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Conference on Law and Religion in Africa — University of Ghana, 14-15 January 2013
Image for Conference on Law and Religion in Africa — University of Ghana, 14-15 January 2013

A conference on Law and Religion in Africa: Comparative Practices, Experiences, and Prospects was held 14-15 January 2013 at the University of Ghana in Legon, Ghana. Scholars, legal professionals, and religious leaders from Botswana, Ethiopia, Ghana, Liberia, Malawi, Namibia, Nigeria, Rwanda, Sierre Leone, South Africa, Tanzania, Togo, Uganda, the United Kingdom, and the United States gathered in Legon for the two-day event.  

The Opening Session of the conference was chaired by Ernest Aryeetey, Vice-Chancellor and Professor, University of Ghana, and James R. Rasband, Dean and Hugh W. Colton Professor of Law of the J. Reuben Clark Law School at Brigham Young University. After welcome and introductions by Kofi Quashigah, Dean of the Faculty of Law, University of Ghana, participants were welcomed by Justice Samuel Kofi Date-Bah, Supreme Courts of Ghana and the Gambia, and Naa John S. Nabila, Professor and President, National House of Chiefs, Ghana.

The Opening Session featured three keynote addresses: by Musonda Trevor Selwyn Mwamba, Rt. Rev. Dr., Bishop of Botswana (Anglican); by Dean Quashigah, and by W. Cole Durham, Jr., Susa Young Gates University Professor of Law and Director, International Center for Law and Religion Studies, J. Reuben Clark Law School.

Following the Opening Session, the conference continued with six more sessions: 

Session II: Constitutionalism and Religion was chaired by Peter A. Atupare, Lecturer in Law, University of Ghana, and will feature the following presentations:  M. Christian (Christy) Green, Alonzo McDonald Family Senior Lecturer and Senior Research Fellow, Center for the Study of Law and Religion, Emory University School of Law, "Religious and Legal Pluralism in Recent African Constitutional Reform"; Emanuel Shears-Moses, Head, Department of Law, University of Sierra Leone, "The Interaction of Customary Law, Traditional Religion, and Statutes"; François Venter, Dean and Professor, Faculty of Law, North-West University, South Africa, "Religious Pluralism and the Constitutional State: Some Comparative Perspectives"; and Koku Dzifa (Thierry) Kokoroko, Judge, Department of Justice of Togo, "Secularism in French Speaking Countries of Africa."

Session III: Indigenous Religions and Customary Law, chaired by Pieter Coertzen, Professor and Chairperson, Unit for the Study of Law and Religion, Faculty of Theology, Stellenbosch University, South Africa, featured Rosalind I.J. Hackett, Professor and Head, Department of Religious Studies, University of Tennessee, "Has Religious Freedom Served or Failed African Traditional/Indigenous Religions?"; Nokuzola Mndende, Director, Icamagu Institute, South Africa, "Opening the Curtains: Religion, African Customary Law, and the State in Sub-Saharan Africa"; Jean-Baptiste Sourou, Professor, Saint Augustine University, Tanzania, "Relationships between the Institutional Religions and Traditional Religions"; and Sylvia R. Tamale, Associate Professor, Department of Law and Jurisprudence, School of Law, Makerere University, Uganda, "Exploring the Frontiers of African Sexualities through Statutory, Customary, and Religious Laws."

Day one of the conference concluded with Session IV: Religion-State Relations: Country Case Studies, chaired by Emmanuel Kwabena Quansah, Dean, School of Research and Graduate Studies, Mountcrest University College, Ghana, with speakers Pieter Coertzen, Professor, Unit for the Study of Law and Religion at the Faculty of Theology, Stellenbosch University, "The South African State and Religions in South Africa"; Willy Zeze, Rev. Dr., Nkhoma Synod of the Church of Central African Presbyterian, Malawi, "Christianity: A State-Sponsored Religion in Malawi: A Critical Evaluation of the Relationship between the CCAP Nkhoma Synod and the MCP-led Government (1964-1994)"; Abdulmumuni Adebayo Oba, Professor, Department of Jurisprudence and International Law, Faculty of Law, University of Ilorin, Nigeria, "Law, Religious Pluralism, and National Integration in Nigeria: Challenges and Prospects"; and Christian Ns. Garuka, Advocate/Avocat au Barreau de Kigali, ABCC Law Chambers, Rwanda, "Religion and Law in Rwanda: A Critical Analysis on the ‘Unclear’ Relationship."

The conference continued with three sessions on Tuesday:

Session V: Tension between Religion and State: Country Case Studies, with Johan van der Vyver, Professor, Center for the Study of Law and Religion, Emory University, as chair, and speakers Allswell O. Muzan, Professor, Faculty of Law, Kogi State University, Nigeria, "Religion in the Nigerian Constitution: Did We Adopt a State Religion, or Did We Create Two Countries?"; Selam Kidane, Policy Officer, Strategy, Systems, and Performance, Schools and Children’s Services, London Borough of Enfield, "The Troubled Relationship of State and Religion in Eritrea"; Charles M. Fombad, Professor of Law and Head, Department of Public Law, Institute for International and Comparative Law in Africa, Faculty of Law, University of Pretoria, South Africa, "The Power of Religion in Society and its Contribution to the Common Good"; J. Kwabena Asamoah-Gyadu, Professor of African Christianity and Pentecostal Theology, Trinity Theological Seminary, Ghana, "Religion and the Machiavellian Politics of Defamation: Charismatic Christianity, the Media and Democratic Elections in Ghana."

Session VI: Politics and Pluralism, was chaired by David M. Kirkham, Senior Fellow, International Center for Law and Religion Studies, J. Reuben Clark Law School, and Professor of Political Science, Brigham Young University, with addresses by Elom Dovlo, Professor, University of Ghana, "Religious Leaders, Politics, and Law in Contemporary Ghanaian Experience"; Is-haq Oloyede, Professor of Islamic Studies and Former Vice-Chancellor, University of Ilorin; Executive Secretary and Coordinator, Nigeria Interreligious Council (NIREC), "Politicising the Divine and Theologising the Mundane: the Cross-currents of Law, Religion, and Politics in Nigeria"; Helena van Coller, Senior Lecturer, Rhodes University School of Law, South Africa, "Religious Autonomy: The Need to Respect, Promote and Protect Religious Diversity and the Autonomy of Religious Institutions in a Pluralistic Society"; Woubeshet Senegiorgis, Attorney at Law, Ethiopia, "The Role of Religion in Fostering Good Governance."

Session VII: State Responses to Religious MinoritiesBriged Sakey, Professor, Centre for Social Policy Studies, University of Ghana, chaired the session, with speakers David A.B. Jallah, Dean, Louis Arthur School of Law, University of Liberia, "Registration of Religious Groups and State Control"; N. Mark Hill, Barrister; Honorary Professor, Cardiff University; President, European Consortium for Church and State Research, United Kingdom, "Freedom of Belief for Minorities in States with a Dominant Religion: Anomaly and Pragmatism", Nico Horn, Dean, Faculty of Law, University of Namibia, "The State-Church Relationship of White Pentecostals after World War II"; Matthews A. Ojo, Professor, Department of Religious Studies, Obafemi Awolowo University, Nigeria, "Emerging Trends in the Relations of Nigerian Pentecostal Churches to the State"; Michelo Hansungule, Professor of International Law and International Human Rights, Centre for Human Rights, University of Pretoria, South Africa, "The Interface between Religion and Human Rights in Africa: Experiences and Challenges."

Concluding remarks were offered on Tuesday afternoon by Dean Quashigah and Professor Durham.

The event was sponsored by the Unit for the Study of Law and Religion, Faculty of Theology, Stellenbosch University, South Africa; the Centre for Human Rights, University of Pretoria, South Africa; the Faculty of Law, University of Ghana, Legon; the Center for the Study of Law and Religion, Emory University, United States; and the International Center for Law and Religion Studies of the J. Reuben Clark Law School, Brigham Young University, United States. 

Cover design by Crys Kevan Lee; photo by Elisa Thelys Bushman M.D.