The end of humanitarian intervention: Evaluation of the African Union’s right of intervention

  • D Kuwali


The right to intervene under the AU Act is a radical departure from, and in stark contrast with, the principle of State sovereignty and non-intervention, the very cornerstones of the erstwhile OAU. Although intervention has traditionally been opposed by African States and regarded as imperialism; under the AU Act, AU Member States have themselves accepted sovereignty not as a shield but as a responsibility where the AU has the right to intervene to save lives from mass atrocity crimes. Today, human rights are not a purely domestic concern and sovereignty cannot shield repressive States. Thus, if a State is unable or unwilling to protect its people the responsibility falls on other States. What is certain is that the thresholds for intervention are serious crimes under international law, which are subject to universal jurisdiction. Therefore, Article 4(h) can be viewed as providing for statutory intervention in form of enforcement action by consent to prevent or halt mass atrocity crimes. However, yet to be answered is how to reconcile the AU right to intervene with the provisions of the UN Charter, especially where the AU exercises military intervention. Nonetheless, the AU should reduce the need for costly intervention and focus more on preventive strategies.

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eISSN: 1562-6997