On 10 November 2022, the Pretoria University Law Press (PULP) based at the Centre for Human Rights, Faculty of Law, University of Pretoria (Centre), and the School of Law, University of Kabarak, hosted a hybrid book launch for Exploring African approaches to international law: Essays in honour of Kéba Mbaye edited by Frans Viljoen, Humphrey Sipalla and Foluso Adegalu.

This volume of essays, published by PULP in 2022, is divided into five broad thematic parts, and comprises eleven chapters, with contributions from eminent scholars from diverse backgrounds.

This publication finds its origins in the 2017 Roundtable on African approaches to international law, held at the Centre for Human Rights. The explorations at the Roundtable on the concept of an ‘African approach’ to international law were taken further at the Kéba Mbaye Conference on African approaches to international law, held at the Senate Hall, University of Pretoria, in December 2018. This conference brought together around 80 students, academics, and members of civil society to address the many questions left unanswered by the death of Judge Mbaye, arguably Africa’s greatest international law jurist of his generation.

The contributions to this publication flow from papers presented at the conference. However, the reflections in the book extend beyond Kéba Mbaye as a central figure. The result is a broad treatment of various aspects of African approaches to international law by thirteen authors (and co-authors), covering a wide range of generational, geographic and thematic backgrounds and perspectives. 

Foluso Adegalu chaired the event. Professor Frans Viljoen, Director of the Centre, provided welcoming remarks and elaborated on the road to the publication and the historical aspects of this publication. Professor Viljoen also noted that the publication of this book fits squarely into PULP’s ambition to produce open-access publications and advance African scholarship. Professor John Osogo Ambani (Dean, Kabarak School of Law) spoke about institutional partnership and support. He commented on the philosophical framework in African scholarship and praised this publication for advancing African approaches to international law.

Humphrey Sipalla (Kabarak University Law School and Editor-in-Chief, Kabarak University Press) provided an overview of the book. Sipalla commented on how this publication focuses on Kéba Mbaye as a symbol of African scholarship, who invested his person in advancing African approaches to law, and international law. Sipalla touched on the background and history of Kéba Mbaye and explained how Kéba Mbaye inspired this publication.

Dr Kehinde Folake Olaoye (Postdoctoral Fellow, City University Hong Kong) provided insights into her contribution to the book. Joining from Hong Kong, Dr Olaoye highlighted the focus of her chapter, namely international investment law and the dissenting opinions and writings and contributions of Kéba Mbaye. She linked her contribution to human rights and how Kéba Mbaye was well ahead of his time.

Professor Serges Kamga (Professor of Human Rights Law, Thabo Mbeki African School of Public and International Affairs, University of South Africa) and Professor Tom Zwart (Professor of Cross-cultural Law and Human Rights, Utrecht University) provided insights into their joint contribution. Professor Zwart recalled his conversations with Kéba Mbaye that still serve as a source of inspiration to him. Professor Zwart commented on the Global North, and the Global South and the interplay of factors underlying the different approaches to human rights culture. Professor Serges Kamga highlighted the application of the African approach with reference to the advancement of human rights and human rights law. Professor Kamga made reference to the inspirational role to their chapter of “What is Africanness? Contesting nativism in race, culture and sexualities” (by Charles Ngwena, 2018).

Professor Rashmi Raman (Associate Professor of Law, Jindal Global Law School and Assistant Director, Centre for International Legal Studies at OP Jindal Global University, India) spoke about her contribution in the book. She explained her chapter’s effort to advance the commonality of vision with particular reference to post-colonial states. Professor Raman contextualised our current point in history and the role of international law and relations. She praised the publication of this book as part of an ongoing process to produce materials on African approaches to international law.

Professor Babatunde Fagbayibo (Professor of Law, University of South Africa) spoke about his contribution to the book.  Professor Fagbayibo commented on the teaching of international law in African universities and thinking outside of the box with a 3D approach to teaching. He highlighted student participation, sustainability of relationships between students and lecturers, collaboration across the continent, and the dialogue between different disciplines to decolonise the teaching of international law. Professor Fagbayibo concluded that his chapter is the start of a dialogue and aims to encourage projects that further the engagement between lecturers and students in an effort to rethink international law education in Africa.

Humphrey Sipalla commented that his chapter is a biography of Mbaye’s life and work, specifically Mbaye’s curious duality, being at the same time a progressive thinking and articulating traditional and leadership values. Sipalla explained that the second part of his chapter inspects methodologies and schools of thought with reference to international law practice and history.

Professor Chris Maina Peter (Professor of Law Emeritus, School of Law, University of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania) contributed the Preface to the book and commented that this publication is a call for celebration, and expressed his gratitude to the editors and contributors. Professor Peter commented on the importance of Kéba Mbaye’s name in the title of this publication. He identified four areas in which African contributions to international law were manifest: the law of the sea; human rights; security, diplomacy, international leadership; and dispute resolution and justice in general. Prof Peter praised the Centre for its work and contribution to human rights. Professor Peter also recalled his meeting with Kéba Mbaye, and Mbaye’s calmness and foresight.

Professor Mutunga referred to the Global South and Africa’s unique contributions to international law. Professor Mutunga touched on trans-generational efforts, mentorship from students, Global South scholarship, solidarity, nuggets of wisdom in “forgotten African scholarship”, the legal academy, judiciary training institutes, and the development of progressive jurisprudence. Professor Mutunga noted: “Trans-generational scholarly projects like this book is key in securing a radical transformative future for Africa.” Professor Mutunga also officially launched the book.

Professor Viljoen concluded the event by reiterating the sense of continuity captured by the title of the book. “Exploring” African approaches to international law is a work in progress, which should be a continuous process that crosses boundaries, especially language boundaries. He commented on the importance of accessible communication, which this book also aims to achieve, and highlighted the plain English-approach to language and footnote references in the book.

Sipalla lauded the Centre and PULP for their efforts to facilitate the accessible referencing style of this book. Sipalla concluded with remarks on the importance of in the future pursuing conversations with other disciplines.

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Like all other PULP publications, this book is an open-access publication and is available below.

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Liesl Hager 
Research, Marketing and Publishing Assistant Pretoria University Law Press (PULP) Advocate of the High Court of South Africa, Bachelors of Law (UP), Master of Laws (UP) Doctor of Laws candidate (UP)

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