Legal Appraisal Of African Human Rights system A Study Of ECOWAS Court
Africa has been traumatized by human rights violations of historic proportions over the last five centuries. The recent chapter in that long history of abuses is still being authored under the direction of the post-colonial state. But the peoples of Africa, like peoples elsewhere, have never stopped struggling for better conditions of life, and especially for more enlightened and accountable political societies. The popular repudiation of oneparty and undemocratic states over the past decade has once again given hope that the predatory impulses of the post-
colonial state might be arrested. Within states, non-governmental organizations have multiplied during that period and governments are being been forced to revise policies and laws that are offensive to basic human rights. At the continental level, NGOs and human rights advocates have demanded that the African Commission become part of this movement towards change.
This is the lense through which Africans now view the African human rights system. While it is felt by many Africans that the idea of the African Commission was a step in the direction, there are serious misgivings that it has been largely ineffectual. Further, that a regional human rights system worth its name need strong institutions to anchor its norms. The African Human Rights Court is an attempt to fulfill that promise. However, the court promises to be a disappointment unless states parties revisit the African Charter and strengthen many of its substantive provisions. Moreover, the court will not meet the expectations of Africans if the OAU does not provide it with material and moral support to allow it to function as the independent and significant institution that it ought to be. Finally, of course, the initial integrity and vitality of the court will rest with those who will be privileged to serve as its first bench. Unless these conditions are met, the African Human Rights Court is condemned to remain a two-legged stool, a lame institution unable to fulfill its promise as a seat from which human rights can be advanced. In that case, the court will have failed to redeem the troubled African regional system.