The Politics of Human Rights: Beyond the Abolitionist Paradigm in Africa

23 Pages Posted: 10 Jan 2010

Date Written: 1996


Over the last decade, the subject of human rights in Africa has become highly topical in the West primarily because of the emphasis placed by the industrial democracies on the postwar formulation of human rights and the universalization of its norms. Claude Welch’s Protecting Human Rights in Africa: Strategies and Roles of Non-Governmental Organizations explores the historical continuum and analyzes the collusion of both African and external agencies in their attempts to rationalize the state - and subject it to the interests of the governed - through the norms of the international law of human rights. This is the first significant scholarly work to closely examine the roles and strategies of non-governmental human rights organizations (NGOs) in Africa. It is questionable, however, whether Welch’s work pays adequate attention to the nature of the post-colonial state and how its unique character has made the quest of democracy and human rights elusive. The human rights crusade should not be presented as a civilizing mission as Welch writes, because if human rights are pursued as a campaign of tutelage - in which Africans are little more than robots - its redeeming quality will be lost. Domestic human rights organizations, which are vital for Africa, cannot continue to be isolated outposts for the spread of Western liberal values.

Keywords: Claude Welch, Human Rights, Abolitionist, Paradigm, Non Governmental Organizations, NGOS, International law, Western, Liberal

Suggested Citation

Mutua, Makau, The Politics of Human Rights: Beyond the Abolitionist Paradigm in Africa (1996). Michigan Journal of International Law, Vol. 17, p. 591, 1996, Available at SSRN:

Makau Mutua (Contact Author)

SUNY Buffalo Law School ( email )

626 O'Brian Hall
Buffalo, NY 14260-1100
United States
716 645-2311 (Phone)

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