Boston University School of Law

May 22, 2009

Boston University School of Law Creates Africa i-Parliaments Clinic

Boston University School of Law announces its newest clinical program, the Africa i-Parliaments Clinic. Launching in the Fall 2009 semester, the clinic is designed to assist African parliaments draft and enact more effective legislation.

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The Honorable Abdirahin H. Abdi, Speaker of the East African Legislative Assembly, and Professor Sean Kealy

Adding to BU Law’s already strong lineup of clinical learning opportunities in the legislation drafting process, the Africa i-Parliaments Clinic is the result of a growing partnership between BU Law and the African Parliamentary Knowledge Network (APKN). The APKN was formally established at the International Conference on Africa Parliamentary Knowledge Network, which took place in Cairo, Egypt, in June 2008 and was endorsed by the Pan African Parliament and the leaders of several African Parliaments. The APKN is supported by the “Africa i-Parliament Action Plan,” an initiative of the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UN/DESA). It seeks to promote and enhance the sharing of ideas, experiences and good practices among African parliamentary administrations in the areas of legislation, information, research and documentation.

From the classroom, clinic students will research and analyze social problems on behalf of their client—either a national or regional African parliament—and propose legislative language to address these problems. Students will also research recently passed African statutes and governmental reform for publication on the APKN’s Web-based Africa Parliamentary Information Exchange. They then have the opportunity to discuss their ideas and findings to other members of the APKN and post their work on the APKN Web site to better stimulate debate on specific issues and to promote the use of evidence-based legislative drafting.

“This program will be a unique opportunity for African parliaments to be exposed to the ‘evidence based’ approach to legislative drafting,” said Flavio Zeni, UN/DESA’s chief technical adviser for the Africa i-Parliaments Action Plan. “We also hope that it will lead all participants to appreciate the complex issues and challenges faced by African legislators.”

Boston University offers a wealth of African learning resources for students to draw upon. These include one of the largest African Studies Centers in the United States, extensive library holdings of African materials and the African Presidential Archives and Research Center. The Center hosts former heads of African nations as scholars in residence, archives African public records and provides a forum on political and economic developments in Sub-Saharan Africa.

In addition to conducting fieldwork, students will take a weekly seminar regarding the nature of African government structures, the use of legislation to create social change and sound legislative drafting techniques. Seminar Professors Robert Seidman, Ann Seidman and Sean Kealy have extensive knowledge of African legislation. The Seidmans have taught at universities in Ghana, Zambia, Zimbabwe and South Africa and are the editors of Africa’s Challenge: Using Law For Good Governance & Development (Africa World Press, 2007). In March, Professor Kealy spoke on evidence-based legislation at an APKN conference held in Kigali, Rwanda.

“The APKN seeks to improve the lives of millions of Africans through more effective law making,” said Professor Kealy. “Having our students support the APKN while developing their legal skills is an exciting opportunity.”