n African Human Rights Law Journal - An overview of the crisis of the rule of law in Africa - focus : the rule of law in sub-Saharan Africa

Volume 18 Number 1
  • ISSN : 1609-073X
  • E-ISSN: 1996-2096



After the wave of democratic and constitutional reforms in the 1990s, the rule of law appeared to have enjoyed a revival in Africa. Apparently there were strong constitutional commitments by African countries for respect for the rule of law, backed by the signature and ratification of international and regional treaties imposing this obligation. However, the last two decades have seen a steady weakening of this commitment. It is argued that developing an appropriate strategy for dealing with the persistent, systemic and systematic threats to the rule of law in Africa requires an understanding of the nature and extent of the crisis. The critical question is whether the proper tools are available at national and continental level to monitor and deal with these threats. After exploring the meaning and scope of the concept of the rule of law, this article, guided by a number of regional and international indicators, assesses the extent of Africa’s rule of law problems. It then examines the various options for facilitating systematic monitoring of the enforcement of rule of law standards. Based on the approach adopted by the Council of Europe and the European Union, it is argued that the African Union and regional economic communities must develop a well thought-out strategy within the existing normative frameworks to address the present problems of systemic threats to and persistent breaches of the rule of law.

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