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Faculty of Law Restrictions on the operation of civil society organizations in Africa violate freedom of association

By Esete B Faris

Posted on 13 June 2012

Police arrested 12 Woza members who were on a peaceful march
Police arrested 12 Woza members who were on a peaceful march

The role of civil society cannot be underestimated in Africa. Despite the fact that several governments are suppressive, there is widespread circulation of information on human rights abuses and successes. This is attributable to the immense role that civil society plays. Without a civil society in Africa, the world would not hastily recognise the shortcomings of African leaders’ regimes.

It is undeniable that an independent and effective civil society contributes to the protection and promotion of democracy and human rights in a country. The role of Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) is to serve as a watchdog at the domestic level and international level. This implies that the right to freedom of association is essential for CSOs to operate effectively and efficiently.


Article 23 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, article 22 International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and article 8 of the International Covenant on Economic and Social Cultural Rights all guarantee the right to freedom of association. Most African countries have ratified these international conventions and are therefore bound to comply with the provisions of the conventions. Often, however, governments violate the provisions of the conventions.

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