The African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance (ACDEG) was adopted on 30 January 2007 and came into force on 15 February 20121 . As of October 2020, 34 African Union (AU) member states were parties to the Charter. The Charter aims at consolidating the commitment of AU member states to promote and deepen democratic governance and human rights across the continent. It is inspired by several decisions, declarations, resolutions and normative instruments of the Organisation of the African Unity (OAU) and its successor, the AU. These include, inter alia, the 1981 African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, the 1999 Algiers Decision on Unconstitutional Changes of Government in Africa, the 2000 Lomé Declaration on the Framework for an OAU Response to Unconstitutional Changes of Government, the 2002 OAU/AU Declaration on the Principles Governing Democratic Elections in Africa, and the 2002 Constitutive Act of the AU.2 In adopting the ACDEG, AU member states sought to strengthen democratic governance by, among other measures: holding regular, free, fair and transparent elections; promoting respect for human rights; rejecting unconstitutional changes of government; and establishing strong institutions that support democracy as depicted in Figure 1. Furthermore, the ACDEG also encompasses the Peace and Security Council of the AU to act positively in support of the provisions of the Charter.
AU member states also receive support and technical assistance, where required, from the AU Commission as mandated by the Charter through the Democracy and Electoral Assistance Unit and the Democracy and Electoral Assistance Fund. The Charter calls on state parties that have ratified the Charter to report every two years on the measures they have taken to comply with their obligations. Eight years since coming into force in 2012, only one state party – the Republic of Togo – has thus far submitted its initial State Report on the implementation of the principles and commitments of the Charter. The implementation of the ACDEG is envisaged to take place at national, regional and continental levels, leveraging normative instruments, policies and structures at those levels as stipulated under ACDEG Article 44. At national level, the state is obliged to apply the objectives of the Charter by making efforts to guarantee the conformity of its legislations with the Charter, translating the Charter’s relevant clauses into domestic law, ensuring dissemination of the Charter at national level, and integrating its objectives and principles into national policies and strategies. At regional level, Regional Economic Communities (RECs) are urged to encourage AU member states to become parties to the Charter, and in so doing to designate focal points for coordination, monitoring and evaluation of the implementation of the commitments and principles enshrined in the Charter.
RECs are further urged to ensure participation of stakeholders, particularly civil society organisations in the process. At continental level, the AUC is mandated to ensure implementation of the ACDEG and support various stakeholders to ensure the achievement of this objective. It is also mandated to develop benchmarks for the implementation of ACDEG commitments and principles and to evaluate compliance by state parties. The ACDEG is a fulcrum for various policy and institutional frameworks and initiatives at continental, regional and national levels, given its broad, comprehensive and allencompassing nature. It is the most comprehensive consolidated benchmark upon which Africa’s democratic governance progress among AU member states is assessed. It affirms the importance of democratic governance as key to achieving the continental goal of an integrated, prosperous and peaceful Africa. Consolidating democracy in Africa: 11 A survey of citizens’ perceptions of democratic governance in select countries in east, west and southern Africa The adoption of the Charter was aimed at ensuring that member states promoted a culture of democracy and good governance. However, there are still democratic governance deficits related to rising impunity, including, among others: increasing corruption, human rights abuses, and constitutional manipulations to prolong tenure by those in power; shrinking political and civic spaces; low participation of citizens in democratic governance processes; and refusal to accept election results. These deficits are exacerbated by the slow ratification and implementation of the ACDEG, thereby delaying the realisation of democratic and good governance practices across the continent