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STIAS Public Lecture Series 2020: Nkatha Kabira – The future of law in Africa (cancelled)

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Nkatha Kabira a poet, author, and senior lecturer at the School of Law, University of Nairobi and STIAS Iso Lomso Fellow will present a talk with the title:

How the Law of Commissions is Challenging Law’s Rigidity

The year was 1960. The year of destiny. The year of independence. The break of a new dawn for Africa. The date was the 8th of January. The place was London. The Bishop Partridge Room of the Church House, Westminster to be precise. Sixty years ago, at the height of the decolonization process, some 60 delegates gathered in London to discuss the future of Law in Africa. From Ghana to Morocco to Guinea to Cameroon and Senegal. From Mali to Madagascar to Congo and Niger. One African country after another was gaining independence from the shackles of colonial rule. The main question that the Conference confronted was how to fit all the laws in Africa to make a single unified whole — a “coat of African Law ” — as Lord Denning famously declared. This London Conference decreed Classical Legal Thought (“CLT”)– certainty, predictability, stability, and uniformity – as the future of Law in Africa. After sixty years of experience with CLT, this talk revisits the debate on the future of law in Africa. In this discussion, we reflect on how the law produced by Commissions is challenging CLT.  I argue that Commissions in Africa are breaking down the boundaries of the law, illuminating law’s rigidity and challenging conventional understandings about law and what it constitutes in Africa.

Nkatha Kabira is a poet, author, and senior lecturer at the School of Law, University of Nairobi. She is an Iso Lomso fellow at STIAS, a fellow at the Intercontinental Academia (ICA), an Edinburgh Catalyst fellow, and a postdoctoral fellow at the Ife Institute for Advanced Studies, Nigeria. Nkatha is a Distinguished Africanist Scholar at the Institute of African Development at Cornell University, Ithaca, New York, and an SSPSS fellow at the Institute of Advanced Studies in Princeton. She was a research fellow at the W.E.B. Du Bois Research Institute at the Hutchins Centre for African & African American Studies and a teaching fellow at the Department of African and African American Studies at Harvard University and Harvard Extension School. She completed her doctoral degree at Harvard Law School (HLS) in May 2015 and has professional and research experience in several areas ranging from law and language, to democracy and the legal process and gender and the law. She lectures widely and has taught extensively both in Nairobi and at Harvard and has received awards in recognition of excellence in teaching. She has worked as a research fellow at the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights, the Kenya Law Reform Commission and the Constitution of Kenya Review Commission. Nkatha is an Advocate of the High Court of Kenya.

We look forward to welcoming you at this event – not to be missed!

For more information, contact Ms Nel-Mari Loock at 021 808 2652 or [email protected]
To RSVP, send an email to [email protected]

Date and time

Wednesday, 18 March 2020

13:00 – 14:00​

All times are in SAST (UTC+2)


Adam Small Theatre Seminar Room

15 Victoria St, Stellenbosch Central

Related to this event


Iso Lomso Fellow, Iso Lomso visiting scholar


The purpose of this work is to explore the role of Commissions; interrogate existing Commission discourses; examine the power of Commissions and their place in law and governance; investigate the global...


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