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H.E. Judge Abdulqawi A. Yusuf at Xiamen Academy: A Volunteer Narrates

Release Time: 2019-08-09      Browse:200


The last week of the 2019 summer session of the Xiamen Academy of International Law invigorated as the President and Judge of the International Court of Justice joined the Academy and delivered lectures on the topic ‘International Law and the Public Law of Africa.’ I was privileged to act as his assistant. The lectures, interestingly, took a paradigmatic trajectory from earlier sessions the participants witnessed. His scholarly renditions were inspired by two notions: (a) that appreciation of the evolution of international law aids in the understanding of the ‘context’ of treaties -quintessential prerequisite for treaty interpretation as per customary international law; and, (b) that it is useless when one has contemporary knowledge of international law and lacks its evolutional development. In light of that, he demystified the culmination of Eurocentric approaches of International Law into the colonial enterprise and associated legal conceptual justifications such as Constitutive Recognition, ‘Civilized’ Nations, and Terra Nullius.


The eminent jurist then elucidated how the response of developing countries in the era of decolonization and expressed anathema to gunboat diplomacy – with special focus on Pan-Africanism - reshaped the jurisprudence amidst the creation of the Covenant of the League of Nations through to the Charter of the United Nations. Such legal novelties in African Public Law regarding, inter alia, Refugee and Human Right Law, Peoples’ Rights, and Trade and Investment Law; which have hitherto been accepted into international legal instruments, were extensively discussed. He emphasized that the shift from such Eurocentric international legal approaches to the ones regulating the New World Order was possible due to the importance of upholding the Rule of Law in the fight for change. He then admonished participants to eschew arm struggle and violence and rather resort to the law whenever the need arises. As Judge Yusuf visited the Academy with his wife and son, a myriad of social activities also characterized his stay.


On the day of his arrival, he together with his family and some distinguished professors from Xiamen University Law School had dinner where pleasantries were exchanged. From the second day, a special visit was paid to the president of Xiamen University. Thereafter, he  accompanied by family and some professors, toured the historic Nanputuo Temple and the beautiful campus of Xiamen University. The rest of the stay saw Judge and family visiting some shopping centres, Xiamen Botanical Garden, and the renowned Gulangyu Island. Just like most attendees of the summer session, I was of a nervous disposition imagining meeting and assisting the president of the world’s highest court. Judge Yusuf’s humility and great sense of humour, however, dispelled the emotions. The camaraderie has left everyone more confident, inspired, and committed to the study of international law. On the day of the closing ceremony which he attended, I left to The Hague for further studies. He graciously sent me his book entitled ‘Pan-Africanism and International Law’ which book tailors greatly to my research interest. For me, the moments shared with Judge Yusuf would be cherished for a lifetime. His lectures at the Academy spanned from 22-26 July 2019.


Reported by Gracious Avayiwoe