First, on behalf of myself and the other members of the editorial and advisory boards of the African Journal of Legal Studies (hereafter ajls), I am pleased to welcome Kamari Maxine Clarke (University of Pennsylvania) and Sarah-Jane Koulen (Princeton University) as co-guest editors of this special issue on international criminal justice in Africa.
This special issue reflects the scholarly output of two important and timely workshops that Professor Clarke convened, first at Yale University in September 2012 and a year later at the University of Pennsylvania. Her stated goal was to engage scholars with shared interests on some of the more fundamental controversies about the emerging application of international criminal justice in Africa. The two meetings led to many stimulating formal and informal conversations amongst the participants, all of which focused on unpacking the perceptions, and realities, of the work of the permanent International Criminal Court (icc) in the world’s second largest continent.
Second, I am grateful that Kamari and Sarah-Jane accepted the Journal’s invitation to serve as special guest editors. They took up the burden of coordinating the peer review and eventual editing of the high quality papers contained in the current volume. This Special Issue of ajls, the second that the journal has published specifically on international criminal law (the first was published in 2011), continues us on the path we embarked upon about a decade ago as an interdisciplinary periodical whose primary goal was “to serve as a leading forum for the thoughtful and scholarly engagement of a broad range of complex issues at the intersection of law, public policy and social change in Africa.” It is for others to judge how we are doing on the first part of our admittedly grand ambition. But I feel comfortable saying, after reading the various works assembled for this Special Issue on International Criminal Justice in Africa, that ajls, certainly here, has carved out space for a diverse group of scholars and scholar-practitioners from the continent and beyond to reflect on complex issues at the intersection of international law, international public policy and the struggle for justice and social change in Africa. It seems therefore appropriate to acknowledge and thank, on behalf of the editorial board, each of the authors for agreeing to contribute their original works for peer review and subsequent inclusion in this special issue. Perhaps individually, and certainly collectively, it is self-evident that they are among the leading voices on the controversial international criminal law topics under discussion.
On a more personal note, I am grateful to Kamari for inviting me to participate in her two excellent workshops at Yale and at Penn where I got the chance to share some of my ongoing research about the role of the Security Council in the work of the icc from the perspective of the African Union – a body that has been of particular investigative interest to me since 2008. I regret that, due to various personal circumstances, I was ultimately unable to contribute a paper to this Special Issue. This despite that she gently prodded me along and proved to have immense patience, as I tried to balance multiple commitments and transition to a new academic position. I hope that she understands. I look forward to a future opportunity to engage her critique of the work that I, along with Dapo Akande and Max du Plessis, carried out on Article 16 of the Rome Statute and that was published in Volume 4 of ajls in 2011.
Finally, as will be readily apparent from Kamari’s and Sarah-Jane’s provoking introductory essay, which gives an overview of the current controversies and maps out the individual contributing authors’ core arguments, the various articles here constitute a significant and welcome contribution to the literature on the role of international criminal courts and their processes in Africa. It is our hope that other scholars, from within and outside the African continent, will engage the particular discussions she and her contributing colleagues have initiated on the pages of ajls, as we all grapple with the challenges facing Africa and the international community in the ongoing fight against impunity.