Under the bright morning sunshine a colourful but dignified procession of judges in scarlet robes led by Chief Justice Samatta, followed by magistrates and lawyers in black, followed the Police Band along the Dar es Salaam waterfront from the old Forodhani Hotel, newly refurbished as the temporary home of the Court of Appeal, to (fortunately covered) stands erected in front of the High Court, to be greeted by an audience of invited guests. These included eleven African Chief Justices (from Botswana to Nigeria, Egypt to Zimbabwe). Distinguished Tanzanians present included Chief Fundikira, Minister for Justice in the 1960s.
This celebration of the Silver Jubilee of the Tanzanian Court of Appeal on September 15, 2004 was especially blest: before President Mkapa arrived much – needed, torrential rain set in, floating the red carpets, soaking the National Service dancers and almost drowning out the speeches. The President restated Tanzania’s commitment to the rule of law and independence of the judges and welcomed judicial efforts to combat corruption. He asked the judges to find ways to improve access to justice for all by reducing the cost and complexity of litigation.
The ceremony was followed by a reception in the High Court where a remarkable exhibition depicted the judicial history of Tanzania. Among the significant cases recalled was the trial of Julius Nyerere for criminal libel in 1958 – see reviews below.
The conference (supported financially by the Venice Commission of the Council of Europe) then proceeded to discuss judicial activities. Tanzanians can take pride in the quality and commitment of their judges, who also show on such occasions a rare and welcome capacity for honest self – appraisal and an openness to criticism of their judgments.
On the last day the foreign guests were treated to a delightful visit to Zanzibar, starting in the old High Court where, in 1897, the first East African Court of Appeal had been inaugurated.
At a celebratory dinner Chief Justice Samatta invited all present to return for the 50th anniversary of the court in 2029.