Justice for Africans by Africans

The World Day of Social Justice – established by the United Nations in 2007 and first celebrated in 2009 – sheds light on social justice issues all over the world. Junior Fellow Cecilia Ngaiza explains the importance of social justice for her own research at BIGSAS.

…human rights must be responsive to African circumstances. Clearly, collective rights…are an essential element of human rights in Africa[1].

This year, I am proud to celebrate a World Day of Social Justice in an advent of conducting my PhD research based on human rights field, specifically, collective human rights. It is my deep conviction that social justice in any society, country or region is hardly attained if such society is coupled with human rights violations. In Africa particularly, human rights have been in violation at different levels i.e. at the regional, sub-regional and national level, despite the efforts made to restrain the situation by the African Commission and the Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights, sub-regional and national Courts.

It has been argued by some authors that, in Africa, human rights have existed since time immemorial and have always been well understood and exercised rather collectively than individually due to the communitarian nature of the African societies. On the other hand, some authors negate such assertion and emphasize that, the existence of human rights in Africa is an aftermath of such continent’s contact with the western world; and that, human rights can only be exercised by individuals with exceptions only when one individual interferes with another individuals’ rights.

This interesting debate caught my interest and necessitated my own research and this current study. The main objective of the study is to find out the extent to which the practice of collective rights vis-à-vis individual rights in adjudicatory bodies of Africa fulfils the social justice needs of African societies. For example, to what extent, peoples’ rights, which are provided for between Article 19 and 24 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights[2] have played a role in decision-making at the African Commission and the Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights to ensure wider attainment of social justice in the respective African countries.

I endeavour to study and give a well-detailed inventory of the decided collective human rights cases before the above-mentioned adjudicatory bodies, showing how the exercise of such rights has promoted social justice in the relevant African countries. Sub-regional and national Courts will also be considered for research due to their closeness to the people than it has with the regional adjudicatory bodies. The inventory shall be complemented by the empirical findings obtained from the intended interviews with the judges of the regional, sub-regional and national Courts. Such key player’s experience and opinions will bring into the surface important and possible recommendations that may successfully bring into reality social justice in Africa and the world at large.

I deliberately intend to positively contribute knowledge on the viability of attaining social justice via exercise of human rights in Courts of law. I am of the belief that, the outcome of my study will give the world even more reason to celebrate the World Day of Social Justice.

No human rights, no social justice. Happy World Day of Social Justice 2020!

[1] Social and Economic Rights Action Center (SERAC) and Center for Economic and Social Rights (CESR) versus Nigeria, Communication number 155/96, paragraph 68.

[2] Right to equality, right to free dispose of wealth and natural resources, right to economic, social and cultural development, right to national and international peace and security and the right to satisfactory environment respectively.

About the Author

Cecilia Ngaiza is a PhD Junior Fellow at BIGSAS working with the Africa Multiple Cluster of Excellence research section Affiliations under the project titled “Human Rights, Corporate Social Responsibility and Interacting Markets in Africa”. She holds a Master of Laws (LLM) in Regional Integration and East African Community Law and a Bachelor of Laws (Hons), both from the University of Dar es Salaam. She is also an Advocate of the High Court of Tanzania. She has a dedicated interest in the human rights law field and has worked with the community based human rights non-governmental organization – Tanzania Women Lawyers’ Association (TAWLA) situated in Tanzania, before joining the University of Dar es Salaam, School of Law as an Assistant Lecturer.

Through BIGSAS, the researcher desires to accomplish her advancement of knowledge and experience in the specific study of third generation of rights (collective human rights). The acquired knowledge and skills throughout the study will be significant to the researcher’s career as an academician and a human rights advocate, specifically in an African community setting with which she intends to work closely in the future.


Cecilia Ngaiza

Bayreuth International Graduate School of African Studies
University of Bayreuth

95440 Bayreuth

Email: ngaizacecilia@yahoo.com


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