Human Rights in the African Context
IntroductionHuman rights is a concept of universal dignity which all human beings yearn for, irrespective of their race, ethnicity, nationality, religion, or culture. The issue of human rights protection in Africa can be approached from two interrelated perspectives. One has to do with the conventional perception of human rights as a Western concept and the extent to which it is familiar or alien to the African cultural heritage. The other is the degree to which African cultures have a distinctive contribution to make in legitimizing and reinforcing the universality of human rights with African values and practices. Specific examples in this regard are African indigenous notions of democratic participation in governance and socio-economic development.
Cross-Cultural Perspectives on Human RightsThe argument is often made that human rights emanate from the Judaic-Christian tradition and are therefore distinctively Western, although the values that underlie the principles of human rights are of universal validity. If what is meant by human rights is the set of normative standards enshrined in the International Bill of Rights, composed of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights, and the International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights, together with the other human rights instruments, then this argument is, to a certain degree, justifiable, since the West played a leading role in their promulgation. But even from this specific perspective, the fact that these standards were adopted by the most inclusive international organization at the global level gives them a universal value. However, the more profound roots of the claim to universality lie in the fact that human rights reflect the universal quest for human dignity.
Although the formulation of human rights standards and their enforcement mechanisms and procedures are fraught with controversy, their basis in the universal concept of human dignity...