African judiciaries are playing an increasingly important role in supporting elections and democracy. From the nullification of presidential elections in Kenya and Malawi to rulings on the constitutionality of public protest and presidential initiatives and rights of marginalised groups, African politics is becoming increasingly judicialized. How the courts deal with these cases, whether they act independently and impartially, how different stakeholders respond to controversial rulings, and levels of public trust will help to determine the future of African judiciaries and democracy.
Courts also play a key role in promoting or undermining peace and stability. The fact that Kenya’s opposition did not trust the courts in 2007 led them to go to the streets to protest a problematic election, rather than bring an election petition before the courts, sparking the post-election violence of 2007/8 and the country’s worst crisis. At a more general level, justice not only needs to be done, but be seen to be done, to be effective.
Despite their importance, African judiciaries remain relatively understudied. There are few in-depth studies of different court systems, and even less comparative analysis. We need to know more about why and when judges rule independently. About how incumbent governments respond to judicial independence and the impact of any backlash. About why levels of public trust in the courts remains low across much of the continent, and what impact different interventions have had.
The new African Judiciaries Research Network (AJRN) seeks to connect researchers working on African judiciaries (from master’s and PhD candidates and postdocs to established academics and non-academic researchers) from around the world, encourage comparative analysis and lesson learning, and facilitate collaboration. As part of this initiative, AJRN has teamed up with Democracy in Africa to launch a new series of opinion pieces on African judiciaries and democracy. This series seeks to bridge researchers, policymakers, practitioners and citizens and encourage researchers working on African judiciaries to share their findings in accessible formats, encouraging engagement and wide-ranging debate.
Opinion pieces for DiA should be:
- Around 1,100 words long.
- Front load the argument into the first paragraph (or two)
- Seek to make two or three key points to allow for some depth.
- Written in plain English with minimal jargon.
- Include hyperlinks to evidence key points (no footnotes).
- Include a line line bio in the formaT Joe Blogs (@JoeBlogs) Blogs at the University of Blogging and published the book How to Blog in 2023.
- Include, if possible, a relevant high quality image that you either own the rights to or that is free to use for this kind of purpose.
To join AJRN and subscribe to the monthly newsletter please contact Gabrielle Lynch via email by clicking here. If you are interested in writing an article for DiA please contact us at our usual email.