Global Campus Human Rights Journal (GCHRJ) is established as a peer-reviewed bi-annual publication dedicated to serving as a forum for rigorous scholarly analysis, critical commentaries, and reports on recent developments pertaining to human rights and democratisation globally, particularly by adopting multi- and inter-disciplinary perspectives, and using comparative approaches. Global Campus Human Rights Journal also aims to serve as a forum for fostering interdisciplinary dialogue and collaboration between stakeholders, including academics, activists in human rights and democratisation, NGOs and civil society. It is an open access journal published under the auspices of the Global Campus of Human Rights, and is supported financially by the European Union Commission.
The unexpected outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic (COVID-19) has had a significant impact on democracy, constitutionalism and human rights in Africa. Many executive and legislative officials used the pandemic as a powerful excuse to postpone elections without making significant efforts to seek consensus among affected stakeholders as required by human rights instruments. This descent towards tokenistic constitutionalism has gone hand in hand with two types of unconstitutional changes of government, namely the coup d’état in Mali and third-termism in Côte d’Ivoire and Guinea, which together show how the commitment to constitutionalism remains elusive in many countries. Meanwhile, the African Union human rights bodies swiftly devised alternative means to hold their sessions online as it became clear that physical meetings were not possible. The African Commission and the African Court made significant progress in fulfilling their mandates in 2020, for example by revising their rules of procedure to include cutting-edge issues and adopting soft law instruments. These instruments provided significant guidance to state parties in order for their COVID-19 related measures and actions to comply with the African Charter. This article highlights developments in human rights and democratisation in Africa during 2020. The article begins with a discussion of two forms of unconstitutional change of government sanctioned by the African Democracy Charter, before turning to trends in the postponement of elections in many African countries and their implications on constitutionalism. The article then discusses developments within the African Commission and the African Court. The article concludes by arguing that, while the African Commission and the African Court made significant efforts to find innovative ways to fulfil their human rights mandates amid the pandemic, a number of African countries descended into symbolic democracy and constitutionalism.