Annual Survey of International & Comparative Law


The point of departure for this paper is the conviction that the major questions and problems, so often dismissed as "problems of the Third World" of which Africa occupies a central place, must be the starting point for the building of a system of international law, and indeed, are the bases upon which the discipline can come to terms with itself in the context of present-day realities. Thus, this attempt to examine environmental law from the point of view of decolonization and development will be deliberately restricted to the African area. This necessitates the placing of Africa very close to the center of attention and certainly much closer than it has been in the past. The duty of protecting the environment falls on the state, which must properly direct societal life in a manner that ensures that the natural basis of life is preserved for present and future generations. The individual has an important role to play in the effort though by no means close to that expected of the state. The concept of African state as used herein refers to the African state as it is currently configured and not as it ought to be or might have been. Our discussion therefore necessarily starts with an examination of the place which the environment and its development occupy within African tradition. In other words, we will explore the importance which African tradition and practice accord the environment, for it is our firm belief that a good understanding of how the subject is assessed and viewed in a traditional African setting will shed light generally on the African attitude towards the development of the environment and international environmental law in the international sphere.