Growing up in South Africa, while I was climbing trees and dreaming of becoming a game ranger, it never occurred to me to pursue a doctorate in International Law.
Yet, since September 2014, I’ve been researching whether Africa needs its own regional criminal court and what role it could play in the international criminal justice system and the African Union’s framework. My thesis, ‘Reimaging Criminal Justice through the Lens of The African Union’ was submitted in June 2018 (viva voce scheduled for later in 2018) as part of my doctoral studies at Queen Mary University of London.
So why did I decide to pursue a PhD?
It started during the final year of my LLB Law studies at Reading University, with my choice of Public International Law as an elective. Sitting in a late afternoon class, I realised international law piqued my curiosity and I submitted a dissertation on ‘The African Union’s Approach to Peace and Security in Darfur’. I enjoyed the course and my dissertation research so much, that I applied for the LLM degree programme at Queen Mary University of London, specialising in International Criminal Law, International Protection of Human Rights and the Law on the Use of Force and Armed Conflict.
Wanting to add a practical element to my studies, I undertook a legal internship at REDRESS in London. But not content to remain in England, and eager to gain further experience, I put my knowledge of international criminal law and the conflict in Darfur to use during an internship for International Refugee Rights Initiative (IRRI). I was particularly excited to be involved in the IRRI exhibition during the International Criminal Court’s 2010 Review Conference held in Kampala, Uganda. This lead to being taken on as a consultant, where I provided the initial research for a report on humanitarian intervention by the African Union and its predecessor organisation, the Organization of African Unity, interviewing prominent African scholars and NGO personnel. I then moved to Bruges, Belgium as an intern for the Peace and Security Section of the United Nations University Institute on Comparative and Regional Integration Studies (UNU-CRIS) and as a Project Researcher for the European Commission funded Global Re-ordering: Evolution through European Networks (GR:EEN) project.
At the end of my contract with UNU-CRIS I returned to England and began to lecture in Contract Law and Public International Law. At the same time I undertook numerous consultancies, including a training workshop for the Government of the State of Osun, Nigeria and as a subcontractor to assist on the REDRESS report ‘Extraordinary Measures, Predictable Consequences: Security Legislation and the Prohibition of Torture’. Over the next few years, as my ambition and eagerness to learn and be challenged grew, I decided to apply for a PhD position to hone my research and writing skills and strengthen my proficiency in international criminal law and the African Union (plus I have always enjoyed studying and learning). Part of my field research took me to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia and involved interviewing State and African Union Officials.
The path I chose reflects my continued desire to understand the regional organisation of my continent, engage with those working in the area and decrease the dismissal of African initiatives through constructive dialogue.