October 23, 2018
Sara Ghebremusse’s family arrived in Edmonton as Eritrean refugees in the early 1980s, during the height of Eritrea’s bitter 30-year war of independence from Ethiopia. It wasn’t until after the war ended in 1991 that Ghebremusse and her family were able to travel back to Eritrea for the first time. During this life-changing visit, she learned about the extreme poverty and socioeconomic devastation caused by war, which would later be a central consideration in her decision to pursue a career in law.
“To say that visiting Eritrea as a 10-year-old impacted me is an understatement. I always thought that by studying law and by gaining a better understanding of how lives and society can change through law, I could contribute to bettering the lives of so many who are disadvantaged in Sub-Saharan Africa – including so many members of my own family.”
Inspired by her family’s history and driven by her strong desire to see law used for the economic advancement of the poor and underprivileged in Africa, Ghebremusse undertook her law degree at the University of Ottawa. While there, two Pro Bono Students Canada projects on conflict minerals sparked her interest in how the legal frameworks governing natural resource extraction could be better used to promote socioeconomic development.
After articling at the City of Toronto Legal Services Division, Ghebremusse completed her LLM at the University of Toronto, where her research focused on the conditions underlying the unequal partnerships and negotiating dynamics which have often characterized the relationship between developing countries in Africa and extractive companies based in Canada, the US and the UK.
“I wanted to see what the impact of the involvement [of the extractive industry] in the global South was, and to see how Western involvement can be structured most effectively, to help improve socioeconomic conditions,”she says.
Ghebremusse understands well the potential impact of her research on current events in Eritrea. Despite the promise of independance and mining driven economic growth, Eritrea has become one of the poorest countries in the world under a one-party ditactorship.
As she starts her career at the Allard School of Law, Ghebremusse will be completing her PhD at Osgoode Hall Law School. Her dissertation examines the roles that legal institutions in the mining industry play in promoting socioeconomic development in Africa. Her goal is to provide a legal framework that promotes sustainable economic development in mining-dependent countries.
Sara Ghebremusse is currently a SSHRC-funded PhD candidate at the Osgoode Hall law School, where she is writing a dissertation on “Revisiting the ‘Resource Curse’: Law, the Developmental State, and the Governance of Mineral Resources in Southern Africa.” Following a BA in Political Science and Middle Eastern and African Studies at the University of Alberta (2006), Sara completed an MA in International Affairs at Carleton University jointly with a JD (cum laude) from the University of Ottawa in 2012, and went on to complete an LLM at the University of Toronto in 2014. This fall, she will be teaching legal research and writing as well as coaching the UBC team for the Philip C. Jessup International Law Moot Court Competition.