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Meet Prof. Okowa, Africa's first woman to join International Law Commission

History made!

Prof Phoebe Okowa garnered 162 votes in an election by the United National General Assembly in New York, United States/FILE

Kenya’s nominee for the International Law Commission (ILC), Professor Phoebe Okowa became the first African woman to be elected into the commission after garnering 162 votes in an election done on Friday.

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The election conducted in the United National General Assembly in New York, United States saw Prof. Okowa become one of 34 individuals recognized for their expertise and qualifications in international law, who are elected every five years.

In her acceptance speech Prof Okowa who's tenure will run from 2023-2027 thanked member States for the confidence they expressed in her.

“I am profoundly grateful to member states for their confidence in me. Throughout the campaign experience I have remained conscious that the ILC is a subsidiary organ of the UN that is at its costs effective working in collaboration with the sixth committee,” she said.

Prof Okowa, a professor of public international law at Queen Mary University in London has been a member of the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague.

An advocate of the High Court in Kenya, she has also lectured on international law for the United Nations and published articles and books on emerging issues in that field.

She has promised to help build a body of law "rooted in political reality and of practical use to member states".

"My work will be informed by my dual experience as an academic and a practitioner of international law, which gives me a strong grasp of both the technical and the practical elements," she said.

Created in 1947, the ILC chooses its members from among candidates of UN member states and they serve for five years once elected by a majority of votes through a secret ballot.

The next election for the team that starts its term in January 2023 is due next month at the UN General Assembly.

According to the ILC statute, members must be "persons of recognised competence in international law, with no two members being nationals of the same State and that in case of dual nationality a candidate shall be deemed to be a national of the State in which he ordinarily exercises civil and political rights."

Africa's other candidates include Yacouba Cisse (Cote d'Ivoire), Aly Fall (Mauritania), Ahmed Amind Fathalla (Egypt), Charles C Jalloh (Sierra Leone and endorsed by Chile and New Zealand), Kalaluka Likando (Zambia), Ahmed Laraba (Algeria), Clement Julius Mashamba (Tanzania), Ivon Mingashang (DRC) and Hassan Chahdi Ouazzani (Morocco).

Others are Allioune Sall (Senegal), Louis Savadogo (Burkina Faso) and Mohamed Muaz Ahmed Tungo (Sudan).

The arrangement for slots is such that Africa will get nine seats, Asia-Pacific seven, three from Eastern Europe, six from Latin America and the Caribbean, and eight from Western Europe.

One seat often rotates between Africa and Eastern Europe, and another between Latin America and Asia-Pacific.

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