In Defense of the formal recognition of the doctrine of Odious debts: a study on African debts

Jaoko, Imani Paige
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Strathmore University
The doctrine of odious debt provides that sovereign debt incurred without the consent of the people and not benefiting the people should not be transferable to a successor government, especially if creditors were aware of these facts in advance. African nations have incurred and continue to incur such debts. However, this concept has not been legally and formally recognized and applied in international law. The objective of the study was to discover whether recognizing the doctrine in international law would offer much needed debt-relief to African nations. The research was exclusively desk research. The sources of information used included books, journal articles, reports and working papers, financial and budgetary documents issued by the government of African countries and international financial institutions such as the World Bank and the IMF. The study justified the use of the doctrine via three conceptual lenses: intergenerational equity, sovereignty of the people and transitional justice. These formed the conceptual framework of the study. The study undertook any analysis of the African debt situation by comparing the volume of debts incurred to issues of governance and levels of corruption on the continent, and found that there are odious debts in Africa. The study also considered the manner in which the doctrine can find acceptance in international law. While appreciating the body of practice that exists where states have invoked or attempted to invoke the doctrine in the past, the study concluded that treaty making is a better avenue for the doctrine to be considered as a legal concept. The study considered the manner in which the doctrine would be operationalized namely, the way in which a debt could be considered odious and the body that would make this decision. The study concluded by recommending that the African Union form a working group to investigate the debts of the continent and that an international treaty on sovereign debt relief be drafted
Submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements of the Bachelor of Laws Degree, Strathmore University Law School
Formal recognition, Defense, Doctrine, Odious debts, African debts