The AfBA is the umbrella organization of legal practitioners on the continent. Interestingly, this is the first time Liberia is hosting the African Bar Annual Conference.
Cllr. Mr. Hannibal Uwaifo urged the Liberian government to liaise with appropriate international, continental and regional bodies to ensure that a proper tribunal is established to prosecute warlords.
The AfBA President made the call Monday, October 21, 2019 at the start of the 2019 Conference of AfBA being held at the Ministerial Complex in Congo Town on the outskirt of Monrovia under the theme: “Tackling contemporary issues facing the African continent: How lawyers can drive a renaissance.”
“The African Bar Association hereby call on the Liberian Government to liaise with the appropriate international, continental and regional bodies to set up the appropriate tribunal to look into cases of all those who murdered innocent people and plundered this beautiful land,” said the AfBA President.
“They must all face justice in a transparent and recognized legal and judicial process. This is the only way to rest the past and face the future. The African Bar has respected members as judges, lawyers and experts in all fields and is available to help the Republic of Liberia in this direction,” Uwaifo pointed out.
In a message to lawyers, the AfBA President asserted that the continent is at a crossroad and the duty of lawyers in positioning and repositioning the continent cannot be overemphasized.
He said the role of the Bar and individual lawyers are needed more than ever before.
“We must use the instrumentality of the law to take Africa to the promise land. Disobedience of court orders, harassment of judges, appointment of cronies to man judicial positions, prosecution of opposition voices and bad governance must stop,” he added.
In remarks, the President of the Liberia National Bar Association (LNBA), Cllr. Tiawon Gongloe, said the issue of lack of respect for human rights remains a key challenge on the African continent.
“Respect for the rule of law is a pillar of democracy. Lawyers must be determined and stimulated in strengthening the rule of law,” Cllr. Gongloe noted.
“Democracy is based on expression. Equally so, there must be responsible speech free of invectives,” the Liberian human rights lawyer indicated.
At the same time, the guest speaker at the occasion urged lawyers on the continent to exercise high degree of professionalism in the discharge of the sacred duty.
Mr. Karim Khan QC called on lawyers and legal practitioners to exercise their duty beyond rights to responsibility if they are to make a difference on the African continent.
Karim, a British lawyer and specialist in international criminal law and international human rights law, warned lawyers against all acts of corruption, which according to him, erodes confidence in the justice system.
He told lawyers and legal experts at the gathering to trade their profession with high degree of humility and condemn all acts of tribalism and factionalism.
“You must respect tribe but condemn tribalism in all manners, because all men are created equally under the law. At all times you must be against tribalism to be the voices of the voiceless,” he stated.
“You must force the law to see those who feel that they are invisible-the ethics must be your guide. Remember that government go and government comes, but justice must continue to be blind,” Khan urged.
He also stressed the need for collaborative effort between government and lawyers as a means for instituting positive changes in the judicial system.
“The lawyers are resources to government. They should be utilized at all times-not only when there is a problem to resolve dispute,” he among other things added.
For her part, Liberia’s Vice President Jewel Howard-Taylor, who represented President George Manneh Weah at the international forum, said there is a need for the protection of the vulnerable population and punishment for violators of the law must be instituted.
VP Howard-Taylor asserted that a sound justice system where citizens can rely on the court as a place for relief is the solution to curtailing conflicts and instability.
“Fairness of the justice system is the way for trust. There are issues of human rights, sexual and gender based violence that need to be addressed on our continent through a competent judicial system,” she said.
She pointed out that most protests in Liberia and the African continent as a whole are as a result of lack of trust in the justice system.
“All day people protest-why? It is because people believe that the justice system cannot give them justice. So there is a need for the rule of law to gain its respect,” VP Howard-Taylor intoned.
“We must ensure that no one is denied justice and ensure that everyone that is found guilty of an offense be punished in accordance with the law,” the Liberian Vice President added.
The African Bar Association was founded in 1971 to foster exchange of opinions and experiences among members, formulation of policies that would better reposition the continent’s socio economic and political development and advancement with the law as the bedrock to drive these developments.