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.
This brief overview of selected developments in human rights and democratisation in sub-Saharan Africa during 2016 paints an uneven picture of progress, stagnation and retrogression at the global, regional and national levels. The contribution discusses elections held in 2016 and pertinent jurisprudence on elections and electoral management bodies during the year; accountability for mass atrocities; LGBTI rights; women’s rights; and protests and internet shutdowns. As far as elections were concerned, many were free and fair and led to democratic changes of government, while others were manipulated by incumbents to maintain their stay in power. In terms of jurisprudence in support of democracy, the African Court delivered an important judgment against Côte d’Ivoire on the need to ensure the fair composition of electoral management bodies. With regard to accountability for mass atrocities, the African Union’s onslaught against the International Criminal Court started yielding results, with Burundi, The Gambia and South Africa withdrawing their membership of the ICC, even though The Gambia and South Africa have subsequently revoked their withdrawals. On a positive note, the Extraordinary African Chambers convicted and sentenced former Chad dictator, Hissène Habré, to life imprisonment for atrocities committed between 1982 and 1990. With regard to LGBTI rights, even though the national executive continues to be an impediment, national courts are increasingly taking on the mantle of protecting LGBTI rights, especially in respect of the right to freedom of association and assembly. While the realisation of women’s rights continues to face significant challenges at the national level, the AU showed encouraging signs of its commitment to gender equality, especially in a decision by the AU Assembly to only elect female judges to the African Court in order to ensure the gender balance of the Court. As far as protests are concerned, many states used internet shutdowns as a means of silencing dissent, especially during elections and protests that infringed on rights such as freedom of association, expression and assembly, in addition to substantial financial consequences.
Key words: human rights; democratisation; sub-Saharan Africa; elections; LGBTI; gender; women’s rights; internet shutdowns; accountability