6 Buff. Hum. Rts. L. Rev. 39 (2000)
Human Rights and Sustainable Development in Contemporary Africa: A New Dawn, or Retreating Horizons

handle is hein.journals/bufhr6 and id is 45 raw text is: HUMAN RIGHTS AND SUSTAINABLE
DEVELOPMENT IN CONTEMPORARY AFRICA:
A NEW DAWN, OR RETREATING HORIZONS?
J. Oloka-Onyango
I. A BACKGROUND NOTE
More than at any other point in time, the start of the third millen-
nium of modem Western history' heralds both significantly new and radi-
cally different challenges and opportunities for the overall human rights
situation on the African continent. On the one hand, a new African renais-
sance has been proclaimed in which the peoples of the continent are being
called upon to assume their rightful place in the community of nations and
to put the turmoil and tragedy of their past behind.2 On the other, internal
and regional conflicts appear to grow not simply in frequency and magni-
tude, but also in intensity, viciousness and complexity. This is true even in
countries such as Namibia and Senegal that have been relatively stable and
sanguine.
International wars, such as those in the Democratic Republic of
Congo (DRC) and the one between Eritrea and Ethiopia, do not bode well
for the observation and respect of human rights. Explanations for the feroc-
ity and morbid depths of the civil conflagration that engulfed Sierra Leone
will preoccupy psychologists of armed conflict for decades to come.3 The
1994 genocide in Rwanda will stand as vivid testimony to the horrid evils
of which human kind is capable of inflicting on its own kith and kin. De-
spite the opening of some democratic space in countries as diverse as Alge-
ria and Nigeria, the problems have not gone away; they have simply
assumed different forms of expression. In a nutshell, the human rights situa-
tion on the African continent today can only be described as being in a state
of considerable flux.
I Given that the millennium that was commemorated at the end of 1999 is one
that relates to the supposed birth of Jesus Christ, it is quite clearly a commemora-
tion that does not have universal validity for all the peoples of the world.
2 The notion of an African renaissance has been frequently invoked by South
African President Thabo Mbeki, and taken up by numerous other leaders on the
continent.
3 A vivid description of the kinds of abuse that became the norm in Sierra Leone
is provided by Abdul Tejan-Cole. See Abdul Tejan-Cole, Human Rights under the
Armed Forces Revolutionary Council (AFRC) in Sierra Leone: A Catalogue of
Abuse, 10 AFR. J. INT'L & COMp. L. 481 (1998).

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