n African Human Rights Law Journal - Minority rights, democracy and development : the African experience

Volume 12, Issue 1
  • ISSN : 1609-073X
  • E-ISSN: 1996-2096



The article argues that, in spite of recent attempts to marry human rights to development, such a marriage remains one of convenience or, rather, to the inconvenience of minority or indigenous peoples who are the focus of discussion. The article asserts that, contrary to the claim that the relationship between rights and development is non-existent to begin with, such a relationship does exist. The crucial issue, however, is the category of people who are allowed to enjoy rights to development and to enjoy the fruits thereof. This analysis is grounded in three types of relationship between rights and development. These are identified as positive, negative and passive relationships. The article contends that the positive relationship is captured and colonised by the political and economic elite who control and direct how and when those under their control should benefit from a negative or passive relationship approach between rights and development. It is contended that the negative and positive relationship perspectives have continued to dominate the dynamics of economic development from the Enlightenment era, through colonialism, post-colonialism and the globalisation era. In the context of promoting effective minority rights which lies at the heart of peace and stability in Africa, the article suggests a re-visioning of the relationship between rights, democracy and development in Africa which challenges the current notion of 'market democracy', and 'liberal international orthodoxy', among other mantras. The analysis tackles ways in which the effective promotion of minority rights can be realised.

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