic, political integration. And on the compatibilities among the various instruments that have been adopted to promote African integration.
For example you know the AU adopts all kind of treaties, protocols, and agreements-but does anybody check whether they are all compatible with each other, consistent with each other.
You need people who devote their time to the study of those instruments; who can advise the AU on that and who take can forward the work of integration of the African countries, because they are always promoted including the leaders of Tanzania. They have always promoting African economic and political integration.
But you need bigger infrastructure. You can’t just promote of course, it’s a political idea. But unless you establish a solid bigger infrastructure, it won’t go forward.
Q: What kind of works will the institute be handling?
A: It’s to train people and also to undertake research work because it will function as a think tank on issues pertaining to international law of particular relevance to Africa.
Because they are not many publications, there are not many things written about issues that are of particular relevance and important to African and thus we need an institution where these issues are studied and researched.
It is an institution where African people apply their minds to the problems of Africa. So, this will be one of the main functions of the Arusha Institute of Law.
Q: Does the institute have specific programmes on the management of how to combat the problem of terrorism that has become a major threat not only to Africa, but globally?
A: Unfortunately the institution can’t cover everything. We are working on African countries and we are trying to find out what are the areas of priority of the African States with respect to the issues of International Law.
We have to give priorities to those areas which African governments-for example: Territorial and maritime limitations-is one of the areas, which the African governments think it should be given a priority-because there are so many dormant conflicts in Africa on territorial and maritime disputes.
And the African countries would like to settle out these peacefully. And would like to give substantial attention to them-but they need to train their people on the techniques and rules that govern the limitation at the international level-whether it is maritime or territorial.
And we need to have specialised courses for African and government lawyers who are dealing with these issues in various countries in Africa.