UPDATE: Sources of Online Legal Information for African Countries

 

By Jane Williams

 

Jane Williams is Foreign, Comparative and International Law Librarian at Albert E. Jenner, Jr. Memorial Law Library. She holds a JD & MSLS from the Wayne State University (Detroit).

 

Published April/May 2015

(Previous update on May/June 2011)

See the Archive Version!

 

Table of Contents

1. Introduction

2. Secondary Sources

2.1 News Sources

2.2 Indexes and Catalogs

3. Primary Sources

    3.1 Subscription Database

3.2 Regional Collections

3.3 Subject Collections

3.4 Resources by Country

4. Regional Organizations

1. Introduction

The purpose of this article is to identify online resources for locating the legal materials of African states.  It will first identify meta-sites useful for both background information and links to legal information.  The next part will identify secondary sources, which can help locate sources and issues.  The third section will list primary sources grouped by region, topic, and country.  The final part will list the web sites of some African regional organizations.

 

Africa has about fifty-four states plus six dependent territories.  The post-colonial period, through much of the continent, has been characterized by political instability, civil strife, war, economic underdevelopment, and weak legal systems.  Thus, only a few African countries have a strong history of publishing and disseminating legal materials.  A useful source for determining what legislative materials are published for each jurisdiction is the Reynolds and Flores [ [1] ] treatise. It is also available as an online subscription

 

In the past decade, there has been a trend in some countries toward better governance and transparency.  Increasing numbers of governments have web sites and/or parliamentary sites, some of which provide news, government reports, and other documents. Meta sites, which include links to governments’ web sites, country information, and legal information, include the following:

 

2. Secondary Sources

Given that there are a limited number of comprehensive databases or internet sites for the legal materials of African countries, and that few law libraries have complete collections, secondary materials are important for identifying issues, recent developments, and documents.  These include news sources, indexes and library and institute catalogues, journals, and papers. 

2.1 News Sources

  • AllAfrica.com aggregates news sources from African organizations and elsewhere.  A basic version with a topical search function is freely available.  By subscribing, one has access to an archive going back to 1996 and the ability to search by key word, category, publisher, and date. 
  • Jurist from the University of Pittsburgh provides country-by-country legal news for about a dozen African countries.
  • The BBC News Africa service is another good source for current information.  This service also includes country profiles with country overviews, basic facts and political information, and list of newspapers and other media.
  • The African Law Firm Network, Lex Africa , provides legal news and informational pieces about commercial matters.

2.2 Indexes and Catalogues

  • General online indexes with references to articles relating to legal issues include the two databases from AfricaBib :  Bibliography of Africana Periodical Literature and African Women’s Bibliographic Databases.  Both can be searched by geographic region, periodical, subject, author, title, keyword, and date.  A few articles link to full text.
  • The Quarterly Index of African Periodical Literature from the Library of Congress is another general Africana index which includes references to law-related articles published from 1991-2011.
  • The African Studies Centre (Leiden) is an independent institute which researches social science issues relating to Africa.  Its library catalogue identifies monographs, articles, and book chapters, some of which are related to law.  The web site also includes the full text of working papers and other publications.

3. Primary Sources

One can find online legal materials for African countries in fee-based databases, within subject or regional collections, and on various country specific sites.  Few of the internet sites are comprehensive and it can sometimes be difficult to determine the currency of the information. 

 

3.1 Subscription Database

·        Vlex   has legislation collections for about half the African states, most of which are not current.

3.2 Regional Collections

  • L’Association des Cours Constitutionnelles ayant en Partage l’Usage Français (ACCPUF) provides laws relating to constitutional institutions, some jurisprudence, and other material from its member states.
  • The Centre for Human Rights, University of Pretoria , has a collection of legislation from southern and eastern Africa which includes children’s rights, customary practices, domestic violence, employment, equality and non-discrimination, HIV, property rights, and right to health care .  It also includes case law concerning issues relating to HIV.
  • Droit-Afrique.com is a web portal to business law in French-speaking Africa.  It includes commercial, customs, investment, employment, social security, and tax laws as well as materials from regional organizations.
  • The International Documentation Network on the Great African Lakes Region is an interesting collection of materials from a variety of governmental and nongovernmental sources.  Included are Burundi, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania, and Uganda.  A search may locate laws and decrees although it is somewhat difficult to determine what material is included.  Note too that if French, not English, is one of the official languages of a country a search in French will generate more results for primary legal materials for that country.  Collection updates ended in March 2009 but the earlier content is still available.
  • Juricaf collects Supreme Court cases from French speaking countries.
  • Legis-Palop   is a project designed to collect the legislation and jurisprudence of the five Portuguese-speaking countries:  Angola, Cape Verde, Guinea Bissau, Mozambique, and Sao Tome & Principe.  The site requires registration to search the site.  Some material is available with registration but other items require a subscription.
  • Réseau d’information pour le développement durable en Afrique centrale  provides various environmental laws including those relating to forests, water, mines, and energy for Cameroon, Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of Congo, and Gabon.
  • Tralac provides trade related materials from regional organizations in east and south Africa

3.3 Subject Collections

 

Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources:

 

The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations provides three databases:

  • FAOLex is an up to date database of national laws and regulations relating to food, agriculture, and natural resources.  It includes most African countries and provides links to full text documents. 
  • FishLex provides laws and regulations on coastal state requirements for foreign fishing.   
  • WaterLex has international agreements and legislation on water resources.

 

Business Law:

 

  • The Doing Business Law Library from the World Bank provides laws and regulations relating to business.  Topics included are banking and credit laws, bankruptcy and collateral laws, civil codes, civil procedure codes, commercial and company laws, constitutions, labor laws, land and building laws, security laws, tax laws, and trade laws.  One can search by economy (the name of a state) or topic.

 

Competition Law:

 

 

Constitutions and Constitutional law:

 

·        Codices : Infobase on Constitutional Case Law from the Council of Europe Venice Commission publishes case law from constitutional courts and their jurisdictional equivalent .

 

Copyright, Patents, and Trademarks:

 

  • UNESCO’s Collection of Copyright Laws includes the laws of thirty African countries. 
  • The Collection of Laws for Electronic Access from the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) provides texts for copyright, trademarks and patent legislation in English, French, and Spanish.  WIPO’s collection of copyright legislation overlaps somewhat with the UNESCO collection but it also includes about a dozen countries not included in the UNESCO database.

 

Criminal Law:

 

 

Drugs:

 

  • The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime provides a Legal Library of money laundering and drug legislation which countries have passed to implement international drug conventions.

 

Health Law:

 

 

Human Rights:

 

 

Humanitarian Law:

 

 

    • The Treaty Databases includes the four Geneva Conventions, their protocols and ratification information. 
    • The National Implementation Database has two parts.  The first provides legislation relating to humanitarian law, including relevant penal provisions and laws relating to war crimes and the military.  The second part provides related case law. 

 

Labor Law:

 

  • The International Labour Organization (ILO) database NATLEX provides labor laws as well as laws on other subjects such as economic and social policy, free trade, and criminal law.  Some of the sites provide full text in English, Spanish or French while others provide only citations.

 

Land Law:

 

  • JurisAfrica is an online law reporting service owned by African Law Reporter Online.  It intends to publish constitutions, judgments of the superior courts, legislation and articles.  Currently there are only a few items available, most of which relate to land law and customary law.

 

Non-Profit Law:

 

  • The International Center for Not-for-Profit Law provides the text of laws governing various issues related to non-governmental organizations, including about twenty-two African countries.  One must register to use the site but otherwise the documents are freely available.

 

Occupational Safety and Health:

 

 

Refugees:

 

  • RefWorld Legal Collection is a database from the UN’s High Commissioner for Refugees which provides the full text of national laws and cases and international legislation relevant to assessing asylum claims.  It also includes laws on citizenship, nationality, statelessness, human rights, and related issues.

 

Tax and Commercial Law:

 

3.4 Resources by Country

 

Algeria:

 

Collections:

  • Droit Algerie is a web portal to Algerian law from the Ministry of Justice.  It can be viewed in French or Arabic.  The site provides access to the constitution, codes, legislation and treaties to which Algeria is a party.   Supreme Court judgments are available in Arabic only.
  • Lex Algeria , the Algerian law portal, includes selected codes relating to public and private law as well as links to jurisprudence from the Conseil Constitutionnel from 1989 and the Conseil d’Etat from 1999.  Some decisions are in English, but the French and Arabic versions are more comprehensive.  The web site of the Conseil Constitutionnel  provides decisions from 2001.
  • The National Assembly ( Assemblée Populaire Nationale ) site contains legislation adopted in the last three years with lists of laws adopted since 1997.

 

Law and Legislation:

 

Research Guide:

 

Angola:

 

Law and Legislation:

  • The government portal site provides a searchable database of legislation in force.   Each government ministry web site also includes links to legislation within its area of responsibility.  The legislation from the government site is also available via SAFLII .

 

Research Guide:

 

Benin:

 

Law and Legislation:

 

Jurisprudence:

  • Supreme Court decisions are on Juricaf (1962-2008)

 

Botswana:

 

Collections:

  • The Attorney General’s Chambers e-laws project  publishes the Laws of Botswana.  These are current as of the end of 2013.  The site also includes a list current legislation and 2014 statutory instruments and the Botswana Law Reports published from 1964 and updated to 2011, part 2.
  • The government website includes links to ministries and authorities, several of which publish legislation in their area of responsibility.
  • SAFLII database  includes selected decisions from the High Court of Botswana (1999- ), the Appeal Court of Botswana (1981-), and the Industrial Court (2004- ).

 

Research Guide:

 

Burkina Faso:

 

Law and Legislation

 

Jurisprudence:

 

Burundi:

 

Law and Legislation:

  • The Assemblée Nationale website   includes laws passed from 2005-2014.

 

Research Guide:

 

Cameroon:

 

Law and Legislation:

 

Research Guide:

 

Central African Republic:

 

Law and Legislation:

 

  • Bibliotheque Virtuelle provides the text of several codes, including mining, petroleum, forests, and investment with others under construction.

 

Chad:

 

Legislation:

 

Jurisprudence:

  • Supreme Court decisions are included on Juricaf (1999-2011)

 

Congo (Democratic Republic)

 

Collections:

  • Droit de la Republique Democratique du Congo    provides legislation arranged into nine subject categories; some provincial legislation; jurisprudence; and books, articles, studies and a legal bibliography.  Much of the material is from the Journal Officiel but the subject arrangement allows material to be found more easily.
  • Leganet    is another ongoing project to increase access to the legal materials of the DRC.  As of this writing it includes the Journal Officiel from 2002; some legislation from 1886-2007; jurisprudence from the Cour Supreme de Justice for 1985 and 1986; and some commentary (doctrine).

 

Research Guide

 

Congo (Republic):

 

Legislation:

 

Djibouti:

 

Law and Legislation:

 

  • Le Journal Officiel , available from 1996, includes laws, presidential and ministerial ordinances, decrees and orders, announcements and legal orders.  It can be searched by date, subject index, and type of legal document.
  • The official website   includes a list of ministries, some of which have legislation relating to their area of responsibility.

 

Egypt:

 

Law and legislation:

  • The government web portal has several laws in English translation, including Environment Law, Law of Investment Guarantees and Incentives, Labour Law, General Sales Tax, and Central Securities Depository and Registry Law.   Other laws are in Arabic.

 

Research Guide

 

Equatorial Guinea:

 

Law and Legislation:

 

Gabon:

 

Law and Legislation:

 

Research Guide

 

Gambia:

 

Collections

  • The Judiciary of the Gambia web site provides some decrees and acts and the Gambia Law Reports from 1960-2008.

 

Law and Legislation:

 

Ghana:

 

Subscription database:

  • The Ghana Law Database , provided by DataCenta Ltd, includes laws of the Fourth Republic (1992- ), the Consolidated Statutes of Ghana, business and financial laws, all volumes of the Ghana Law Reports, four law journals, and legal news.  The Ghana Law Reports, however, have not been published since 1994.

 

Legislation:

  • The Bank of Ghana website   includes the Banking Act, Banking and Financial Laws of Ghana: 1998-2006, and Banking and Financial Laws of Ghana: 2006-2008.
  • Bills from the current session and a few acts can also be found on the Parliament website .
  • The Ghana Investment Promotion Centre provides the Technology Transfer Regulations, Foreign Exchange Act, Ghana Investment Promotion Centre Act 2013, and the Ghana Investment Act.

 

Jurisprudence:

  • CommonLII provides selected Ghana land law decisions.

 

Research Guide:

 

Guinea:

 

Jurisprudence:

  • Court of Appeals decisions are included in Juricaf .

 

Ivory Coast:

 

Law and Legislation:

 

Kenya:

 

Databases:

  • Kenya Law Reports from the National Council for Law Reporting provides an up to date edition of the Laws of Kenya in a searchable database.  Cases from the High Court and Court of Appeal (1980- ) are also searchable but not all the cases are online.  Kenya Law Reports also includes the Kenya Gazette from 2008, the 2006 Hansard and other material.

 

Subscription Database:

  • East Africa Law Reports series from LawAfrica include judgments from Kenya’s courts.

 

Research Guide:

 

Lesotho:

 

Database:

  • LesLII provides legislation as enacted from 1967; subsidiary legislation from 1980-2012; judgments from the Court of Appeal and the High Court from 1980-present, from the High Court Constitutional division from 2010-present, from the High Court Constitutional Division 2007-present, from the High Land Court Division for 2014, from the Labour Appeal Court from 2003 to present, and from the Labour Court from 1994-present.

 

Research Guide:

 

Liberia:

 

Collections:

 

Law and Legislation:

 

Research Guide:

 

Other:

  • Liberian Law at Cornell  includes a digitized collection of documents and   statues relating to the foundation of the state.

 

Madagascar:

 

Law and Legislation:

                                    

Jurisprudence:

 

Malawi:

 

Collections:

  • Malawi Legal Information Institute   provides some acts for 1994-1996, 1998, 2000, and 2003-2005; and decisions from the Supreme Court of Appeal (1993 and 1995-2010); the High Court (1993-1994 and 1996-2011); the Commercial Court (2006-2008); and the Industrial Relations Court (1994 and 2000-2011).

 

Law and Legislation:

  • The Parliament website links to a few acts, bills, and Hansards from 1998-2006.
  • The Malawi SDNP web site , a UNDP supported government program, links to legislation relating to employment, local government, and workers compensation.
  • The Reserve Bank of Malawi website  links to banking, commercial, and financial legislation.

 

Research Guide:

 

Mali:

 

Law and Legislation:

  • As part of PRODEJ (Programme Décennal de Développement de la Justice) the Ministry of Justice provides the text of major codes, other recently adopted legislation, and other legal texts.
  • The government web portal has a list of government ministries a few of which have legislation in their area of responsibility. 

 

Jurisprudence:

  • Supreme court decisions are included on Juricaf  (1992-2007)

 

Research Guide:

 

Mauritania:

 

Law and Legislation:

 

Mauritius:

 

Law and Legislation:

 

Jurisprudence:

 

Morocco:

 

Law and Legislation:

 

Research Guide:

 

Mozambique:

 

 

Collections:

 

Law and Legislation:

  • Banco de Moçambique  provides banking laws, decrees, and other related materials.
  • The government portal site  provides links to legislation organized by sector and to series III of the Boletim da República.

 

 

Namibia:

 

Subscription database:

  • Juta provides subscription services to the current consolidation of statutes and to the Namibian Law Reports for decisions of all superior courts since independence in 1990.

 

Collections:

  • Southern African Legal Information Institute (SAFLII ) provides a partial collection of   the Government Gazettes (1990-2007); acts (1990-1995, 1998, 2000, and 2003-2009); and decisions from the High Court (1992- ), the Supreme Court (1990- ), and the Labour Court (1993-1994 and 2005- ).

 

Law and Legislation:

  • CommonLII provides some laws from 1991-1992, 1995, and 2002-2005.

 

Research Guide:

 

Niger:

 

Jurisprudence:

 

Nigeria:

 

Collection:

  • Nigeria Law provides federal laws still in force and the Laws of the Federation of Nigeria (2000), a list of laws passed from 1990 to 2006 that are still in force as of 2006, and procedural rules for the various courts.  It also includes decisions from the Nigerian Law Reports and other judgments.  This material is also available via CommonLII .

 

Law and Legislation:

  • The House of Representatives website includes acts and House bills from 1999, bill status, Hansards, and other legislative materials.  The Senate also has these acts and Senate bills.

 

Research Guide:

 

Rwanda:

 

Law and Legislation:

  • The Ministry of Justice provides the Laws and Codes of Rwanda in English and French.  These are organized into five volumes corresponding to the following broad subject areas: constitutional law, political institutions, treaties and international conventions; administrative law; judicial and criminal law; economic and financial law; and civil and social law .  (As of February 2015 the site was “under maintenance”)
  • The Prime Minister’s website   provides the Official Gazette (Journal Officiel) from 2004 in English, French, and Kinyarwanda.    It also has a list of ministries several of which have legislation in their area of responsibility.

 

Jurisprudence:

  • The Supreme Court web site provides decisions for 2005 and 2006 in Kinyarwanda with a case table in French.

 

Special Tribunal:

 

Research Guide:

 

São Tomé and Príncipe:

 

Legislation:

  • Juristep  provides the text of labor, petroleum, and industrial property laws and summaries of other legislation.
  • Assembleia Nacional website  includes some legislation and activities of the Assembly.

 

Senegal:

 

Legislation:

  • The official government website   includes codes, laws, and recent official texts such as presidential and ministerial decrees.

 

Jurisprudence:

  • ACCPUF (Association des Cours Constitutionnelles ayant en Partage l’Usage du Français) includes decisions from the Conseil constitutionnel for the period 1993-2005. 

 

Seychelles:

 

Collections:

  • Seychelles Legal Information Institute  (SeyLii) includes the Seychelles Law Reports: Supreme Court and court of Appeal Decisions  (1996-2013),  Constitutional Court decisions (2000-2014), Supreme Court, Commercial List (201302014), Court of Appeal Decisions (2004-2014), Grey ebook (an unofficial consolidation of acts and statutory instruments), Laws of Seychelles with a list by keyword categories, numbered acts, statutory instruments, and cause lists.

 

Legislation:

  • The Investment Bureau web site provides the Tourism Incentive Act, related regulations, other acts relating to trade, and double taxation agreements.

 

Sierra Leone:

 

Collections:

  • Sierra Leone Legal Information Institute (SierraLii) includes decisions from the Supreme Court (1973-2013), the Court of Appeal (1998-2013), the High Court (2000-2014), and the Special court (2004-2014; numbered acts (2004-2014, with a list of categories); consolidated acts (limited content), and statutory instruments (limited content).

 

Legislation:

 

Special Tribunal:

 

Research Guide:

 

South Africa:

 

Subscription databases:

  • Juta has several internet and CD-ROM products, which provide comprehensive access to both government and provincial legal materials.
  • LexisNexis Butterworths South Africa is another major provider of South African legal materials.
  • Sabinet provides full text access to government and provincial gazettes and parliamentary bills.

 

Collections:

  • Southern African Legal Information Institute (SAFLII)   provides a link to legislation from Polity and includes decisions from many courts including the Constitutional Court

(1995-), the Supreme  Court of Appeal (1984-) , the Labour Appeal Court (1997-), Labour Court (1997-),  Land Claims Court (1996-), the Competition Tribunal (1999-), Competition Appeal Court (2000-), Electoral Court (2001-2009), and the provincial courts.

 

Law and Legislation:

  • The Parliament of South Africa provides the full text of laws from 1993 and bills from 1998.  The Parliament site also provides links to the provincial parliaments, some of which have legislation online.
  • Polity: Policy and Law News Online is a privately run site which provides acts from 1993, bills from 1993, other materials such as policy documents, reports, notices and regulations, and speeches.
  • The official web site of the South African government also provides links to laws, bills, regulations, parliamentary documents, and reports.  It also provides links to provincial documents such as bills, acts, reports, policies, and publications.

 

Jurisprudence:

In addition to the SAFLII database, the following courts provide decisions on their web sites:

 

Research guide:

 

South Sudan:

 

Law and Legislation:

 

Swaziland:

 

Collections:

  • SwaziLii includes numbered acts, decisions from the Industrial Court of Appeal (1994-2014), the High Court (1977-2014), Industrial Court (1982-2014), and Supreme Court (1980-2014), CMAC awards, and other legal materials.

 

Legislation:

 

Research Guide:

 

Tanzania:

 

Subscription databases:

  • Juta provides the Tanzania Law Reports (1983-1997).
  • Law Africa Law Reports from LawAfrica includes judgments from Tanzania’s courts.

 

Law and Legislation:

  • The Parliament website  provides a searchable database of laws from 1962 to the present.  The Parliament site also provides current bills and their status.   Hansards for the current Parliament are available in Kiswahili.  The legislation is also available on SAFLII   through 2008.

 

Jurisprudence:

  • SAFLII contains the Court of Appeal (2000-2011 and a few earlier years) and High Court (1992-2009).

 

Research Guide:

 

Togo:

 

Collections:

  • Ministère de la Justice   has a collection of laws published in the Journaux Officiels between 1960 and 2008 and decisions from the Cour Constitutionelle (1997-2011) and Cour Supreme (1963-2011).

 

Law and Legislation

 

Tunisia:

 

Law and Legislation:

  • Juriste Tunisie is a large French language database arranged by subject which provides codes, laws and decrees related to both public and private law. 
  • GLIN provides over one hundred law and decrees from 1995-2010 most of which are published in Arabic with English summaries.
  • The full text of laws and regulations relating to financial markets is available on the Bourse de Tunis web site .

 

Research Guide

 

Uganda:

 

Subscription database:

  • Africa Law Reports from LawAfrica include judgments from Uganda’s courts.
  • Uganda Online Law Library    is a subscription service providing access to laws, statutory instruments, and judicial decisions.   A few items are free including selected legislation, subsidiary legislation, a cause list, directory information and a few judgments.

 

Collection:

  • The Uganda Legal Information Institute provides legislation as consolidated in 2000, Statutory Instruments,  and selected decisions for the following courts:  Commercial Court (2000- ), Constitutional Court (1997- ), Court of Appeal (1997- ), High Court (1970-1975; 1990- ),  Supreme Court (1997- ), and  decisions from the Center for Arbitration and Dispute Resolution.

 

Research Guide:

 

Zambia

 

Subscription database:

  • Juta provides the Zambia Law Reports (1963-1997).

 

Collections:

  • Zambia Legal Information Institute  provides acts of Parliament (1997-2014),   Laws of Zambia 2006, bills, Statutory Instruments (2005-2014), decisions from the Supreme Court (1979-2014), the High Court (1978-2015).

 

Law and Legislation:

 

Zimbabwe:

 

Subscription database:

  • Juta provides a subscription service to the statutes of Zimbabwe (revised edition 1996) and case law but these are not being undated.

 

Collections:

  • Zimbabwe Legal Information Institute (ZimLii) includes the Laws of Zimbabwe, decisions from the Supreme Court (2002-2014),  a few from the Constitutional Court, the Harare High Court (2001-2014), the Bulawayo High Court (2001-2014), and the Labour Court 2113-2014).

 

Law and Legislation:

 

Research Guide

4. Web Sites of Regional Organizations

 



[ [1] ] Thomas H. Reynolds & Arturo A. Flores, Foreign Law Current Sources of Codes and Basic Legislation in Jurisdictions of the World (Buffalo, N.Y.: Wm. S. Hein & Co., 1989-)