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The Future of Law and Governance in Africa – STIAS Public lecture by Nkatha Kabira

STIAS Public Lectures Series

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Register here by 6 October 2023

Nkatha Kabira, Senior Lecturer at the Faculty of Law, University of Nairobi and Iso Lomso Fellow will present a public lecture with the title: The Future of Law and Governance in Africa

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. More than sixty years ago, at the height of the decolonization process, 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 of law and governance in Africa.

Nkatha Kabira is a poet, author, and Senior Lecturer at the Faculty of Law, University of Nairobi. She is a STIAS Iso Lomso Fellow and has held several other fellowships including at the W.E.B. Du Bois Research Institute at the Hutchins Centre for African and African American Studies at Harvard, the Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin, the Africa Science Leadership Programme at University of Pretoria, the Princeton Institute for Advanced Study Program on Social Sciences, the Ife Institute for Advanced Studies, Nigeria, and the Intercontinental Academia (ICA). Nkatha has been a Faculty Mentor at the Institute of Global Law and Policy at Harvard, the Global Young Academy, and the Law and Society Association. She was appointed a Distinguished Africanist Scholar at the Institute of African Development, Cornell University, and a Dorothea Clarke Visiting Scholar in Law at Cornell Law School. She completed her doctoral degree at Harvard Law School in 2015 and has professional and research experience in the law of commissions, constitutional law, gender, and governance. She lectures widely, has taught both in Nairobi and at Harvard, and has received awards for excellence in teaching. She completed the Master of Laws Program at Harvard in 2008 and holds a Bachelor of Laws degree from the University of Nairobi and a postgraduate diploma in legal practice from the Kenya School of Law. She is an Advocate of the High Court of Kenya.


For more information, contact Ms Nel-Mari Loock at 021 808 2652 or [email protected]

Date and time

Tuesday, 10 October 2023

16:00 – 17:30​

All times are in SAST (UTC+2)


STIAS Wallenberg Research Centre

STIAS, Marais Road, Mostertsdrift

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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