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African Union: Do they know the African Charter?

African Union: Do they know the African Charter?

By Nebiyu (18. 02.2021)

The Organization of African Union (OAU) adopted the African Charter in 1981 which entered into force in 1986. Later with the establishment of the African Union (AU) in 2002, the Charter continued as the African Charter, which is:

         a set of rules, called Articles, guaranteeing certain human rights and fundamental freedoms for individuals. It also guarantees certain rights of entire peoples. The Charter is a human rights treaty. …. It is then legally obliged to protect the rights specified in the treaty.

This is wonderful in that the African countries have such an important document which purports to show the importance of the respect for human rights for all the peoples of Africa to live in mutual respect and dignity. It also underlines the need to respect Human Rights to promote Africa’s socio-economic change and development.

However, the big question is: are the African Union Commission and indeed African leaders themselves really serious about the Rights and their implementation as stipulated in the protocols? Before we answer this question, let’s look more closely at what the Charter says about human rights in general and women and children in particular.

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The African Charter established the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights on 2 November 1987 in Addis Ababa. The commission has three major functions: protection of human and peoples’ rights; promotion of human and peoples’ rights; interpretation of the African charter.

The African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights is mandated to promote and protect the rights stipulated in the Children’s Charter (adopted on 11 July 1990 and entered into force in 1999), to monitor its implementation, and to interpret its provisions.

The Charter defines a child as every human being below the age of 18 years. The Charter addresses, among others, rights and protection of children in the event of armed conflict. Some aspects of the protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights and Welfare of the Child in Africa relate to:

         Article 1: Obligation of State Parties

         Article 2: Definition of a Child

         Article 18:  Protection of the Family

         Article 22: Armed Conflicts

         Article 27: Sexual Exploitation

         Article 29: Sale, Trafficking and Abduction

Similarly, the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights stipulates the Rights of women in Africa. The protection of the family and vulnerable groups is vividly underlined in the Charter.

Some aspects of the protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa relate to:

         Article 3: Right to Dignity

         Article 4: The Rights to Life, Integrity and Security of the Person

         Article 10: Right to Peace

         Article 11: Protection of Women in Armed Conflicts

         Article 24: Special Protection of Women in Distress

There is also the protocol on the establishment of an African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights which was adopted in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, on 9 June 1998 and entered into force on 25 January 2004.

As members of the African Union who have signed and ratified in their national parliaments, the African Union Charter and the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights stipulating the Rights of Women and Children in Africa, each country has the obligation to promote the Rights and the protocols and protect children as the articles above indicate.

So now on one hand there is the obligation of each country to promote the rights and the protocols and to protect children and women; and on the other, there are the African Union Commission and the Commissions for women and children to lead and coordinate the implementation of the protocols.

So why is the African Union Commission and its Chairperson, Faki, silent about the horrific atrocities being committed by Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Abiy, Eritrea’s President Esaias, the hundreds of thousands of militias from neighbouring Amhara with military support from UAE and Somalia.

Must Africa really keep silent dubbing the war crime and crimes against humanity in Tigray perpetrated by the dictators as ‘internal matter’?  Looking at what is happening in Tigray, no rational person can subscribe to Abiy’s and Esaias’s blatant lies and propaganda.

Over three months have passed since Abiy launched this brutal war on the people of Tigrai, in which thousands have been and still are being massacred in different places; men, women, youth and elderly people are being shot and killed; hundreds of women and young girls are being raped; millions have been removed forcefully from their localities and crops and livestock are being destroyed resulting in mass starvation that Abiy and Esaias are using as weapon. The atrocities are unprecedented:


Esaias’s dream of ruling the Horn of Africa by destabilizing and creating inter-ethnic conflicts in the region as always been there for everyone to see clearly. The genocide that occurred in Rwanda and the atrocities in Liberia are being repeated in Tigray through a complete media, telephone and internet black out. In spite of all the attempts to conceal from the International Community, the whole World’s attention is on Tigray and everybody is crying out foul. Why are African countries, the religious institutions and other bodies so silent about Tigray is a question that we must raise.

The war on Tigray in northern Ethiopia is definitely not about ‘enforcing law and order in Tigray’ because Tigray was the most peaceful region, peacefully and legally opposing Abiy’s unconstitutional ways of ‘amending’ the Federal Constitution and the dismantling of the Federal arrangement and effectively creating a unitary government in Ethiopia.

Tigray’s position was that the Constitution must be respected and that the August 2020 general elections must be held as per the Federal Constitution.  As an alternative to the 2020 elections, many political parties, including the TPLF, had put forward an all-inclusive national dialogue leading to the formation of an interim caretaker or provisional government whose main task would be to organize the general election within a period of one year or so. All this fell on deaf ears leading to Abiy becoming a dictator the like of whom the country had never seen before.

The reason for the war on Tigray has nothing to do with any possible threat to the country’s sovereignty and territorial integrity as there was no issue of secessionist movement or a foreign attack.

Why does the African Union decide to look the other way when atrocities happen right in front of its own eyes in Tigray! Why does it continue to have its hands tied by a time-worn attitude of non-interference in the affairs of other countries despite horrible atrocities happening there? Can this attitude contribute in any meaningful way to promoting human rights in Africa? Why does it ignore the violation of the rights of women and children and its responsibilities to protect them? Do they not know the African Charter and its protocols? Isn’t this collective act of irresponsibility?

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