THE AFRICAN CHARTER ON HUMAN AND PEOPLES’ RIGHTS, ITS REGIONAL SYSTEM, AND THE ROLE OF CIVIL SOCIETY IN THE FIRST THREE DECADES: CALIBRATING THE “PAPER TIGER”
Keywords:African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, civil society, human rights protection
Neither has any other human-rights treaty received as much vitriolic bashing as the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (African Charter), 1981, nor has there been a dearth of negativity about the treaty as a human-rights instrument. Such is the spate of pessimism about the African Charter and its system that it has repeatedly been referred to as “a paper tiger”, among other undignified labels. Beyond the endless lampooning of the treaty and its system as mere platitudes, have there been no opportunities for the civil society to strengthen the promise of this treaty and its system. To what extent has the civil society exploited such opportunities? Can there be a reconceptualization of the roles and attitudes of civil society that will galvanize the African regional human-rights system towards a veritable mechanism for more effective human rights protection? This article examines the contributions of civil society to the evolutionary processes, successes, and perceived weaknesses of the African regional human-rights system since 1981. Extrapolating from some landmark institutional, normative and jurisprudential developments within the African regional arrangement, this article identifies civil society as an inevitable, integral bearer of credit for the successes, and blame for the shortcomings of the aforementioned system. The overarching objective here is to canvass for a repositioning of civil society towards more effective praxis, and, to identify the trajectories for such engagement.
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