Human Rights and Societies in Transition: Causes, Consequences, Responses

By Shale Horowitz; Albrecht Schnabel | Go to book overview

Human rights and transition
societies in Western Africa

Eghosa E. Osaghae


Context and challenges of transition in West Africa

In spite of differences of colonial legacy, post-colonial affiliations, and the resulting patterns of political organization, countries of the West African geo-political region have enough in common to make the region a meaningful unit of analysis.1 The commonalities, which are germane to the concerns of this chapter, include the longer years of political independence of West African countries relative to countries in other regions of Africa, a high degree of ethnic division and conflict, pervasive military intervention and rule, political violence and civil war, prolonged economic decline, informal commercial flows and migration, and the fact that West Africa has been a breeding ground for regional integration and collective security, which are currently built around the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).

West Africa has also been a hotbed of human rights violations. Unfair trial, suppression of freedom of the press and of opposition, torture, detention without trial, murder, disappearances, rape, and war-situation abuses are common in the region. Interventions by the international community against repressive regimes, ostensibly on account of human rights abuses and other excesses, can also be taken as evidence of the despicable state of human rights in the region. The interventions have ranged from denial (or threat of denial) of aid and sanctions, to suspension or expulsion from membership in international organizations. In

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