oa Comparative and International Law Journal of Southern Africa - Contribution of Akan philosophy to the conceptualisation of African notions of human rights

Volume 33, Issue 2
  • ISSN : 0010-4051



An emerging trend in international law theory depicts a tension between the 'core' - representing the most widely accepted facts, values and terminologies, and the 'periphery' - the gravitation of international law into cross-disciplinary fields and sectors. This paper seeks to follow this trend and to adopt an integrative approach which involves an extension of the discussion into the domain of international human rights law. My objective is to contribute to the discourse on African notions of human rights from an Akan perspective.

I seek to do this by placing the tension that is on-going between the universalists and the cultural relativists in the discourse on human rights within the core and periphery frameworks. The position of the universalists is that human rights are universal or have come to acquire a universal character through a combination of factors, such as the effect of European contact by way of colonialism and the effort of the United Nations to internationalise the concept of rights. Although there are variants of cultural relativism, its proponents seem to be united on the premise that human rights are shaped by the cultural background of each particular cultural community. Some, therefore, argue for the recognition of human rights from the perspective of each locality, while others argue for integration of the various strands of rights as they exist in each cultural milieu.
Adopting the peripheral framework, a reliance on the policy science aspect of the offensive formation approach, will involve adopting the stance which advocates making international law 'cross-disciplinary in composition, contextual in scope, and problematic in orientation'.

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