The year 2015 marked the beginning of a significantly turbulent period in the life of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (the African Commission). In this period, tensions between the Commission and political organs of the African Union (AU) escalated. The longstanding tensions emanated from perceived clashing priorities between the Commission – intent on inculcating a culture of human rights accountability among African states, and states – focused on defending their sovereignty including defending “African values.” The tensions reached new heights at the Commission’s 56th Ordinary Session (OS),1 exacerbated by the Commission’s granting of observer status to the Coalition of African Lesbians (CAL).2 Celebrations of the decision’s groundbreaking nature as a victory for the representation of sexual minorities in African human rights discourse, and for women’s sexual, reproductive health and rights including bodily autonomy, were short-lived. If anything the decision catalysed long drawn-out contestations between the Commission and political organs of the AU which have had enormous consequences on the Commission’s reputation and independence.
Article by Rumbidzai Dube