The African Counsel
Sub-Saharan Africa - Monthly Legal Updates
August 2009 Issue No. III 
In This Issue
Congo-Kinshasa: Clinton Set on Ending Sexual Violence
Rush to Lead Congressional Delegation to Africa
Clinton Urges Continent to Reduce Trade Barriers
Pfizer and Nigerian State in Deal
President Appoints Supreme Court Justices
Rwanda Haunted by Human Rights Abuses
Clifford Chance No Longer Tracking Charles Taylor
Cameroon: Bakassi Rebel Commander Quits
Sudan: End Violence in Jonglei State
Sudan 'trousers trial' Adjourned
Gambia: Months-Old Court Case Against Editor
Court Set to Rule on Sudan Oil Flashpoint
Court Orders En Banc Hearing in Defamation Suit Against the U.S.
Managing Alternative Dispute Resolution and International Commercial Litigation Within the Microcosm of Sub-Saharan Africa's Business and Legal Culture
By: Herbert A. Igbanugo, Esq.
I. Introduction and Summary
A region of great diversity, Sub-Saharan Africa ("SSA") is burdened by and, in some instances, afflicted with a variety of socio-political and legal contexts. For instance, there is a mixture of authoritarian, military, and democratic administrations. Africa is also diverse in terms of its people, religion, normative values, colonial experience, political systems, economic systems, physical environment, and the cultural legacy of colonialism. Managing litigation and other legal issues in the U.S. could be challenging enough; doing the same in SSA is certainly a hair-raising adventure at best.
Conflict is an inevitable aspect of human interaction. It can, however, be prevented on some occasions and managed on others. Navigating conflicts successfully in SSA requires a combination of global experience, local knowledge, and cultural competence.While most western jurisdictions, including the U.S., have Uniform laws governing commercial transactions, the same is not true in most SSA countries.  Litigation, regardless of where it rears its ugly head in SSA, could cause debilitating anxiety to both counsel and client.  Disconcerting questions that often come to mind include: What is the lingua franca where the matter will be litigated?  Will U.S. laws be applied? How long will it take for the matter to be resolved? Will the contract in place between the parties be enforced? Will it be interpreted the way it was written or will a local interpretation come into play and change the terms? Will corruption, which is endemic in this region, tilt the playing field and influence the decision of the foreign court?
The first order of business for the in-house lawyer with a case in SSA is to hire a good lawyer or a law firm that is capable of handling and managing Alternative Dispute Resolution ("ADR") or litigation in the country in question.  In selecting lawyers to handle complex legal issues with cross-jurisdictional implications, U.S. companies normally look for large international firms because of perceived capacity.  However, in selecting lawyers to handle work in SSA, well-informed foreign companies have been known to prefer specialization to size.  While U.S. corporations tend to use formal means like the Request for Proposal ("RFP") in their regular selection of lawyers for domestic work, selecting counsel for international legal matters in SSA may, for the most part, require informal means.  The lack of local knowledge and cultural competency by multinational corporations require referrals or recommendation by professionals who know the terrain of the country in question and have a high level of expertise in the region. 
For instance, there are generally no reporting systems to track law firm and lawyer performance in most SSA jurisdictions to gauge their competence and true capabilities. The best and/or most influential counsel on a given legal subject matter or problem may not even have a facsimile line or email. In some SSA countries, possessing modern communication equipment is still more a function of exposure, youth and/or age group of the particular attorney than competence and applicable influence.  The task is even more difficult when the country is not a common law country.

Political News

Congo-Kinshasa: Clinton Set on Ending Sexual Violence
The United States Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, travelled to the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) Tuesday, determined to press "very hard" for an end to violence against women and an end to fighting in the war-torn region. Read more...
 Africa: Rush to Lead Congressional Delegation to Africa to Increase Trade, Investment and Opportunities
U.S. Representative Bobby L. Rush (D-IL) will lead a congressional delegation to Africa next week on a four-nation tour aimed at increasing trade, commerce and investment in Africa and strengthening U.S.- Africa business relationships with American exporters and minority- and women-owned enterprises. Read more...
 Africa: Clinton Urges Continent to Reduce Trade Barriers
Nairobi - US Secretary of State has told African countries to increase trade with each other to realise the enormous potential that exists within the continent in an address to the Agoa summit. Read more...
Pfizer and Nigerian state in deal 
BBC News Africa 

American-based pharmaceutical company Pfizer has signed a settlement worth up to $75m (45m) with the Nigerian state of Kano, a joint statement says. Read more... 
Contact Us

250 Marquette Avenue
Minneapolis, Minnesota 55401 USA
Phone: 612-746-0360
Fax: 612-746-0370
Join Our Mailing List!
African Political News
Uganda: President Appoints Supreme Court Justices

President Yoweri Museveni has appointed Lady Justice Kitumba Christine, former IGG Mr. Jotham Tumwesigye and Dr. Esther Mwebembera Kisaakye of Makerere University, to the Supreme Court. Read more...


 Rwanda haunted by human rights abuses
Mail & Guardian online

Rwanda's suitability for Commonwealth membership this year has been questioned because of its human rights record. Read more...


Clifford Chance No Longer Tracking Charles Taylor
The American Lawyer

Clifford Chance has ended its year-long pro bono partnership with a Web site dedicated to covering the war crimes trial of former Liberian president Charles Taylor, which resumed on July 14 after a six-month hiatus. The firm had been working with two legal nonprofits -- the Open Society Justice Initiative and the International Senior Lawyers Project -- to compile transcripts, post pleadings and write daily blog entries for Read more...


Cameroon: Bakassi rebel commander quits
The Commander of the Bakassi Freedom Fighters has quit the movement and has apologized to the Cameroon government for atrocities caused. Commander Ebi Dari disclosed his resignation in a telephone chat with a local newspaper, saying he has recognized Cameroon's sovereignty over Bakassi, and he is therefore giving up the fight. Read more...


Sudan: End Violence in Jonglei State
The government of Southern Sudan should increase the numbers of police and security forces in volatile areas of Jonglei state, where brutal inter-ethnic violence killed at least 185 civilians last week, Human Rights Watch said today. The southern government should thoroughly investigate the violence and prosecute those responsible. The United Nations peacekeeping mission should support these efforts and take preventive action to protect civilians. Read more...
African Legal News
Sudan 'trousers trial' adjourned

BBC News Africa
The trial of a Sudanese woman charged with wearing "indecent" clothing has been adjourned, but will continue after she decided to waive her immunity. Read more...
Gambia: Months-Old Court Case Against Editor Rearrested on New Charges in June Revived

A months-old court case against the editor of Gambia's The Point newspaper, who was arrested along with six other journalists on unrelated charges of sedition and defamation in June, has been revived, a statement by the Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA) said on Wednesday. Read more...
Court set to rule on Sudan oil flashpoint

Mail & Guardian online
An international court of arbitration is to rule on Wednesday on the boundaries of the Sudanese oil district of Abyei, a dispute that has been a flashpoint for tensions between the Khartoum government and southern former rebels. Read more...
Court Orders En Banc Hearing in Defamation Suit Against the U.S.
The National Law Journal 
A federal appeals court in Washington, D.C., has agreed to hear en banc a defamation suit in which the owners of a Sudanese pharmaceutical plant say the United States intentionally labeled them as terrorists to justify bombing the facility in 1998 under the Clinton administration. There was no dissent among the judges of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit in granting the plaintiffs' petition, a win for the plaintiffs. Read more...