Author: Saul Leal
Vice-Chancellor Postdoctoral Fellow, Institute for International and Comparative Law in Africa (ICLA)
Should it be a role of the Judiciary to assure happiness for the people? Is it appropriate for a Constitutional Court to consider happiness to be a right? Does the establishment of fundamental rights expand the collective happiness? To answer these questions, it is essential to examine the root of Constitutional jurisdiction.
Karl Loewenstein questioned whether the Constitution would be “instrumental for the pursuit of happiness of the people”, based on his intrigue into the purpose and meaning of a Constitution. He is accompanied by Hans Kelsen, for whom “the longing for justice is man’s eternal longing for happiness”.
The answer to the aforementioned questions lies within the examination of the Constitution of the State of Pennsylvania, in the United States, in 1776, in order to address the power given to the courts to assess the constitutionality of the laws and of normative acts.
The African post-colonial period marked a new paradigm of triangular discourse amongst law, justice and development in the international playground. The intellectual metamorphoses of this discourse quickly gained momentum in the mid-60s and was patented the “Movement of Law and Development”. Highly alluring to professors and intellectuals from American law schools, this intellectual movement regarded “law” as an instrument to reform the society and ‘lawyers and judges” as social engineers. With this movement, the narrative was that law is central to the development processes. Then in the early 90s, the movement gave birth to the idea of the “Justice System Reform Program”, also referred to as the “Judicial Reform Program”. The emergence of this idea immediately became a serious agenda in the strategic themes of international financial institutions and bilateral states cooperation structures under the wrestling juxtaposition of “rule of law” and “poverty eradication”. The geographical focus of this idea was only limited to the developing nations of Africa, Asia, Eastern Europe and some Latin American countries.
There are two main rationales behind the theoretical innovation of ‘judicial reform’: a well-established and effective justice system is not only robust enough to confront corruption and violation of rights (with the assumption that courts as custodies of human rights), it can also be relied on to protect the property rights of foreign investors (the concept of development has always been viewed as capitals flowing from north to south-until very recently that the newly rising economies of BRICS- an acronym for the multi-dimensional partnership between Brazil, Russia, Indian, China and South Africa- proved otherwise that capital can also flow from south to south). The ambition of reforming judiciaries in developing countries beseeches building the practical meaning of judicial independence and professional competence that can help build an unwavering system of justice delivery. However, this initiative seems to have totally been lost in translation and taken advantage of for political purposes by the Ethiopian government.
In November 2011 a Kenyan High Court Judge made history. Justice Nicholas Ombija made a controversial ruling issuing an arrest warrant for President Omar Al- Bashir of Sudan in the event he visits the Republic of Kenya. The arrest warrant was held as valid pending a full Appeal on Tuesday 20 December 2011 by the Kenya Court of Appeal after the Attorney General, Githu Muigai, rushed to court claiming that Judge Ombija’s ruling was creating ‘international anxiety in International circles’. The Attorney General of Kenya appealed the ruling on the arrest warrant and also applied for a stay on the arrest. The stay was denied pending hearing of the appeal. ICJ-Kenya has raised a preliminary objection citing that the Attorney General of Kenya under the 2010 constitution is not the competent representative of the Kenya Government in criminal cases like the All Bashir case. His decision upheld, Justice Ombija issued a provisional arrest warrant for President Bashir on Monday 23 January 2012. It was served on the Minister of Internal Security, Geroge Saitoti, ordering him to arrest President Bashir and hand him over to the ICC if he steps on Kenyan soil.