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University of Dar-es-Salaam School of Law – A Synopsis

The University of Dar-es-Salaam School of Law (then Faculty of Law – herein referred to the School) is the oldest law training institution in East Africa. It was established on Wednesday, 25th October 1961, three months before independence, to cater for the new emerging independent states of East Africa, comprising of Kenya, Uganda, Tanganyika and Zanzibar. The first batch of students at the School was admitted at the then Tanganyika National Union (TANU) (Now Sukita) Building along Lumumba Street in Dar-es-Salaam. By virtue of its establishing Instrument, the School was affiliated to the University of London awarding degrees of that University through external programs. In principle its curriculum was premised along the law curriculum of the University of London. The establishment of the School at the eve of independence provided an opportunity for the creation, innovation and introduction into the syllabus local case materials, which were sensitive to the aspirations of new independent States of East Africa, despite its attachment to the University of London. 

This was made possible by, among other factors, the fact that the School was comprised of young dynamic scholars from diverse jurisdictions who advocated for change. These included A.B Weston an Australian recruited from Canada who served as Dean, William Twinning a UK citizen recruited from the Sudan and Patrick Mc Aulsan also from the UK. Others were Sol Piccioto from the UK and trained in Chicago, Mr. Pink, an African American legal scholar from the USA, Cranford Platt a Canadian who was the Principal and Mr. Snaith the planning officer from the UK.

At inception, the mission of the School was to provide the new independent states of East Africa with indigenous skilled lawyers in the shortest time possible to work in the government and public service. When formally inaugurating the University College of Dar-es-Salaam, (As the Faculty of Law was referred to then), on 25th October 1961, the late Mwalimu Nyerere (then Chief Minister and “Visitor” to the College) aptly summarized the reasons underlying the establishment of the School. He stated:

“[This] College has been established in a rush. Recommendations for opening a University College of Tanganyika had been put at a much later date as the operative one, but my government felt that this was a matter of highest educational priority…[This] was a political decision…..An independent country depending on charity for all its higher educational opportunities is in great psychological danger. But the decision to start the first Faculty in 1961 and to proceed as rapidly as possible was an educational decision meant to increase opportunities for university education for all citizens”

In setting a direction for the approach in teaching courses at the School, the late Mwalimu Nyerere stated:

“We are in the process of building up a Tanganyika nation…[If] we are to build a sturdy sense of nationhood, we must nurture our own educated citizens (who) must have an African oriented education. That is, an education which is not only given in Africa, but also (that which is) directed at meeting the present needs of Africa. For our present plan must be that directed at reaching the villages……”

As a result of the government’s approach therefore, despite the School being affiliated to the University of London upon inception, the focus of the curriculum was also purposefully designed to cater for local situations that were in line with the aspiration of the emerging new States of the region. From inception, therefore, the School was compelled to embark on applied research out of necessity. It provided guidance to the government in the codification of customary law, integration of court systems and matters of constitution making.

It was during this epoch when the School established a Legal Research Center under the directorship of A. Sawyer. Unfortunately this center wound up its activities with Sawyer’s departure from the School. Books and monograms that were produced during this epoch were geared at producing local material for teaching. They sought to find African examples to fit into the common law principles and concepts that had to be applicable in Tanganyika. Students were also involved in research activities. They published their findings in research journals, for example, in the Denning Law Journal.

For the whole of the first decade, the students’ Denning Law Society [(Now University of Dar-es-Salaam Law Society (UDLS)] sponsored field research projects/competitions annually in the areas of African customary law, Islamic law and offered prizes to students who excelled in research writings and essays. These were also published in the Society’s Journal, first the Denning Law journal (later the University of Dar-es-Salaam Law Journal and today the Nyerere Law Journal).

For almost three decades now, the School has been offering a three-year Bachelor of Laws (LL.B) degree program. However, since October 1999, the duration of the LL.B program has been extended to four years as a result of the curriculum review undertaken by the School in August 1999 in Arusha. The School also offers Postgraduate Diploma in Law (PGDL) and Master of Laws (LL.M) degree programs. It has also been offering degrees in Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) and certificate courses in law. At the eve of 50 years, the School of Law established another undergraduate degree course of Bachelor of Arts Legal Enforcement (BALE).

Currently the School is composed of three departments (Public Law, Private Law, and Economic Law). Apart from the three departments, the School interacts with the outside world through institutions that are based at the School. Today, the School houses the Center for the Study of Forced Migration (CSFM), the Legal Aid Committee (LAC) and the Tanzanian German Centre for Eastern African Legal Studies (TGCL). These provide opportunities for inter-departmental research at the School of law.

The School, through TGCL, has the best collection of human rights, constitutional law and regional integration law material in the country. It also harbors an up to date library specialized in the Law of the Sea and International Environmental Law. This unit acts as springboards for inter-disciplinary research and outreach programs in these fields.

Apart from teaching undergraduate, graduate students and coordinating courses in certificate of law, members of staff of the School perform research on various issues transcending social, economic and cultural boundaries but linked to the development of the jurisprudence of the law and legal systems.

Welcome note

I am pleased to note that you are a part of the community of the University of Dar-es-Salaam School of Law; as a student, contemplating to become one or an Alumnus.  This webpage provides a synopsis of the courses offered by the School and a variety of activities that the School has been engaged in or about to embark upon.

The School of Law is the oldest legal training institute in the Eastern and Southern African region. The School (then Faculty of Law) was established on Wednesday, 25th October 1961, about three months before the independence of the then Tanganyika to cater for the emerging newly independent States of East Africa, at that time comprising of Kenya, Uganda, Tanganyika and Zanzibar. At its inception, the School was affiliated to the University of London and followed its curriculum.  Despite this affiliation, the focus of its curriculum was designed to cater for local situations that were in line with the aspiration of the newly independent States of the region. From inception, therefore, the School’s role was essentially focused on applied research out of necessity. It had to advise the government in the codification of customary law, integration of court systems and matters of constitution making. 

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University of Dar es Salaam School of Law.
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P.o. Box 35093,

Dar es Salaam,

Landline: +255-(0)22-2410342
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