- Honourable Justice Blaise Tchikaya, Vice-President of the Court
- Honourable Judges of the Court
- Registrar and Deputy Registrar
- Staff of the Registry
I would like to welcome you all to this 63rd Ordinary Session of our Court with words of congratulations and gratitude to not only the Judges of the Court but also all Registry staff. Congratulations are due for successfully holding two international meetings of such level in the span of 5 days; and all staff of the Registry particularly deserve appreciation for this achievement. All we have seen in the past three months, which unfolded over the past week, is dedication, professionalism, mastery and result. I encourage Registry to continue cultivating this level of efficacy which the Court needs most to best achieve the reforms that it is preparing to undergo.
Having said that, I believe Judges of the Court deserve appreciation for an additional reason, which is their constant support in the process spearheaded by the Bureau to open up a new era of judicial diplomacy aimed at Member States and organs of the African Union. While the Bureau is at the forefront of this process, it is actually under the mandate and with the support of all Judges of the Court. The reason why Judges should be congratulated is their sense of responsibility and courage, which are two main features required for individuals and institutions to undertake self-assessment. Self-assessment and self-reform always come with an apprehension of uncertainty of the unknown, that is the unknow unfolding of the process but also the unknown outcome thereof.
I assure all Judges and staff of the Registry that the Court is and will remain alive; that the Court is here to stay; and that we have made the right decision to undergo the path of self-reform. Self-reform indeed has the advantage of the very much desired foresight and control over the process as opposed to alter or external reform. Furthermore, a tendency to self-assessment holds greater chances of success as it tends to yield greater trust and keenness from the other stakeholders.
My appreciation goes to the Judges for one additional reason, which is their active support in our common endeavor to pursue diplomacy. The path may be rough; stakeholders may be reluctant and fierce in their engagement with us; resources may be dire; but I can ensure you that with your support the Court is able to overcome any challenge. The most recent illustration of this has just been given last week when the Court received a breath of fresh air through the two very timely adherences of the Republic of Niger, and the Republic of Guinea Bissau.
I am fully aware of the challenges inherent in the fresh start with Benin, Côte d’Ivoire and Tanzania. Nevertheless, I invite us to focus on the positive side of these processes. The most difficult part of any new departure is the first step; and we have succeeded in reconnecting with Benin, which can encourage other withdrawing states to join the reform talks. Moreover, the Niger and Guinea Bissau recognitions will serve the critical purpose of a sharp break from the row of withdrawals and reinstate our previous advocacy for more states to join the Court.
The past few weeks have brought only about success; and I congratulate everyone again on these achievements and the very successful international meetings just held here in Dar es Salaam. I congratulate Registry for preparation the session that begins today alongside the very demanding preparation of such important conferences. As much as we might have now mastered the session as an activity, there is always room for improvement especially on the quality of the reasoning and writing of our judgments which as you have well heard during the just concluded conference is identified as one of the factors indicative of compliance or non-compliance. In any case, we have ourselves already agreed that the authority and legitimacy of the Court cannot be granted but must be earned judgment after judgment through tight legal reasoning, balanced determination and intelligence judicial lawmaking.
I wish us all good health for the forthcoming weeks, fruitful deliberations, and full success for the session, and the internal preparation for the retreat. With these words, I declare open the 63rd Ordinary Session of the African Court.