Advancing the Rule of Law with the Cooperation of Law Schools in Ethiopia

A formal Ethiopian Law Schools’ Association is established to strengthen the rule of law in Ethiopia

Positioned at the intersection of education and practice, Ethiopian law schools enjoy a unique vantage point from which to promote justice and human rights and prepare future lawyers for their role in enhancing access to justice and legal reforms. However, Ethiopian law schools have historically lacked the collaboration and unified voice necessary to fully embrace these roles.

That is now changing. The Ethiopian Law Schools’ Association (ELSA) was recently formed with the help of USAID’s Feteh (Justice) Activity. The Association brings together 29 law schools to standardize legal education, share experiences, and be the voice of law schools to advocate for legal and judicial reform. ELSA breathes life into a justice reform initiative more than 15 years in the making and provides a formal mechanism for enhancing cooperation between law schools and ensuring the availability of comprehensive data on legal education.

As Dr. Solomon Tekle, Assistant Professor at Gondar University School of Law, highlighted, “In different parts of the world, law schools play a great role for their society and the legal profession. Now we are able to …bring this kind of practice to our country.”

ELSA’s first general meeting was held in July 2021, at which represen- tatives from the 29 Ethiopian law schools ratified the Association’s bylaws and elected its governing body. Media and civil society organizations, as well as federal and regional authorities, attended the session and offered their support.

“The Association became a reality with the help of the Feteh project,” said Mr. Tewodros Mihret, the national expert who developed the Association’s bylaws. “This will help to work on gathering knowledge and making it accessible to all law schools; ensuring that the legal education provided by law schools is up-to-date; and conducting research and disseminating research findings.”

Feteh will continue to support the Association’s startup and help build the systems and procedures needed to ensure ELSA’s financial independence and long-term sustainability. According to Lijalem Gashaw, Chairperson of its Executive Committee, ELSA’s vision is to lead in advocating for and promoting the rule of law in Ethiopia by continuously enhancing legal education. Feteh’s financial and technical support is vital to achieving this lofty vision.

This story originally appeared as a “Success Story” for USAID. Learn more about Feteh and its work, here.