Two students from South Sudan’s University of Juba’s College of Law (COL) have successfully competed in the African Human Rights Moot Competition, held from 18 – 23 September in Mauritius. Their participation was facilitated by IDLO as part of its work to foster legal education in South Sudan.
The participation of the College of Law, University of Juba is the culmination of a rigorous year for the students, as they were engaged in moot activities, oral exercises and rehearsals throughout the 2016 – 2017 academic year in view of the international competition. The two finalists from South Sudan were selected after an internal moot competition in July in Juba where over 100 COL students contended for the opportunity to travel to Mauritius.
African Human Rights Moot Competition
Organized by the Centre for Human Rights at the University of Pretoria, the African Human Rights Moot Competition is the largest gathering of law students, academics and judges around the theme of human rights on the continent. The objective is to deepen research, practice and protection of human rights. During the competition, participants argued a hypothetical human rights case. Students from 54 African Universities, with 45 Anglophone, 6 Francophone and 3 Lusophone teams, took part in four preliminary rounds – two rounds as applicants and two as respondents. The final round was held on 23 September 2017, and oral arguments were heard by judges from the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights, the Constitutional Court of South Africa, the Minister of Justice of Mauritius, a member of the African Commission.
Mr. Malock Wol (left) from Bateiin in Marial–Lou County of Tong state and Mr. Daniel Majok Clim (right) from Makuei In Tonj County of Tonj state at the 26th African Human Rights Moot Court Competition in Mauritius, September 2017. Both started at the College of Law, Univeristy of Juba in 2013.
The final was won by the Respondents Team comprising students from American University in Cairo, the University of Ghana and Universite Felix Houphouet Cocody in Cote d'Ivoire.
IDLO’s work to strengthen legal education in South Sudan
In 2016, IDLO began implementing a project to enhance the capacity of the College of Law to provide relevant legal education under South Sudan’s new common law system.
Upon independence from Sudan in 2011, the Republic of South Sudan changed its legal system from the civil law, Sharia-based legal regime to a common law English language-based legal system. However, decades of civil war and neglect by the Government of The Sudan left legal institutions without sufficient human resources, and South Sudan has faced the task of ensuring that its legal education and judicial practice is oriented to operate in the new law system.
The College of Law has played a key role in ensuring that the next generation of justice sector professionals are adequately prepared to enter the legal profession in South Sudan. Funded only recently in 2012, and with around 440 students currently enrolled, it is the only public institution in South Sudan with a law faculty. However, its law curriculum still lacks fully-developed course outlines and instruction materials, and the majority of its teaching staff lack pedagogical capacity.
IDLO’s support for moot competitions
In addition to revising and strengthening the content of the courses, and enhancing the skills of the teaching staff, IDLO is also supporting practical learning opportunities through the development of a mooting culture.
Moot competitions, where students engage in simulated court proceedings, allow students to enhance their oral presentation, legal research and writing skills. By exercising the law in a practical way, students are able to apply what they’ve learned on paper and prepare themselves for situations they may encounter in their future careers. Prior to IDLO’s project, there was no such opportunity for practical learning outside of the classroom.
“Overseeing and managing the moot process at the College of Law University of Juba has given me an opportunity to see a marked improvement in oral presentation skills of students, and legal drafting has also improved. College of Law students were initially being taught in Arabic and it was just recently that they’ve migrated to English teaching. So, there’s been a marked improvement, both in their spoken and written English, and more importantly, in their legal drafting,” comments Mr. Yomi Jacobs, IDLO’s Student Learning Advisor, who accompanied the students to Mauritius.
This is the second year that the University of Juba is taking part in an African international mooting competition with IDLO support. The first mooting at the COL took place in June 2016 to identify the top students to compete in the 25th African Human Rights International Moot Competition in Pretoria. Due to a new outbreak of conflict in South Sudan in July 2016, the selected students did not have the possibility to rehearse as planned. Nonetheless, their participation in the competition was successful and IDLO’s Student Learning Advisor subsequently planned an intense calendar of moot exercises throughout 2017 to prepare students for the 26th Africa Human Rights International Moot Competition in Mauritius. With this history of practice, students have noticed the progression in themselves.
South Sudan Delegation to the moot competition (from left): Mr. Wol, Mr. Abayomi Yacobs (IDLO Faculty Development Advisor), Mr. Clim and Valfredo Rubens (COL Faculty lecturer)
PROMOTING GENDER EQUALITY
The mooting culture has had the added benefit of promoting gender equality and empowering women in the classroom. In 2017, the College of Law saw an increase in the number of female participants. Six female students made the initial short list and two participated in the final round of the internal moot competition.
Mr. Jacobs (above) reports, “During the mooting, I’ve also observed that the ladies, especially, who have been quiet, timid, are now able to come out openly, debate and argue cases in the presence of their peers.”
“My participation in the moot activities has indeed sharpened my skills in communication on legal matters. It has also improved my concepts on legal drafting, particularly issues to do with making written submissions. And my arguments on issues of law have also been improved because I can see clearly at the back of my mind what issues to argue and what issues to leave out when talking to the judges,” says Malock Wil, one of the student finalists from the College of Law.
“Moot activities have also improved my presentation in terms of communication style when standing in front of a group of people, judges, an audience,” he continued. “I have gained self-confidence, that when I graduate the College of Law, I’ll be able to represent my clients perfectly in a court of law and make sure that they win on their rights.”
Fellow student, Mr. Daniel Mojok Clim, agreed. “I am privileged to participate in the moot court competition and to have met many people from Africa and from other continents in the world. In my own experience, I have interacted with students from many universities and I have even exchanged contacts with them.”
“I have gained self-confidence, that when I graduate the College of Law, I’ll be able to represent my clients perfectly in a court of law and make sure that they win on their rights.”
Looking to the future
In addition to this practical training, IDLO is providing mentorship to students and exploring opportunities for student placement in law firms and other places to ensure viable career paths for future legal actors.
Mr. Clim talked about his experience learning from other students at the competitions and how it has shaped his view of the future. “It is a challenge for us to learn that other countries have gone ahead with the issues of human rights. As a student at the College of Law, I [want] to catch up with them and become a human rights lawyer like others that have inspired me in this moot court competition.” He continued, “I’m also hopeful to help my other colleagues at the College of Law who will be coming next year to participate in the moot court competition. I will also be old enough to assist anyone who might think his or her rights have been violated. I will be able to stand up and assist them in fighting for his or her rights.”
Mr. Wil also commented, “The moot activity has inspired us to pursue our career[s] in law, unlike the opinion we had before we joined the moot. Because back then we were thinking about graduating and going and working in other areas not related to the practical application or knowledge of law. But now, we are inspired by what we have learned to pursue our dreams in the practical aspect of the law.”
"Now, we are inspired by what we have learned to pursue our dreams in the practical aspect of the law."
“After graduation, we are going to work in the field of law," he continued. "Whether in government institutions or in the private sector, we will only be interested in positions related to law so that we can further our knowledge for the benefit of society, for the benefit of our people, South Sudanese, [and] for our benefit as young people growing up.”
IDLO’s initiatives to strengthen legal education in South Sudan are supported by the United States Department of State.