The African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance
Context and Background
The African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance (the Democracy Charter) was adopted on 30 January 2007 during the 8th ordinary session of the Assembly of the African Union (AU) and it came into effect on February 15, 2012. It is currently ratified by 17 countries. The Democracy Charter is a response to decades of poor governance and particularly mismanagement of electoral processes, human rights abuses, inadequate participation of all Africans in their governance and unconstitutional changes of government. It aims to reinforce the commitment of the African states through the AU towards the universal values of democracy, respect for human rights, the rule of law, supremacy of the Constitution and constitutional order in the political arrangements of States.
The principles of the Charter include the promotion of democratic values and participatory democracy, separation of powers, holding of regular, credible and transparent elections, gender equality and a rejection of acts of corruption, related offences and impunity.
All African countries must uphold the supremacy of constitutions, must promote a culture of constitutionalism and the rule of law. They must inculcate a culture of popular participation and must protect fundamental freedoms, human security, human and people’s rights and eliminate all forms of discrimination and intolerance and in the process respecting all forms of diversity governments.
African countries must establish, promote and consolidate a culture of democracy and peace through ensuring transparent and accountable public administration, strengthening governance institutions, promoting civic and voter education and formal educational curricula and ensuring multi-stakeholder political and social dialogue.
African countries will establish effective institutions for democracy to consolidate civil control over the security forces. In this regard governments must establish and capacitate democracy protection institutions such as the Ombudsman, human rights commissions, electoral commissions etc, and cooperate at regional and continental levels through exchange of best practices in governance.
Following ratification and application of the charter, AU member states must submit a report on measures taken towards domestication every two years. These consolidated reports will be tabled by the AUC to the AU Assembly of Heads of State and Government through the Executive Council. The Assembly must then take appropriate action on the reports as deemed by the Assembly and the Peace and Security Council.
- All Africans are entitled to regular, credible and transparent elections as defined in the AU’s Declaration on the Principles Governing Democratic Elections in Africa.
- All Africans must have access to an independent and impartial national electoral body, that ensures fair and equitable access to public resources by parties and candidates contesting elections.
- All Africans must have access to credible national mechanisms for constructive management of electoral disputes and an enforceable and binding code of conduct for all electoral stakeholders.
- No African must be subjected to any form of discrimination or intolerance based on ethnicity, culture, political opinion, gender, race or religion.
- All Africans have a right to an independent judiciary along with functional and effective parliaments.
- All Africans are entitled to the necessary conditions that promote citizen participation including access to information, freedom of the press and accountability of public institutions.
- All Africans have a right to equality before the law and equal protection of the law as a fundamental pre-condition for a just and democratic society.
- The rights of women, ethnic minorities, migrants, people with disabilities, refugees and displaced persons and other marginalised or social groups will be protected by appropriate national legislature and adminstrative measures.
- All men and women are entitled to partcipate equally and effectively in all forms of political participation as well as economic and social governance.
- All African citizens have a right to civilian rule and must not be subjected to unconstitional changes of government including a military coup, replacement of an elected government by mercenaries or armed dissidents or rebels, refusal by incumbent government to relinquish power to a winning party following democratic, credible and transparent elections and amendment of constitution which infringes on the democratic change of government.
- Perpetrators of unconstitonal change of government are prohibited from participating in elections meant to restore the democratic order or hold any position of responsibility in political institutions of their state.
- All women are entitled to the necessary conditions for their full and active participation in the decision-making structures and processes at all levels including encouragemnet to participate in electoral processes.
- Civil society organisationa are entitled to conducive conditions to exist and operate within the law.
- Contesting parties and candidates to elections must have fair and equitable access to state controlled media during elections.
- All Africans are entitled to an independent observer mission for all elections which shall observe the process prior, during and after the electoral process stating whether the conditions prior were conducive for holding elections and ascertaining the freeness and fairness of the electoral process.
- All Africans and particularly youth and people with disability are entitled to systematic and comprehensive civic eduction and other measures to promote their full participation in democracy and development processes.