Reforming the Role of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights in Advancing Democratic Principles and Human Rights in African Countries: An Examination Using the Lens of Swaziland/ eSwatini

  • Jeremy Sarkin University of South Africa
Keywords: African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights; African Union; Swaziland/ eSwatini; democratic principles; human rights violations; Africa; Kagame Report; institutional reform


This article explores the role of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights and the role it plays regarding human rights in individual country situations in Africa. It specifically examines the extent to which it has been able to advance a human rights agenda in countries with long-standing human rights problems. The article uses Swaziland/ eSwatini as a lens to examine the matter, because of the longstanding problems that exist in that country. This is done to indicate how the institution works over time on a country’s human rights problems. The article examines a range of institutional structural matters to establish how these issues affect the role of the Commission in its work. The article examines the way in which the Commission uses its various tools, including its communications, the state reporting processes, fact-finding visits, and resolutions, to determine whether those tools are being used effectively. The article examines how the Commission’s processes issues also affect it work. Issues examined negatively affecting the Commission are examined, including problems with the status of its resolutions and communications, limited compliance with its outcomes, and inadequate state cooperation. Reforms necessary to enhance to role and functions of the Commission are surveyed to determine how the institution could become more effective. The African Union’s (AU|) Kagame Report on AU reform is briefly reviewed to examine the limited view and focus of AU reform processes and why AU reform ought to focus on enhancing human rights compliance. The article makes various suggestions on necessary institutional reforms but also as far as the African Commission’s procedures and methods of work to allow it to have a far more effective role in the promotion and protection of human rights on the continent. It is noted that political will by the AU and African states is the largest obstacle to giving the Commission the necessary independence, support and assistance that it needs to play the role in Africa that it should.