General News of Wed, 11 Feb 20040
Africa's legal system needs reform-Akuffo
Accra, Feb 11, GNA-Ms Gloria Afua Akuffo, Deputy Attorney-General on Tuesday underscored the need for African countries to reform their legal systems to ensure the dramatic improvement of the climate and culture of respect for human rights and the rule of law on the continent.
Making the call at the official opening of the West Africa Regional Conference on legal and judicial reform to promote improved women's rights in land and family law within plural legal systems in Accra, she noted that consequently, the prospects of African nations for attracting private investment both domestic and foreign would improve considerably. The two-day conference organised by the Ministry of Justice with funding from the German Development Co-operation (GTZ), is being attended by legal experts 15 countries on the continent.
They include Ghana, Cote d'Ivoire, Burkina Faso, Sierra Leone, Benin, Mali, Tanzania and Zambia with Germany as a foreign participating nation.
Ms Akuffo stated that the issue of good governance should continue to engage the attention and concern of African governments. For this reason, she said, there was the urgent need for viable democratic states on the continent, governed according to the rule of law, and devoid of human rights abuses.
The deputy Attorney-General noted that an effective legal system on the continent would resolve disputes not only expeditiously and fairly, but also quite importantly, according to well-established predictable rules and principles.
She charged the participants to bring their expertise, knowledge and rich experiences to bear on their deliberations so as to be better equipped to deal with the variable issues that "we encounter in our quest to ensure fairness, equality and equity among our people while at the same time we strive to uphold the good values of our rich customary and cultural practices."
Nana Dr Samuel Kwadwo Boateng Asante, legal luminary and a former deputy Attorney-General said the establishment of an effective legal system in Africa was very crucial for the dispensation of justice. Nana Asante, a traditional ruler and President of the Ghana Academy of Arts and Sciences expressed concern about the constraints faced by rural folks in their attempt secure access to legal aid.
He was optimistic that with the institution of an effective legal system, discriminating laws violating women's human right on the continent would be done away with.
Justice Professor Kodzo Paaku Kludze, Supreme Court Judge, advocated the removal of obnoxious laws from the statute books. Justice Kludze called for a second look at the Intestate Succession Law to ensure the protection and security of widows and their children after the demise of their spouses.
Mr Peter Linder, German Ambassador in Ghana, pledged his country's preparedness to support good governance in Africa, and therefore urged leaders on the continent to respect the fundamental rights of the citizenry.
Ms Manon Geissler, GTZ representative, urged African leaders to take a step forward towards putting the empowerment of women on the political and implementation agenda of all their institutions. Odeneho Gyapong Ababio, President of the National House of Chiefs pointed out the problem of legal pluralism and the conflict of laws in post-colonial Africa was real.
Odeneho Ababio was of the view that efforts at modernizing traditional practices on the continent to suit the needs and values of good governance and modern democracy could not be a reality if African leaders did not make justice accessible to all and sundry in society, especially women and children.