Regional Treaties

THE CONSTITUTIVE ACT OF THE AFRICAN UNION

The Constitutive Act of the African Union was adopted at Lusaka, Zambia 2001. The Act is unique not only for its brevity but also for the extraordinary provisions incorporated in it for an African blue print. The Act espouses democratic governance and sanctions military takeovers with sanctions for defiant States. It provides for collective action to prevent humanitarian catastrophes such as occurred in Sierra Leone and Rwanda, and other acts of genocide. The Union will, however, be judged on its success to incorporate the ambitious program of the African Economic Community Treaty which called for progressive eradication of trade barriers and eventual economic integration of Africa. Left without institutions, the AEC Treaty still remains a mere set of aspirations, dependent on the success of the regional economic unions, which it supports. It thus remains to be seen if the African Union institutions will act to make the AEC Treaty a reality. Please see AU Constitutive Act and African Economic Community.

THE BANJUL CHARTER

The African Charter on Human and People’s Rights popularly referred to as the “Banjul Charter”, the capital city of The Gambia, where the Charter was drafted, or just ‘The African Charter’. The African Charter is unique among the other regional human rights instruments, such as the Latin American Charter of Human Rights and the European Human Rights Charter, which take as their point of reference the rights of the individual person. The African Charter, while acknowledging the rights of the individual, identifies and deposits as universal norms, not only the rights of the individual but also the duties of such individual to his/her family, community, country and the international community. Thus the individual has a duty to respect and care his/her parents and to serve the interests of hi/her country. The African Charter then goes farther to recognize the rights of groups, which in itself is an innovation, especially, as regards such groups national as liberation movements, in their struggle to attain the right to self-determination, another right not universally acknowledged. The Charter also proclaims additional rights such as the right to development and states that civil and political rights cannot be dissociated from economic, social and cultural rights. There is currently moves to establish a Human Rights Court, which it is hoped will have the jurisdiction to interpret, develop and implement the rights postulated in the Charter, although given the aversion for adversarial dispute resolution mechanisms, Governments in Africa might not be as amenable to this form of human rights enforcement as the more conciliatory method established in the Charter, through investigations by the Human Rights Commission and diplomatic representations. Please refer to Banjul Charter.

THE EAST AFRICAN COMMUNITY

The East African Community, originally the East African Economic Community, is one of the oldest regional economic groupings in Africa. The current Treaty which was concluded on 30 November 1999 was a revival of the Treaty which had been concluded in 1967, setting up the East African Community but which was dissolved in 1977. Prior to independence, Tanzania, Kenya and Uganda, operated a common customs union under the East African High Commission, established in 1947, with subsequent revisions, until it was replaced by the East African Community. The three countries had common railways, harbours, an airline, and customs arrangements including a common currency and University Council. The push for sovereign independence led to gradual disbandment of these institutions until the total rupture of the carefully nurtured East African Common Market in 1977.The revival of the Community has given hope to possible closer economic ties and even a political union some day. There is also a movement to include other states in the Great Lakes region such as Rwanda and Burundi. A greater political union would be a solution to the civil strife which has plagued the region. The free exchange of goods and freedom of movement would spur economic development and eliminate petty differences among largely homogenous peoples.

The East African Community Treaty, as currently constituted, aims essentially at reducing trade barriers through tariff reductions for locally manufactured goods and establishing a common customs union for imported goods. The Treaty establishes an East African Court for resolution of disputes arising from implementation of the Treaty provisions. This court, however, is a far cry to the court of the same name which heard appeals from the superior courts of the three territories. The current court has no such jurisdiction.

It is hoped that the three countries will explore and develop those areas where there is common interest and gradually find common ground to unite the peoples of Eastern Africa in a political federation that can generate economic prosperity for the region. Please see East African Community Treaty.

NEGOTIATING REGIONAL AGREEMENTS

The signing of the Nile River Agreement (see attached newspaper article), by the riparian States, Uganda, Rwanda, Kenya and Ethiopia, marks a milestone in this international controversy between states using the waters of the Nile River that has occupied the best minds in resource management and regulation of international waterways. Please see The Nile River Agreements: New Vision and Nile River Agreement by Valerie Knobelsdorf.