Special report by Adv Nadene Badenhorst on a recent gathering of African lawyers in Accra, Ghana.
Earlier this month, I had the privilege of representing South Africa (together with my colleague, attorney Teresa Conradie) at the 12th biennial Advocates Africa Convocation in Accra, Ghana.
The theme of this year’s convocation, which was hosted by the Christian Lawyers’ Fellowship of Ghana, was “Awake, awake, O Zion (Africa), put on your strength and beautiful garments” — Isaiah 52:1.
The convocation opened on Thursday morning, August 17 with a historic keynote address by the President of the Republic of Ghana, His Excellency Nano Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, who is a Christian himself and who spoke an excellent word and vision for the country.
Over the next three days Christian lawyers from around Africa participated in more than 15 sessions, workshops, and panel discussions presented by some of the most respected Christian legal minds in Ghana and also from around the continent.
The sessions covered a vast array of topics relevant to Africa – from peace and security in Africa, justice for orphans and vulnerable children, the rise of xenophobia and instant/mob justice, the ostracism of African women, cyber security in Africa, advocacy for the poor, law as a sword and a shield (a keynote address by Her Ladyship Georgina Theodora Wood, former Chief Justice of the Republic of Ghana), to the role of Christian lawyers in the transformation process (with contributions by, among others, Teresa Conradie from South Africa who is a founding member of Advocates Africa and serves on the board; and Hon Mike Chibita, director of public prosecutions in Uganda who has also served as president of Advocates Africa during the past term).
One of the highlights was the session by the esteemed Prof Stephen Adei of Ghana on “Where are the African Transformational Leaders?”.
According to Adei, lack of leadership is the biggest constraint on development in Africa — comparable, in his view, to historic constraints such as colonialism, the slave trade and globalisation imbalances.
He reckons the atmosphere bodes well for the emergence of more transformational leadership in Africa – involving men and women of character, known for their competence and care for their people.
He called upon Christian lawyers to, along with the business sector and civil society organisations, be the voice of accountability to leadership in our countries.
I myself was invited to speak on “‘And they shall be one flesh’ – Is marriage being redefined?”.
Increasingly, African countries are coming under pressure to legalise same-sex marriage The demand to accept liberal sexual laws often goes hand in hand with a threat to cut off foreign aid, should national government refuse to adhere the demands.
In this context, Christian lawyers tasked to protect marriage before governments and courts of law, need to be absolutely clear and convinced of the following three things: what is marriage?; why is the definition of marriage important?; and what would be the consequences of redefining marriage?
It is critically important for Christian lawyers to be informed and engaged – on both a national, and a continental level before bodies such as the African Commission for Human and People’s Rights (ACHPR), who itself is increasingly being co-opted by foreign-funded NGOs whose goal it is to use these bodies for the purpose of spreading a liberal social agenda.
The convocation was indeed a great opportunity for Christian lawyers on the continent to mobilise and strategise in this regard — particularly with a view to the next sitting of the ACHRP in Banjul, Gambia at theend of October/beginning of November.
Commitment to prayer
While the content of, and discussions arising from, the various sessions, were of great value in gaining in-depth insight into and understanding of the issues and challenges facing us on the African continent (particularly also from a Christian perspective), I was immensely inspired also by the convocation’s commitment to prayer and intercession as indispensable to our calling and mandate as Christian lawyers on the continent.
The convocation also presented a wonderful opportunity to meet with like-minded lawyers and organisations from across the continent, and to form strategic alliances that will continue the work long after the convocation has ended.
The convocation ended with a gala night, where delegates from the different countries spontaneously performed a song, story or dance from their country.
The newly elected Advocates Africa Board (including South Africa’s Teresa Conradie, and Adv Nadene Badenhorst, who will be representing the “next generation” on the board) was also presented to and prayed for by the convocation – a special moment indeed.
Great excitement also followed the announcement that the next biennial convocation (in 2019) will take place in Nairobi, Kenya!
The theme of the convocation (“Awake, awake, O Zion (Africa), put on your strength and your beautiful garments” — Isaiah 52:1) could not have been more appropriate and timely, considering the situation in which our continent finds herself.
As stated by one of the opening speakers: “If we look at this continent, politicians are not going to solve it. It is going to take the finger of God.”
The many and diverse challenges present a great opportunity for Christian lawyers to, in their various spheres of influence, make a difference and bring about godly transformation in their countries and on the continent. Will somebody arise for this generation?
*Advocates Africa (AA), alongside other regional networks around the world, are part of an international network called Advocates International (AI) with its headquarterS in Virginia, USA (http://www.advocatesinternational.org/).
As an umbrella organiSation of Christian lawyers, judges, lecturers and law students, Advocates International has acclaim as the largest, oldest and most efficient legal aid organization in the world.
Its vision is captured in the following line — “A worldwide fellowship of advocates bearing witness of Jesus Christ through the legal profession”.