Journal of African Law


Case Note

FOREIGN STATE ASSISTANCE IN ENFORCING THE RIGHT TO SELF-DETERMINATION UNDER THE AFRICAN CHARTER: GUNME & ORS V. NIGERIA


NELSON ENONCHONG 

Abstract

The African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights (African Charter) allows any state party that has good reason to believe that another state party has violated the provisions of the Charter to make a complaint (communication) to the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights (African Commission). But, in spite of persistent reports of widespread human rights violations in Africa, there is no evidence that state parties make use of this procedure to report each other to the African Commission for violations of the provisions of the Charter. State parties are generally not keen to complain about human right violations by another state of its own nationals within its territory. The reason for this reluctance may lie in the well-known adage that people who live in glass houses should not throw stones. However, if the decision in the recent Nigerian case of Gunme & Ors v. Attorney General of the Federal Republic of Nigeria is good law and is followed in other countries, then an important way by which to overcome this reluctance on the part of state parties may have been established. In that case the Federal High Court of Nigeria in Abuja allowed 12 Cameroonians, who alleged that their right to self-determination under the African Charter had been violated by the Republic of Cameroon, to maintain an action in Nigeria for an order requiring Nigeria, as a state party to the African Charter, to present the case of the peoples of Southern Cameroons for self-determination and independence before the International Court of Justice (ICJ) and the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA).