The impact of state sovereignty on the concept of human rights in Africa

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Fokou Fopa, Bertrand
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Many reasons that have been advanced as preventing the African regional human rights system from being effective. The lacks of political will, cultural relativism, and economic underdevelopment have been in several occasions put forward as obstacles for an effective protection and promotion of human rights in Africa. Meanwhile, Sovereignty as one of the criterion of every state also plays an important role in this reluctance to embody human rights protection and promotion among the priorities of African states. From the creation of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) to the African union (AU), the overwhelming consideration given to the principle of state sovereignty has had a negative impact on the development of human rights as African states turn to consider every human rights scrutiny as an attempt to narrow or undermined their so cherished sovereignty. Respect for the principle of national sovereignty and non-interference in the internal affairs of members States served as a shield for human rights violations. Though the African Union provided for a right to “intervene in case of grave circumstances”, I will argue that the likelihood of such an intervention to take place is very low as African states have always developed a sort of group solidarity, avoiding to criticize each other. Therefore an effective protection and promotion of human rights in Africa will be a reality only when the principle of State Sovereignty could be watered down.
Second semester University: Queen's University Belfast
African Union, human rights, Africa, sovereignty