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Document Type

Article

Publication Date

2013

Abstract

The African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance (“ADC”) recently entered into force on February 15, 2012. The main goal of the ADC is the encouragement and promotion of democracy and human rights on the African continent. The ADC is the first binding regional instrument adopted by member states of the African Union (“AU”) that attempts to comprehensively address all of the elements necessary for the establishment of liberal democracies. The ADC also contains a number of expansive provisions regarding unconstitutional changes of government. For instance, the ADC is the first legal instrument adopted by member states of the AU that acknowledges that an unconstitutional change of government includes any amendments to the constitution or legal instruments of a member state that infringe on the principles of democratic change of government. Many African heads of state have amended the constitutions of their respective countries to retain power. Additionally, many Latin American and African countries continue to struggle to establish viable long-term liberal democracies. In 2007, the AU and the Organization of American States (“OAS”) participated in an inter-regional conference entitled the “OAS-AU Democracy Bridge,” aimed at promoting democracy and good governance in the Americas and Africa. Given the express commitment of the AU and the OAS to the promotion of liberal democracies, this Article critiques the ADC by providing a comparative analysis of both the Inter-American Democratic Charter (“ODC”) and the ADC and identifies areas in which the ADC may be strengthened. Despite the expansive provisions contained in the ADC and in light of the ineffectiveness of earlier instruments adopted by the AU to promote democracy, this Article contends that in order to take concrete steps toward achieving democracy in Africa, the AU must not only obtain widespread state ratification of the ADC — with the added challenge of using and enforcing its provisions in the face of entrenched practices to the contrary — but the AU must also heed the lessons learned from the OAS’ attempts to use the ODC to foster democracy in Latin America.

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