Taking the Initiative
In support of the rule of law, the American Bar Association has undertaken legal technical assistance projects in many countries throughout the world. Programs in African nations collectively constitute the ABA-Africa program.
A nine-member Africa Law Initiative Council of distinguished attorneys and judges, chaired by Judge Nathaniel Jones of Cincinnati, provides oversight to the ABA-Africa program. Through training and capacity building, ABA-Africa advises legal professionals in Africa on international best practices. Programs address issues such as judicial independence, professional standards and quality legal education.
Working closely with national and regional partners in all its projects, ABA-Africa initiatives cover such specific topics as the role of lawyers and judges in addressing HIV/AIDS, development and institution of dispute resolution processes, development of bar association capacity to provide continuing legal education, and establishment of legal aid programs within bar associations, law schools and nonprofit organizations in Africa.
In its work, ABA-Africa uses resident legal advisers in host countries, in-country legal workshops and training, specialized U.S.-based drafting and advice on proposed laws, and materials preparation and analysis on legal topics. Project funding comes primarily from grants, including U.S. government sources, such as the U.S. Agency for International Development and the Department of State, as well as private foundations.
Since its inception in 2000, ABA-Africa has grown rapidly. Currently, it is working in partnership with the Algerian Bar Association and the Judges Association to promote law reform and independence of the judiciary in that country. It worked closely with the Judges’ Association to analyze the Defamation Code of Algeria and to develop a Code of Ethics, which was presented to the judges in February. It has also conducted training in Algiers, Constantine and Oran on international standards of independence of the judiciary.
In conjunction with the ABA Center for Children and the Law, ABA-Africa brought seven fellows representing four east African countries to the United States in 2003 to work intensively for four weeks with professionals in child welfare and juvenile justice systems. The program also developed a training manual on dealing with child abuse for the Ugandan police and sent an American judge to Uganda to assist the police force’s Child and Family Protection Unit.
In Morocco, ABA-Africa’s long-term liaison is working closely with the Ministry of Justice, the Judges Training Institute and the law schools to train lawyers and judges on the new criminal procedure code of Morocco. The new code, developed with ABA-Africa support, includes fundamental protections and is key to addressing human rights abuses.
ABA-Africa received a grant from the State Department Bureau for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs to place a long-term resident anti-corruption adviser in Kenya. This program is crucial not only to Kenya’s attempt to address issues of corruption, but also to similar efforts in the neighboring countries of Tanzania, Zambia and Uganda. ABA-Africa will also conduct a short-term Judicial Integrity Project in Nairobi, Kenya, including a two- day conference on best practices and lessons learned specific to corruption in the judiciary and in the judicial system.
In Sierra Leone, in partnership with the ABA’s Central European and Eurasian Law Initiative, ABA-Africa will support the work of a war crimes tribunal. The experience of ABA-CEELI in support of a similar tribunal in Kosovo will provide important lessons for the Sierra Leone program.
Through a MacArthur Foundation award, ABA-Africa is launching a long-term program in Rwanda to support access to justice and contribute to the rebuilding of the judiciary. During the 12-month program, ABA-Africa will work with the Ministry of Justice, the Rwandan Bar Association and the Judges Association to promote the protection of women’s and children’s rights.
In additional to expanding its programs and partnerships in Africa, ABA-Africa’s future plans include translating ABA training and resource materials into formats most useful and relevant to African colleagues so that it can institutionalize programs and relationships with African national and regional organizations.
For more information on ABA-Africa’s far-reaching work with the legal profession and institutions in Africa, please contact its fine staff director, Vernice Guthrie, at 202-662-1771 or via e-mail at [email protected]