TGCL – A Promoter of Legal Studies in the Eastern African Community
Since March 2020 Prof. Dr Thoko Kaime leads the Tanzanian-German Centre for Eastern African Legal Studies (TGCL) as successor of Prof. Dr Ulrike Wanitzek. The following interview with TGCL Manager Dr Carolin Herzog provides a short insight into the operations of the TGCL. For further information please consult http://www.tgcl.uni-bayreuth.de/en/index.html
How would you describe the core features of the TGCL?
The TGCL is a cooperation project between the University of Dar es Salaam School of Law and the University of Bayreuth. In 2008, it was established as one of the first centres within the programme „African Excellence – Fachzentren Afrika“ which is funded by the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD). It annually offers about 12 scholarships for LLM and PhD students in the field of regional integration law. The overarching goal of the TGCL is to qualify aspiring lawyers from all six member states of the Eastern African Community for leading positions and to act as multiplicators in their region.
What does regional integration law deal with?
I often compare the East African Community to the beginning of the European Union. Similar to the European Union, the East African Community brings together member states with different legal traditions. While the anglophone countries follow common law, the francophone members apply civil law. These different legal systems from Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda and South Sudan have to be merged in a process of integration and harmonisation so that the single states finally form a joint legal sphere. The benefits of regional integration are amongst others increased trade, expanded markets, attraction of Foreign Direct Investment and free movement of people across the region.
What makes the programme so special for law students?
From day one the students are supported and counselled by a very committed team. Situated in an international environment they have the chance to discuss and compare legal, political, and economic distinctions and specifics. These ongoing exchanges form an important basis to overcome stereotypes and get to know each other better. During their time on Mikocheni campus in Dar es Salaam the students grow together like a school class or even a family. The close fellowship is also visible in the activities of the TGCL alumni network. Since 2008 more than 120 students have successfully graduated and by organising workshops and conferences, they pass their knowledge to current students and therefore steadily enrich the academic landscape in East Africa.
What was your personal highlight during your work at the TGCL?
I really enjoyed our study trips to various cities in East Africa and Europe. The excursions offered a unique opportunity for me to establish close relationships with the fellows and to get to know each other at a different level. I had the feeling to obtain insights into their mindset and to learn something about the respective countries that goes beyond the information provided in books and the media. Furthermore, especially our joint stays in East Africa clearly revealed me the immense potential for further research within the region.
How did the current pandemic, caused by Coronavirus, affect the operations of the TGCL?
When Coronavirus started to change our daily routines the students were conducting their field research in their respective countries. Therefore, they already were with their families and did not have to make any arrangements to travel back home. However, the pandemic aggravated data collection and as the single countries applied different strategies in handling the pandemic some students could only later on return to Tanzania. Regarding teaching operations, the TGCL offered access to online libraries and sustained the contact with the students via online meetings and instant messaging. In a way I would say that Coronavirus has been like a wake-up call, demonstrating the need and potential for digitalization. Of course, this is a challenge that the TGCL cannot master in a solo effort, but some steps already have been achieved during the last view months. For example, the selection process for the forthcoming academic year was completely accomplished with digital resources.