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African Human Rights Law Journal

On-line version ISSN 1609-073X

Afr. hum. rights law j. vol.11 n.2 Pretoria  2011

 

A covenant of compassion: African humanism and the rights of solidarity in the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights

 

 

Benjamin Elias Winks

Law Clerk, Constitutional Court of South Africa; Visiting Lecturer, University of Johannesburg, South Africa

 

 


SUMMARY

South Africa's relatively peaceful transition from apartheid to democracy would not have been possible without the prevalence of a spirit of solidarity (ubuntu), not only within South Africa but across the continent, since it is largely due to African solidarity with the struggle against apartheid that an enabling environment for negotiation could be created. Therefore, the importance of including the unique and unprecedented solidarity rights of peoples in the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights cannot be emphasised enough. The rights of peoples - to existence, equality, self-determination, sovereignty over natural resources, peace and security, development and a satisfactory environment - were included in the African Charter for historical and philosophical reasons rooted uniquely in the African experience. The recognition of these rights has been resisted in other parts of the world along the lines of ideological division drawn during the Cold War. Solidarity rights, founded on the philosophy of African humanism, did not fit into the Cold War jurisprudential dichotomy, which featured, at the one extreme, the Western emphasis on liberty, rights and competition and, at the other extreme, the Eastern emphasis on equality, duties and compulsion. The solidarity rights rather represented an African emphasis on fraternity, reciprocity and compassion. African humanism has been applied in practice as a viable and valuable legal philosophy, particularly by the Constitutional Court of South Africa. Solidarity rights in the African Charter are similarly applicable as viable and valuable legal constructs, and therefore their precise contents and consequences may and must be explored through practical enforcement.


 

 

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* LLB (Johannesburg), LLM (Leiden); ben.winks@gmail.com. This paper was prepared for presentation at the conference 'Thirty years of the African Charter: Looking forward while looking back', hosted by the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights and the Centre for Human Rights, University of Pretoria, on 11 July 2011. It has since been revised and expanded, with a great debt of gratitude owed to Dr Nyoko Muvangua and Mr Tor Krever for their helpful comments.
1 See eg Truth and Reconciliation Commission of South Africa Final Report (1998), particularly vol 2, http://www.justice.gov.za/trc/report/index.htm (accessed 23 September 2011).         [ Links ]
2 S v Payi 14 March 1986, South African Supreme Court of Appeal Case 16/86, unreported, http://www.saflii.org/za/cases/ZASCA/1986/15.html (accessed 13 June 2011).
3 Truth and Reconciliation Commission, Amnesty Committee, Decision AC/2000/157 in Application AM 6450/97, http://www.justice.gov.za/trc/decisions/2000/ac200157.htm (accessed 16 June 2011).         [ Links ]
4 S v Makwanyane & Another 1995 3 SA 391 (CC) (Makwanyane).
5 Makwanyane (n 4 above) paras 218 & 226.
6 See eg Dikoko v Mokhatla 2006 6 SA 236 (CC) (minority judgment of Sachs J) para 113.
7 See D Tutu No future without forgiveness (2000) 13-31.         [ Links ]
8 See M Meredith The state of Africa: A history of fifty years of independence (2005) 412-442.         [ Links ]
9 African Charter, Preamble.
10 Art 20(1) African Charter.
11 Art 20(3) African Charter.
12 Art 30 African Charter.
13 Resolution 217(III): International Bill of Human Rights - Part A: Universal Declaration of Human Rights, United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) 10 December 1948.         [ Links ]
14 In art 2 of ICCPR, each state party undertakes 'to respect and to ensure to all individuals within its territory and subject to its jurisdiction the rights recognised in the present Covenant'.
15 In art 2 of ICESCR, each state party undertakes 'to take steps ... to the maximum of its available resources, with a view to achieving progressively the full realisation of the rights recognised in the present Covenant'.
16 Art 2(1) ICCPR; art 1(1) ICESCR.
17 Art 1(2) ICCPR; art 1(2) ICESCR.
18 FL Kirgis Jr 'The degrees of self-determination in the United Nations era' (1994) 88 American Journal of International Law 304-305.         [ Links ]
19 Universal Declaration of the Rights of Peoples (Algiers Declaration), adopted 4 July 1976, http://www.chr.up.ac.za/images/files/documents/ahrdd/theme31/peoples_rights_algiers_universal_declaration_l976.pdf (accessed 16 June 2011), Preamble.         [ Links ]
20 Arts 1-4 Algiers Declaration.
21 Arts 5-7 Algiers Declaration.
22 Arts 8-12 Algiers Declaration.
23 Arts 13-15 Algiers Declaration.
24 Arts 16-18 Algiers Declaration.
25 Arts 19-21 Algiers Declaration.
26 Art 12 Algiers Declaration; see also arts 18 & 21.
27 Art 22 Algiers Declaration.
28 Art 30 Algiers Declaration.
29 K Vasák 'A 30-year struggle: The sustained efforts to give force of law to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights' (1977) 30 The UNESCO Courier 29.         [ Links ]
30 P Alston 'A third generation of solidarity rights: Progressive development or obfus-cation of international human rights law' (1982) 29 Netherlands International Law Review 307 310-311.         [ Links ]
31 Vasak (n 29 above) 29.
32 F Hassan 'Solidarity rights: Progressive evolution of international human rights law?' (1983) 1 New York Law School Human Rights Annual 54.         [ Links ]
33 See P Alston 'Peoples' rights: Their rise and fall' in P Alston (ed) Peoples' rights (2001) 259.         [ Links ]
34 Arts 19-24 African Charter.
35 R Kiwanuka 'The meaning of "people" in the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights' (1988) 82 American journal of International Law 80.         [ Links ]
36 J Crawford 'Some conclusions' in J Crawford (ed) The rights of peoples (1988) 164.         [ Links ]
37 F Ouguergouz The African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights: A comprehensive agenda for human dignity and sustainable democracy in Africa (2003) 211.         [ Links ]
38 Centre for Minority Rights Development & Others v Kenya (2009) AHRLR 75 (ACHPR 2009) (Endorois case) para 151.
39 OB Okere 'The protection of human rights in Africa and the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights: Comparative analysis with the European and American systems' (1984) 6 Human Rights Quarterly 148.         [ Links ]
40 Rapporteur's Report (OAU Doc CM/1149 (XXXVII)) para 10, quoted in Kiwanuka (n 35 above) 82.
41 Art 2(1)(a) Charter of the Organization of African Unity, 25 May 1963 (OAU Charter).
42 Art 2(1)(b) OAU Charter.
43 Art 3(a) Constitutive Act of the African Union, 11 July 2000 (AU Constitutive Act).
44 Preamble AU Constitutive Act. See also Kigali Declaration, AU Ministerial Conference on Human Rights in Africa, May 2003, art 31.
45 R St J MacDonald 'Solidarity in the practice and discourse of public international law' (1996) 8 Pace International Law Review 290.         [ Links ]
46 See Y Mokgoro 'Ubuntu and the law in South Africa' (1998) 4 Buffalo Human Rights Law Review 1 15-17.         [ Links ]
47 MM Makumba An introduction to African philosophy: Past and present (2007) 134-144.         [ Links ]
48 MEC for Education: KwaZulu-Natal & Others v Pillay 2008 1 SA 474 (CC) para 53 (footnotes omitted).
49 VC Uchendu Tradition and social order, inaugural lecture, University of Calabar, Nigeria, 11 January 1990,         [ Links ] as cited in UO Umozurike The African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights (1997) 19.         [ Links ] See also the fascinating study on Islamic law and solidarity rights by J Morgan-Foster 'Third generation rights: What Islamic law can teach the international human rights movement' (2005) 8 Yale Human Rights and Development Law journal 67.         [ Links ]
50 J Murungi 'African jurisprudence: Hermeneutic reflections' in K Wiredu (ed) A companion to African philosophy (2006) 519 552-553         [ Links ]
51 D Cornell & N Muvangua Law in the ubuntu of South Africa (2009) 10, http://isthis-seattaken.co.za/pdf/Papers_Cornell_Muvangua.pdf (accessed 16 June 2011).         [ Links ]
52 As above. See also I Menkiti 'On the normative conception of a person' in K Wiredu (ed) A companion to African philosophy (2006) 326.         [ Links ]
53 Director of Public Prosecutions v Pete [1991] LRC (Const) 553 566b-d, cited in Mak-wanyane (n 4 above) para 224.
54 Makwanyane (n 4 above) para 308.
55 Makwanyane (n 4 above) para 250.
56 Makwanyane (n 4 above) para 224.
57 Salvatori Abuki & Another v Attorney-General [1997] UGCC 5, Constitutional Case 2 of 1997, 13 June 1997, http://www.ulii.org/ug/cases/UGCC/1997/5.html (accessed 16 June 2011).
58 Mokoena v Mokoena & Others [2007] LSHC 14, Case CIV/APN/216/2005, 16 January 2007, http://www.saflii.org/ls/cases/LSHC/2007/14.html (accessed 16 June 2011).
59 Dikoko v Mokhatla (n 6 above) (minority judgment of Mokgoro J) paras 68-69; The Citizen 1978 (Pty) Ltd & Others v McBride [2011] ZACC 11, Case CCT 23/10, 8 April 2011, http://www.saflii.org/za/cases/ZACC/2011/11.html (McBride) (minority judgment of Mogoeng J) para 217.
60 See eg R English 'Ubuntu: The quest for an indigenous jurisprudence' (1996) 12 South African journal on Human Rights 641;         [ Links ] IJ Kroeze 'Doing things with values II: The case of ubuntu' (2002) Stellenbosch Law Review 252.         [ Links ]
61 Arts 27-29 African Charter.
62 See the minority judgment of Ngcobo J in Bhe & Others v Khayelitsha Magistrate & Others 2005 1 SA 580 (CC) paras 163 & 166, where he explicitly links ubuntu to the duties in the African Charter. See also Makwanyane (n 4 above) (minority judgment of Mahomed J) para 263; McBride (n 59 above) (minority judgment of Mogoeng J) para 218. See also N Ahiauzu 'Ubuntu and the obligation to obey the law' (2006) 37 Cambrian Law Review 17.         [ Links ]
63 Kiwanuka (n 35 above) 82.
64 As quoted in Alston (n 30 above) 280-281.
65 K Mbaye 'Introduction' in M Bedjaoui (ed) International law: Achievements and prospects (1993) 1052.         [ Links ]
66 Crawford (n 36 above) 164.
67 J Barber Mandela's world: The international dimension of South Africa's political revolution (2004) 9-25.         [ Links ]
68 See generally KD Kaunda 'Humanism and apartheid' (1993) 37 Saint Louis University Law journal 835 and WP Nagan 'Africa's value debate: Kaunda on apartheid and African humanism' (1993) 37 Saint Louis University Law journal 871.         [ Links ]         [ Links ]
69 See, eg, the speech by the architect of apartheid, HF Verwoerd, in which he heralded South Africa as 'unequivocally the symbol of anti-communism in Africa [and] a bastion in Africa for Christianity and the Western world', quoted in AM Chambati 'South Africa's foreign policy and the world' (1973) 3 Zambezia 92.
70 See Meredith (n 8 above) 316-319.
71 NR Mandela 'Nobel lecture', Oslo, Norway, 10 December 1993, http://nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/peace/laureates/1993/mandela-lecture.html (accessed 16 June 2011).
72 Port Elizabeth Municipality v Various Occupiers 2005 1 SA 217 (CC) para 37.
73 See B Tyson & AA Said 'Human rights: A forgotten victim of the Cold War' (1993) 15 Human Rights Quarterly 589 594-596.
74 Dikoko v Mokhatla (n 6 above) (minority judgment of Sachs J) para 113 (my emphasis).
75 See eg Protocol on Explosive Remnants of War (Protocol V to the 1980 Convention) 28 November 2003.
76 Resolution 39/11: Declaration on the Right of Peoples to Peace, UNGA (by vote of 92-0-34) 1984, http://www.un.org/depts/dhl/resguide/r39.htm (accessed 16 June 2011).
77 Resolution 40/11: Right of Peoples to Peace, UNGA (by vote of 109-0-29) 1985, http://www.un.org/depts/dhl/resguide/r40.htm (accessed 16 June 2011).
78 Resolution 41/10: Right of Peoples to Peace, UNGA (by vote of 104-0-33) 1986, http://www.un.org/depts/dhl/resguide/r41.htm (accessed 16 June 2011).
79 Resolution 43/22: Right of Peoples to Peace, UNGA (by vote of 118-0-29) 1988, http://www.un.org/Depts/dhl/resguide/r43.htm (accessed 16 June 2011).
80 Resolution 45/14: Implementation of the Declaration on the Right of Peoples to Peace, UNGA (by consensus) 1990, http://www.un.org/Depts/dhl/resguide/r45. htm (accessed 16 June 2011).
81 Resolution 57/216: Promotion of the Right of Peoples to Peace, UNGA (by vote of 116-53-14) 2002, http://www.un.org/depts/dhl/resguide/r57.htm (accessed 16 June 2011).
82 Resolution 41/128: Declaration on the Right to Development, UNGA (by vote of 1461-8) 1986, available at http://www.un.org/depts/dhl/resguide/r41.htm (accessed 16 June 2011).
83 Resolution 45/97: The Right to Development, UNGA (by consensus) 14 December 1990, http://www.un.org/Depts/dhl/resguide/r45.htm (accessed 16 June 2011).
84 Resolution 56/150: The Right to Development, UNGA (by vote of 123-4-44) 19 December 2001, http://www.un.org/depts/dhl/resguide/r56.htm (accessed 16 June 2011).
85 Mandela (n 71 above).
86 See Yogogombaye v Senegal, African Court on Human and Peoples' Rights, Application 001/2008, Judgment 15 December 2009.
87 See Democratic Republic of the Congo v Burundi, Rwanda & Uganda (2004) AHRLR 19 (ACHPR 2003); Social and Economic Rights Action Centre (SERAC) & Another v Nigeria (2001) AHRLR 60 (ACHPR 2001); Centre for Minority Rights Development & Others v Kenya (2009) AHRLR 75 (ACHPR 2009) (Endorois case); Gunme & Others v Cameroon (2009) AHRLR 9 (ACHPR 2009); jawara v The Gambia (2000) AHRLR 107 (ACHPR 2000); Malawi African Association & Others v Mauritania (2000) AHRLR 149 (ACHPR 2000); Katangese Peoples' Congress vZaire (2000) AHRLR 72 (ACHPR 1995).
88 See JC Nwobike 'The African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights and the demystification of second and third generation rights under the African Charter: Social and Economic Rights Action Centre (SERAC) and the Centre for Economic and Social Rights (CESR) v Nigeria' (2004-2005) 1 African journal of Legal Studies 143144.

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