The human and peoples' rights and armed conflicts in Africa


University of British Columbia

Date Issued


Document Type



Master of Laws - LLM




Armed conflict and the systematic violation of human rights have been characteristics of life in much of Africa. The interrelationship between these two phenomenon is explored; armed conflict is both the result of the denial of such human rights as the right of political participation, and a cause of further denial of human rights both by States and by armed guerrilla movements. The cases of Ethiopia, Sudan and Uganda are discussed in detail. In the first two cases the denial of the right to autonomy and self-determination have clearly been major factors in the armed conflict and in the further denial of human rights. The clearest failure in Uganda has been the continued failure of regimes to ensure reasonable political participation of the people in government. In the light of the situation, the adequacy of the African Charter of Human and Peoples' Rights, the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights, and the machinery available through the United Nations and existing Non-Governmental Organizations is examined. The African system, in comparison to the human rights systems in Europe or the Americas, is excessively dominated by State political leaders, leading to doubts whether the new African Commission on Human Rights will be able to be effective. For various reasons, the United Nations organs have not addressed the human rights situation in much of black Africa, concentrating concern on Southern Africa and Apartheid. The study concludes that the African human rights machinery should be altered to make the Commission more independent and to add a court or an arbitration tribunal. It is also necessary to develop indigenous Non-Governmental Organizations concerned with human rights in Africa. Foreign States could condition their foreign aid on State respect for human rights, and should avoid armed support for particular factions, as has occured in Ethiopia, Angola and Mozambique. But humanitarian intervention in genuine cases of gross human rights abuses should be provide for, as with the Tanzanian entry into Uganda in 1979.

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Law, Peter A. Allard School of