African disunity: comparing human rights law and practice of North and South African states

Jean Allain, Andreas O'Shea

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7 Citations (Scopus)


Within the domain of respect for human and peoples' rights by African states there has been, until recently, little unity of purpose. The common standards that African states have maintained in their laws and practices regarding human rights have been their willingness to subscribe formally to international and regional norms, while at the same time, to violate those undertakings with near impunity. When the Protocol to the African Charter on the Establishment of the African Court on Human and Peoples' Rights (Protocol) comes into force, it will provide for an African court having the responsibility to hold states to their obligations and to establish continent-wide standards. Thus, within the domain of human rights, the states will take a step closer to realizing common norms worthy of a continent which has, as its fundamental underpinning and ethos, the notion of African unity. The establishment of a human rights regime in Africa is manifest in the African Charter on Human and People's Rights of 1981 (African Charter). African states passed this Charter under the auspices of the Organization of African Unity (OAU), which represents an effort on the part of African states to unite in the promotion of human and peoples' rights. Indeed, the Preamble to the founding instrument of the OAU expresses the desire "that all African States should henceforth unite so that the welfare and well-being of their peoples can be assured." By accepting this Protocol to the African Charter, the Council of Ministers of the OAU has signaled that states are ready to go beyond the African Commission framework, established by the OAU founding treaty, to a system of obligatory judgments and sanctions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)86-125
Number of pages40
JournalHuman Rights Quarterly
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2002
Externally publishedYes

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