Human Rights or the Rule of Law -- The Choice for East Africa?

34 Pages Posted: 8 Mar 2015 Last revised: 11 Sep 2018

See all articles by Craig A. Stern

Craig A. Stern

Regent University School of Law

Date Written: March 6, 2015


The world over, what political cause is celebrated more than human rights? The rule of law, perhaps. These two noble and important objects of civil government — both valued as of inestimable worth these days — usually are complementary. Human rights are insecure without the rule of law to protect them, and what human right is more fundamental than the right to be treated in accordance with the law and not the whim of the mighty? Human rights and the rule of law seem to stand together. How then, when human rights and the rule of law stand opposed, and in circumstances where they most need each other’s mutual support and meet opposition enough from other forces?

It is the thesis of this article that in East Africa human rights and the rule of law very likely stand opposed and cannot coexist. To be sure, some human rights can coexist with some notion of the rule of law in East Africa, as elsewhere. But for East Africa to play host to the full panoply of human rights as commonly supported by the international community and endorsed by East African nations themselves, and at the same time to play host to a rigorous practice of the rule of law, appears to be something that simply cannot be done.

The argument of this article is straightforward. Part I describes the rule of law, its importance, and (briefly) its treatment in East Africa. Part II describes human rights, their two major divisions, and (briefly) their treatment in East Africa. Part III explains how the rule of law and human rights collide in East Africa. Part IV, the conclusion, suggests that this collision is the result of an extravagant Western imperialism that has helped deprive East Africa both of human rights and of the rule of law.

Keywords: human rights, rule of law, East Africa

JEL Classification: K10, K19, K33

Suggested Citation

Stern, Craig A., Human Rights or the Rule of Law -- The Choice for East Africa? (March 6, 2015). 24 Mich. St. Int'l L. Rev. 45 (2015), Available at SSRN: or

Craig A. Stern (Contact Author)

Regent University School of Law ( email )

1000 Regent University Drive
Virginia Beach, VA 23464
United States

Do you have a job opening that you would like to promote on SSRN?

Paper statistics

Abstract Views
PlumX Metrics