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22.07.2008 Africa

CJ BEMOANS CIVIL STRIFE IN AFRICA… Saying it has affected good governance

By Phyllis D. Osabutey - Ghanaian Chronicle
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THE CHIEF Justice, Her Ladyship Mrs. Justice Georgina Wood, has noted that the existence of civil strife in Africa, for the past decade, has affected institutions of governance in the continent.

In view of the situation, she said progress for Africa, in terms of its development agenda, should be geared towards entrenching democratic governance, and the rule of law.

She was however happy that some of the countries were already experiencing fledgling democracies.

“There is a further need, for the formulation of more laws, to regulate every conceivable conduct or activity of governments and people, in all aspects of the economy, such as trade and investment, banking, mining, timber, oil and gas, especially in an increasingly developing, complex and globalizing world,” she said.

She noted that specialist areas, such as disability rights, gender and women's rights including domestic violence, human trafficking, and others, require legal frameworks within which to operate meaningfully.

The Chief Justice made this known, at the opening ceremony of the Third Legislative Drafting Programme, sponsored by the Commonwealth Secretariat, to build the capacity of African lawyers, in Accra on Monday.

She explained that entrenching democracy, and rule of law, must be translated into equality before the law, a fair and impartial judiciary, accountability, transparency, promotion and protection of human rights, as well as free and fair elections.

According to her, the rule of law has been attested to be prescriptive, dictating the conduct required by law and being protective, which demands that Governments act according to law, which underscores the importance of legislative framework.

She indicated that democratic governance, in its full sense, encompasses a range of issues, such as creation of institutions with the necessary legislative backing, and the need to give great attention to the nature of laws, and how they are made.

“Laws then become the fulcrum of the rule of law, and its concomitant of good governance,” she added.

She reiterated the importance of legislative drafting, especially because it relates to the arms of government and the entire society, and expressed regret that “unfortunately, it is a subject that is still not widely taught in many schools or faculties of law.”

Her ladyship pointed out that legislative drafting, must be crafted with great detail, care and clarity, in a way that would eliminate dual meanings, absurdity, incongruity, and as well, maintain internal coherence and consistency.

She added that amendments should also be couched in appropriate style and language, to reduce the incidence of litigation, arising out of interpretation, stressing, “The modern approach is to draft in simple, concise and clear language, and in a manner that would be easily understood by non-legal persons.”

For this reason, she said draftspersons were needed by the executive branch of government, the Attorney General's Department, the legislature and judiciary, particularly, to assist the Rules of Court Committees of the Judicial Council, to carry out its statutory function of making court rules efficient.

“There is a critical need, in our respective countries, for competent legislative draftspersons, equipped at all material times, with the necessary tools to facilitate their work. As members of the Commonwealth, as we commit ourselves to the realization of these goals, we must recognize the crucial role that legislative drafters play in the process of development and democratization, and in the sustenance of good governance and the rule of law,” she emphasized.

Further, she observed that laws facilitate the interpretation of commercial contracts, as an integral component of private-sector development, and creates an environment that stimulates investment, and propels economic growth.

In view of this, she urged the participants to put what they would learn to practice, in order to influence the course of history, and the destinies of their respective countries, and promote democratic governance, which leads to political and social stability.

“For developing economies, that in turn paves the way for increased foreign direct investment, economic growth and development and consequently to poverty reduction,” she concluded.

Participants were from the various Commonwealth countries in Africa, and in twelve weeks, would learn the rudiments and principles of legislative drafting.

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