n African Human Rights Law Journal - The African Union and the responsibility to protect

Volume 10, Issue 1
  • ISSN : 1609-073X
  • E-ISSN: 1996-2096



This article discusses how the African Union, as a major contributor to peace and security, has embraced and further entrenched the concept of the responsibility to protect. It traces the concept from the time when the former Secretary-General of the United Nations, Kofi Annan, challenged the international community to agree on the basic principles and processes of when intervention should occur in order to protect humanity against gross violations of human rights. It further discusses how the government of Canada responded to this challenge through the establishment of the International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty, which undertook extensive work in an attempt to unpack the meaning of the concept. The article makes reference to the 2005 World Summit where the Heads of State and Government of the United Nations unanimously affirmed the concept of the responsibility to protect, as well as to the 2005 Common African Position on the Proposed Reform of the United Nations (Ezulwini Consensus) wherein the Executive Council of the African Union affirmed this concept. The article further makes linkages between the concept of the responsibility to protect and the notions of human rights, human security and international security. Focusing on the African Union, the article discusses how the concept has over the years evolved in the African context. Devoting particular attention to article 4(h) of the Constitutive Act of the African Union, the article gives an understanding on how this article gives effect to the responsibility to protect. It elaborates on the notions of collective intervention and universal jurisdiction, among other things. The article also considers the processes to be undertaken by the African Union, as a means of giving effect to the responsibility to protect, following requests for intervention by its member states and occurrences of undesirable unconstitutional changes of government.

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