‘The best defense is to attack’: African Agency in the South West Africa Case at the International Court of Justice, 1960–1966

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This article focuses on two examples of the agency of African people in the South West Africa Case, in which Ethiopia and Liberia brought South Africa before the International Court of Justice in the Hague in 1960. ‘African’ here refers both to diasporic and continental Pan-African organisations, and to individual citizens (of all races) in African countries. The paper seeks, first, to bring Pan-African political history together with the international legal history of the Case. Second, it supplements the analysis of legal manoeuvres at the international level with a fuller backstory about the strategies of South Africa’s legal team in the Case, based on correspondence between Prof. Andrew Murray of the University of Cape Town and the South African lawyers defending South Africa’s conduct in then-South West Africa. Overall, the article seeks to assign a more prominent role to Africans in a story about the spread of apartheid through southern Africa - a story which ironically often focuses more on the United Nations, Europeans and Americans than it does on South Africans and Namibians.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)162-177
Number of pages16
JournalSouth African Historical Journal
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 3 2017



  • Andrew Howson Murray
  • International court of justice
  • Namibia
  • Pan-Africanism

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • History

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