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  • Human Rights, Regionalism and the Dilemmas of Democracy in Africa
  • Daniel C. Turack
Lennart Wohlgemuth and Ebrima Sall, eds. Human Rights, Regionalism and the Dilemmas of Democracy in Africa. Dakar: CODESRIA; Uppsala: Nordiska Afrikainstituet, 2006. Distributed by Michigan State University Press. iv + 189 pp. Index. $29.95. Paper.

The book is made up of three parts containing a total of nine chapters. Part 1, designated "Introduction," contains three essays. The first, by the editors, provides an outline of developments as set out in the volume's title. At times, however, the authors leave the reader wondering about certain statements—for example, "the UN and its major bilateral supporters" (2). Who are those "bilateral supporters"? At times sweeping generalities are made: "the Secretariat has developed bold plans" (6). What bold plans? The book lacks a table of acronyms; it would have been helpful to identify the ICJ the first time that the acronym is used (7) or AFLA in Accra (11). And what is the "African Centre" (7)? Sometimes the editors refer to commentator sources, but without page references to those sources. One of the warnings mentioned in almost all of the essays is the need for the African Commission and future African Court to have adequate funding for these institutions to do their work.

In the second essay Julia Dolly Joiner examines the African Union's institutions and what they will need to do in the field of protection of human rights, arguing for the need to go beyond rhetoric to actual practical action to make the protection of human rights a reality in Africa. Although an institutional diagram would have been helpful, the reader has to concur with Joiner, who asks whether the agreed-upon treaties, protocols, charters, and declarations have become practical realities.

In the third essay Germain Baricako—a former secretary of the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights—discusses the operation of the African Commission, its promotional and protective activities, strengths, current weaknesses, and challenges for the future. Particularly interesting is the author's view of the operational flaws of the African Commission that need to be rectified. Baricako makes a strong argument that the African Commission should have an enforcement mechanism and a follow-up process to ensure implementation of its decisions.

Part 2, entitled "The Context," contains three essays. Hassan Bubacar Jallow writes on the challenges to and opportunities for human rights to flourish in Africa, recognizing the plunder and corruption (without naming the abusive governments or the pockets of repression that remain) and identifying interstate and intrastate conflicts (without naming the perpetrators). The author advocates for greater information sharing between the African Commission and national judiciaries, bar associations, and others concerning the commission's jurisprudence. In the second essay, Paul Tiyambe Zeleza focuses on the relationship between human rights and [End Page 200] development. His analysis of democratization, globalization, regionalism, and militarization is a detailed and straightforward account. Heavily footnoted, this chapter is notable for its depth of perception. The third chapter by Jibrin Ibrahim concentrates on the need for an efficient human rights system in Nigeria. Addressing the erosion of citizenship rights, loss of rights by some groups, exclusions and deprivations of certain peoples despite Nigerian constitutional guarantees, the author outlines steps that need to be taken by the AU institutions to bring about a change.

The third part consists of three chapters that focus on how the African Commission can improve the lot of all Africans. The essays by Frans Viljoen, Ibrahima Kane, and Hannah Forster are insightful; for example, the organs of the AU are examined for what changes they might undertake to protect the rights of ordinary human beings, and solutions are recommended. In particular, these authors make the case that civil society associations and the African Commission share the same objectives: promoting and protecting the human rights of every African and African group.

While providing many individual perspectives on what needs to be done on an operational basis, this book presumes the reader's familiarity with most of the subject matter.

Daniel C. Turack
Capital University Law School
Columbus, Ohio


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pp. 200-201
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