Human rights in Africa : will the African renaissance strengthen the international normative order?

Pienaar, Gary (2002-03)

Thesis (MPhil)--Stellenbosch University, 2002.

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: The South African Presidency has played a significant part in championing the African Renaissance vision. Elements of the vision attracting most attention are its supposed recognition of the importance to continental revival of peace, stability and 'good governance' (including respect for the rule oflaw and fundamental human rights). The question is whether the vision is able to live up to the hope that it signals new respect by the governors for the human rights of the governed. The fear has been expressed that the continent's Renaissance is being crippled in its infancy by an excessively cautious South African interpretation of the vision, particularly in regard to human rights issues. Ex-President Nelson Mandela has urged that, while governments should be mindful of the high ideals of human rights, they should be conscious also of a democratic realism that surrounds the issue. Neglect of human rights is the certain recipe for internal and international disaster. Mandela has called for a "more comprehensive international policy of 'democratic realism' to replace the traditional concept of 'realism'''. The policy suggests the protection of diversity both within and between states. Consequently, consideration is given to options for the promotion, deepening and defence of 'democracy' as a reliable bulwark against the abuse of human rights. Foremost among the options considered is armed humanitarian intervention, including its possible purposes and effects and, particularly, the reliability and durability of its outcomes. John Stuart Mill's arguments are examined concerning the vital necessity of domestic readiness to best utilise any assistance arising from external intervention. If Mill's thesis is correct, then President Thabo Mbeki' s approach may be the most appropriate in the circumstances. Devising agreed policies on intervention in African countries where human rights abuses are intensifying continues to face significant political resistance based on the prioritisation of the principle of non-interference in the internal affairs of a sovereign state. Mbeki clearly understands African leaders' caution regarding human rights promotion and protection. National sovereignty is difficult to surrender in a world of weak allies and strong competitors, which ensure continued state resistance to foreign guidance on democracy and human rights. South African foreign policy suggests a sober reckoning of the complexity and duration of the task of turning around the continental ship. South African foreign policy, initially idealistically seen as occupying the 'moral high ground' following the 'democratic miracle' of 1994, is now more firmly rooted in a 'realist' understanding of the primary need for committed and dependable allies, and sensitive to allegations of hegemonic aspirations. Mbeki, consequently, follows a non-confrontational consensus-building process, ensuring that as many African leaders as possible 'buy in' to the vision and its programme of implementation. He focuses instead on 'educating' and 'encouraging' domestic populations to object to current experiences of forms of rights deprivation. While time-consuming, it may at least produce a solidly grounded policy approach to the amelioration of the continent's ills.

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