Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

First Advisor

Obiora C. Okafor


Focusing on three regional economic communities (REC) courts in Africa that nevertheless possess a human rights jurisdiction i.e. the Court of Justice of the Economic Community of West African States (the ECOWAS Court), the East African Court of Justice (the EACJ), and the Southern African Development Community Tribunal (the SADC Tribunal) - this dissertation investigates the relationships among the RECs, states, activists and the courts themselves, as producing and framing the specific conditions under which environmental protection and socio-economic justice in the region in Africa are either advanced or stifled. The dissertation discusses the ways in which the mandates and jurisdictions of these REC courts transitioned from their original mandates as regional integration courts to human rights or environmental protection courts, and conversely, how one of the three courts, the SADC Tribunal, regressed back to its original (non-human rights inclusive) mandate and jurisdiction. Arguing, and demonstrating, that jurisdiction and mandate are essential to the pursuit of of environmental protection and socio-economic justice before these REC courts, the dissertation illuminates the specific ways in which the mandates and jurisdiction that states, activists, RECs, and the courts themselves interact to manipulate, expand, or shrink the mandates and jurisdictions of the REC courts under study. The chapter dissertation demonstrates using doctrinal and empirical analyses how the REC courts provide additional and alternative forums for activists and victims of environmental and socio-economic abuse to seek justice and hold their governments accountable. It argues that severe restriction or lack of access to these institutions is the most potent barrier to the goals of seeking some form of vindication/redress in such fora that that many populations who are affected by environmental and socio-economic justice issues have. The dissertation demonstrates how these REC courts are very often engaged by activists and local populations as tools or resources for demanding and (in many cases) obtaining significant degrees of environmental protection and socio-economic justice from the more powerful state actors and so engages the question of the effectiveness of these institutions. Along these lines, the dissertation shows how activists and local populations utilize these courts to force transparency from otherwise reluctant and recalcitrant governments.


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