Africa

Since 2014, there has been a sharp growth adoption of HRDs protection policies in African countries. More research is needed to understand this sharp growth of processes in Africa and the circumstances by which these processes are instigated or accelerated. It is possible that the diffusion of policies in Western Africa and Central Africa are a result of a “cascade model” in French speaking countries, which proposes that local civil society organizations and governments of neighbouring countries inspire other processes around drafting and passing protection laws.

There are significant similarities between legislation adopted by Côte d’Ivoire, Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger, for example, with one strongly inspiring the other.

In terms of laws for the protection of HRDs, the pioneer country in Africa has been the Democratic Republic of Congo, which started in 2007 to debate laws in provinces and at the national level, until June 15, 2023, when the Law 23/027 on the protection and responsibility of human rights defenders in the Democratic Republic of Congo was promulgated by the government of the DRC.

It has been especially since 2015 that laws have been passed in several countries, mostly, but not exclusively, in West Africa.

In general, these national laws have been based on the UN Declaration on HRDs, as well as on the Model Law developed by the International Service for Human Rights.

Collectively, these laws succinctly outline a number of rights for human rights defenders, which overlap to a large extent with the rights that everyone has as a citizen of these countries. Some laws regulate their application, others do not. And several laws contain a series of “responsibilities” on the part of HRDs, as for example in the 2014 law of Côte d’Ivoire:

. 10 : ” HRDs are obliged to exercise their rights and freedoms impartially and with respect for the rights of others, public safety and the general interest “.

. 12: “… Human rights defenders must contribute to the preservation and strengthening of social and national solidarity….

These responsibilities assigned to HRDs could serve as a basis for delegitimising the action of HRDs.

In the last four years, Africa has grappled with a new wave of civil wars and political instability. There have been 9 coups d’état across the Sahel, West, and Central Africa since 2020, and the civic space situation on the continent continues to deteriorate (DefendDefenders), leading to the abandonment (either legally or in practice) of previously enacted laws

As of end of 2023, the list of countries with protection policies in Africa is as follows:
. Law in force: Ivory Coast, DRCDecree or sub-national regulation: DRC
. Discussions in force: Uganda, Madagascar, Nigeria, Republic of Congo, Tanzania, Togo.

. Abandoned (either legally or in practice) of previously enacted laws: Burkina Faso, Mali, Niger.

 

Updated: 21/12/2023

 

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