n African Human Rights Law Journal - The challenges for the rule of law posed by the increasing use of electronic surveillance in sub-Saharan Africa - focus : the rule of law in sub-Saharan Africa

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



This article analyses the tension between the rule of law and the increasing use of electronic surveillance in sub-Saharan Africa. Indeed, in the sub-Saharan region today, the rule of law is severely under threat. These threats include bad governance, corruption and a poor human rights track record. Respect for human rights particularly is one of the key indices of the presence of a strong rule of law. However, sub-Saharan African states seriously lag behind in this respect. While so much has been said of the violations of other human rights, not much is said of the right to privacy. Hence, the rule of law being a fundamental component of human rights, the right to privacy faces emerging threats from practices aided by the gradual advances in technology, such as electronic surveillance. Electronic surveillance, with its capacity to effortlessly undermine human rights, is now commonplace in countries in the sub- Saharan region. This becomes more complicated with the frequentlymade claim that such surveillance is 'lawful' or 'reasonable' for law enforcement or national security. What amounts to 'lawful' or 'reasonable' intrusions are not only nebulous, but also largely unquestionable. Interestingly, this is not the only difficulty concerning the practice of electronic surveillance. There seems to be a general misconception that electronic surveillance only constitutes a challenge to the right to privacy when it actually affects some other important values. In view of this, the article examines the ways in which the increasing use of electronic surveillance undermines the rule of law in sub-Saharan Africa.

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