John Kaunda is a happy man and when he speaks about his pet subject he sounds like something out of Stanley Kubric’s epic movie 2001: A Space Odyssey.
Kaunda is a Nigerian law student who, along with his peers from the University of Calabar’s Law School, recently won the Africa region of the Manfred Lachs Space Law Moot Court Competition.
The competition is an international Space Law capacity building programme organised for the past 26 years by the International Institute of Space Law, with four regions participating: Africa, Asia-Pacific, Europe, and North America.
Having won the regional round, John Kaunda and his colleagues, Nelly-Helen Ebruka and Augustine Ushie, became the first team in the history of Calabar’s law faculty to have won an international moot law competition.
The university is located in southern Nigeria in the Cross River State near Cameroon and the faculty offers diploma, undergraduate and postgraduate programmes in law.
It has about 800 undergraduate students.
The International Institute of Space Law is the global association for space law and promotes the principles governing outer space activities.
The institute has individual and institutional members from almost 50 countries. It develops space law and the expansion of the rule of law in the exploration and use of outer space for peaceful purposes. It promotes space law research, teaching and diplomacy to provide perspective on space law that is fair and efficient.
The annual moot law competition is aimed at advancing space law in the curriculum at academic institutions and assisting participating countries in developing the technical legal capacity by preparing the next generation of space lawyers. Students analyse, draft and present cases and, in the process, hone their skills of argument.
Regional winners compete globally in October at the world finals, held in conjunction with the International Astronautical Congress in the US.
John Kaunda is a member of ILSA the International Law Students Association and wants to specialise in international law.
He raves about the moot law competition.
“I really loved to air my views and opinions and to have the opportunity to convince people of different notions and ideas.
“I see law as both a pillar that holds society up and which changes it. Sincerely, if there is anything I love doing, it is changing the narrative in any system I find myself, towards something better. I believe in the power of the law to change the world.”
In the African round of the competition, Kaunda and his team argued for and against the fictitious Republic of Azasi and the State of Suniza and the crux of the debate was around the military use of space resources and whether or not this breached international law.
“There aren’t many practitioners in space law. It really is unique, so you get to know the laws and the rules relating to space activity and how it relates to countries.
“It exposes you to a whole new world. The competition helps you understand how to lay out your arguments. You learn so much. It is such a rewarding experience.
“Our team performed well because we were incurably optimistic, passionate and hardworking, but honestly our competitors were all good.
“We still have the world round to come and it's all about making Africa proud and giving more than our best,” Kaunda said.