Abdulai Conteh

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Abdulai Conteh in 1978

Dr Abdulai Osman Conteh (born August 5, 1945) is a lawyer and politician from Sierra Leone.

Early life and education[edit]

Dr. Conteh graduated with LLB (Hons) from King's College London where he won the Harold Porter Prize for Land Law in 1968, and subsequently continued his education at King's College, Cambridge. He was a member of Lincoln's Inn and was called to the Bar of England and Wales in 1970. He is from the Susu people of Sierra Leone, and was part of the All people Congress party.

Political career in Sierra Leone[edit]

Conteh's public service in Sierra Leone has included holding the offices of Minister of Foreign Affairs (1977–1984); Minister of Finance (1984–1985); Attorney-General and Minister of Justice (1987–1991) and First Vice-President and Minister of Rural Development (1991–1992), as well as standing as an elected Member of Parliament in the Legislature.

In late 2007, Conteh was nominated as a candidate to become Chairperson of the African Union Commission in early 2008,[1] but he was not successful, with Jean Ping of Gabon being elected.[2]

Chief Justice of Belize (2000-2010)[edit]

In January 2000, Conteh became the Chief Justice of the Belize Supreme Court.[3]

In 2008 and 2010, Conteh authored two decisions affirming the common law doctrine of aboriginal title and the existence of Maya customary land tenure in the Toledo District of Belize.[4] Only the villages of Conejo and Santa Cruz were parties to the 2008 ruling; however, the 2010 ruling was the result of a representative action on behalf of all the Maya communities. The ruling voided all government leases, concessions, grants, and contracts adverse to the Maya tenure. The "landmark victory" is predicted to have "far-reaching implications" for "logging, mining, and petroleum concessions in what the Maya community claims is over 500,000 acres of ancestral homeland."[5] The government intends to appeal the decision to the Caribbean Court of Justice.[6]

Conteh turned 65 on August 6, 2010, forcing him to retire since his contract was not renewed by Prime Minister Dean Barrow.[7] Barrow's decision not to offer Conteh a renewal was condemned by the Belize Bar Association in a resolution criticizing the "unseemly manner in which the tenure of the chief justice has been treated by the government of Belize."[7][8] His retirement became a "national political issue because the Chief Justice is popular with the masses of the Belizean people, and is regarded by many as fair-minded and fearless. Several of his landmark rulings particularly on constitutional issues are considered “anti-government” and “anti-establishment,” and many were made even under the former Musa administration."[9]

Court of Appeal of the Cayman Islands[edit]

In December 2008, Dr. Conteh was appointed as a Justice of the Court of Appeal of the Cayman Islands.[10] In 2010, he was appointed to the Court of Appeal of the Bahamas.


External links[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by
Abu Bakar Kamara
First Vice President of Sierra Leone
Succeeded by
Legal offices
Preceded by
Troadio Gonzalez (acting)
Chief Justice of Belize
Succeeded by
Samuel Awich (acting)