African Studies Association Announces its New Executive Director

On behalf of the African Studies Association Board of Directors and the ASA Executive Director Selection Committee, we would like to announce that the search committee established last fall for the hiring of the next ASA Executive Director has completed its mandate and that the we have appointed Mr. Abdul Tejan-Cole as the next Executive Director of the ASA.

Abdul Tejan-Cole is a Barrister and Solicitor of the High Court of Sierra Leone with an LLB (Hons) degree from the University of Sierra Leone, and an LLM from University College, London. He will join the ASA on May 1 and begin his transition into the role of Executive Director. A noted international human rights lawyer and activist, Mr. Tejan-Cole brings with him more than 25 years’ experience of leadership in African Studies, with a specific focus on human rights, anti-corruption, environmental and social justice, post-conflict resolution, transitional justice and the rule of law. He has a track record of successfully leading non-profit organizations and a strong background of board and fiscal management. In order to ensure a seamless transition, outgoing Executive Director Suzanne Baazet and Abdul Tejan-Cole will work together during a two-month transition period ending on June 30 and Suzanne will continue to provide transition support on a limited basis through the end of the year.

Prior to joining ASA, Mr. Tejan-Cole served as a Senior Director at Waxman Strategies (2018-2020), global firm based in Washington, D.C. and committed to securing a living, healthy planet for all the people and creatures that live on it and on protecting native ecosystems because of their enormous importance for wildlife and their effectiveness at mitigating climate change.

He was the Executive Director of the Open Society Initiative for West Africa (OSIWA) from 2010-2018 with executive authority over their offices in Dakar, Abuja, Monrovia, Freetown and Conakry. In this capacity, he helped develop and implement OSIWA’s strategy, provided leadership and direction, and managed all aspects of its work including support for pan-African initiatives on climate change, food security, and natural resources governance. He was Board Chair of West Africa Democracy Radio, Timap for Justice, and the West Africa Civil Society Institute. He also served variously as Secretary General, Vice President, and President of the Sierra Leone Bar Association.

Abdul Tejan-Cole was also a war crimes prosecutor in the Special Court for Sierra Leone, established to prosecute violations of international humanitarian law during the Sierra Leone Civil War (1991-2002), where he delivered the opening address in the case against the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) rebels. He served as head of the Anti-Corruption Commission of Sierra Leone (2007-2010), and Deputy Director of the International Center for Transitional Justice’s Cape Town office (2006-2007).

He taught land law and the environment at the University of Sierra Leone, was a Human Rights Teaching Fellow at Columbia University in New York and a Yale University World Fellow and has published widely on human rights and international justice issues. He is a recipient of the 2001 Human Rights Watch Annual Award and is a member of the Africa Group for Justice and Accountability.

Throughout his career, Abdul Tejan-Cole has worked with people from diverse backgrounds and has developed a strong network of prominent contacts in Africa and internationally. He has demonstrated his interpersonal and networking skills throughout his work experience and looks forward to applying his many problem-solving skills to augment the superb growing mandate of the ASA family. The African Studies Association Board is delighted to welcome him as our new Executive Director.