Zim wants 'popular uprisings' criminalised

HARARE - Zimbabwe has flatly refused to identify itself as an ally of the popular uprisings in North Africa, amid debate in the African Union (AU) that the putsch represented real democratic revolutions.

Emmerson Mnangagwa, Zimbabwe’s Justice and Legal Affairs minister, at the first meeting of government legal experts of the specialised technical committee on Justice and Legal Affairs held recently at the AU headquarters in Addis Ababa, called for the criminalisation of “popular uprisings.”

Amid debate by African legal experts that people have the right to change their government when all other amicable and constitutional means of replacing that government do not exist, Mnangagwa expressed reservation at a proposal before the working group that the AU stop banning revolutions necessitated by prevailing unconstitutional governance in a country.

“The meeting agreed to propose the text as recommended by the working group for consideration of the ministers along with the following reservations: Zimbabwe — Article 28 E (3) should be expunged from the draft protocol as creating an exemption to the criminalisation of a “popular uprising” would be contrary to the preceding sub paragraph 1, which already criminalises a “putsch” that connotes the same meaning,” said official AU resolutions of the meeting of legal experts held between May 6 - 14.

Historically, Africa has experienced more than 100 coups d’état, but more recently, popular uprisings known as Arab Spring have toppled the leaders of four nations including Egypt, Libya, Tunisia and Yemen in the past 22 months.

Civilians also have rebelled in Bahrain and Syria. And large-scale protests have occurred in six other nations from Morocco on the Atlantic to Kuwait on the Persian Gulf.

Western countries have played a behind-the-scenes role in the power transfers in Libya and Egypt, with foreign warplanes helping rebels oust Libya’s mercurial Muammar Gaddafi and diplomats helping expedite the departure of Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak, a 30-year ally of five consecutive American presidents.

The stability brought about by those authoritarian rulers has been replaced by the tumultuous present and an uncertain future that policy makers are scrambling to come to grips with.

The AU’s Peace and Security Council is grappling with these unconstitutional changes of governments or revolutions, and has tasked the legal experts to look into the matter. The AU has legal instruments to deal with unconstitutional changes of government namely the African Charter on Democracy, Elections, and Governance (the Addis Charter); the Lomé Declaration of July 2000 on the Framework for an OAU Response to Unconstitutional Changes of Government (the Lomé Declaration).

The legal experts debated a proposal to recognise revolutions as extra-constitutional and therefore different from unconstitutional events, a definition flatly rejected by the Mnangagwa-led delegation.

The argument is that both the letter and the spirit of the AU laws support public demands to ensure the general will of the people and that the normative framework aim at entrenching constitutionalism and establishing constitutional regimes in Africa.

The Peace and Security Council of the AU has adopted a definition of popular uprisings in the context of unconstitutional change of government, setting out the conditions of the African court in exercising this jurisdiction.

It describes “popular uprisings” as an expression of people’s free will against oppressive governments or lack of adherence to the rule of law in their countries.

This will be tabled before the Assembly of the AU, and proposes that the African Court of Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR) should not exercise jurisdiction on unconstitutional changes with respect to popular uprising.

Zimbabwe has rejected this, and wants the ACHPR to hand down harsh punishment on those who engage in popular uprisings.

Proponents of this new paradigm argue that the legislative intentions of the Lomé Declaration and the Addis Charter do not ban revolutions necessitated by prevailing unconstitutional governance in a country. Some in the AU have previously supported popular demands for changes of illegitimate governments, saying the right to revolution is not only an entitlement of the people but also an obligation when a government breaches the trust it enjoyed from the people.

Since revolution is carried out outside the normal procedures of a constitution, it becomes extra-constitutional, proponents for popular revolts say.

From this perspective, revolution is an extra-constitutional legitimate means of replacing a government when the desired change of government is not available through constitutional means

The outcome of the ongoing AU meetings will largely form the basis for a broader debate in the Assembly of the AU on the prevention of unconstitutional changes of government, popular uprisings and their effective resolution on the continent.

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Comments (18)

a revolution can never be sanctioned by a court of law or suppressed by legislation. it is a spontaneous act, that will take with it those who choose to supress it including the government of the day. so banning or not banning popular uprisings will not make any difference. ask Gaddafi and he will tell you this.

uprisings are unstoppable - 2 June 2014

It is a matter of time; Ecclesiates 3:1-22

tomasi ndofeni tohwi - 2 June 2014

Wars cause a lot distraction and lose of human lives. Politicians are those who cause unnecessary suffering of the electorate through their selfishness and power hungry.

WATYOKA T . S. - 2 June 2014

What have we gained from 'popular uprising'? Refer to Libya, Egypt and Syria, and you will see that those 'popular uprisings' are not initiated by the people of those countries, but by outsiders who try to weaken a country whose ideology is different from theirs. Libyans are not a happier lot now than they were under Quaddafi. It shows they never owned the'revolution'. Go on with your 'revolutions'. I won't participate, but I will certainly partner you after the 'revolution' when we all cry.

machakachaka - 3 June 2014

Nonsense Machakachaka....you think Africans cannot think for themselves? That is a tired ZANU lie you are repeating. I'm sure you've heard of the phrase, 'you live by the sword, you die by the sword'.

mukwerekwere - 3 June 2014

I don't care if Zanu pf loses political power. I only care about Zimbabweans. Mukwerekwere, I am trying to point out the folly of uprisings that are initiated by outsiders. Remember there used to be no democracy in independent Zambia. But Zambians are smart, they created a democratic environment for themselves, without being pushed by outsiders to stone the government out of office. Now Zambia is the envy of many. The Libyans are not smart, they chose the foreign way and they are now paying for it.

machakachaka - 3 June 2014

Its sardonic that revolutionaries rebuke revolution, when they attained governance power in such like manner. without applauding the violent circumstance, I am dismayed that AU is entertaining such a degrading act. YES, some governments refuse to honor the constitution of the country which hails regime change through the ballot. exactly that, should be the core of the AU's debate. They should, instead, try to address the distrustful act of various governments in power, of not willing to listen to the people's wishes. The AU is about to add a legislative loop hole which will protect radicals. what good is going to come out from this besides more dead bodies. The only moral legislation is one which puts all governments to task honoring the constitution.

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CARTRIGDE GALLERY - 3 June 2014

Nyika yakauya negidi haitorwe nepensura. This hogwash was being directed at an election campaign rally by non other than the president himself. But is this not inviting revolutionary violence? Why then do we go for elections if only the gun should change or endorse the gvt of the day? True,our own politicians are the ones responsible for uprisings, NOT the outsiders, never.. Fortunately, Zimbabweans are peace-loving,civilized people.We hate war zvachose. But change is sure to come democratically.

REVOLUTIONALIST - 3 June 2014

Nyika yakauya negidi haitorwe nepensura. This hogwash was being directed at an election campaign rally by non other than the president himself. But is this not inviting revolutionary violence? Why then do we go for elections if only the gun should change or endorse the gvt of the day? True,our own politicians are the ones responsible for uprisings, NOT the outsiders, never.. Fortunately, Zimbabweans are peace-loving,civilized people.We hate war zvachose. But change is sure to come democratically.

REVOLUTIONALIST - 3 June 2014

Mukwererekwere we know in Zambia Kaunda conceded defeat. In Libya people were never given the choice, in Zimbabwe when Mugabe was preparing a power handover in 2008, his army refused and in this scenario what chances have people to elect their own leadership. You may not want it but there is a time bomb ticking in Zimbabwe and if something is done soon or later there will be a spontaneous display of people's power.

wamaromo - 3 June 2014

Sorry guys,the president personalized the liberation war.No one but him alone fought this war.

hwenyakwenya - 3 June 2014

Sorry guys,the president personalized the liberation war.No one but him alone fought this war.

hwenyakwenya - 3 June 2014

It is common knowledge that the so called revolutions in North Africa were Western crafted sponsored and militarily supported. No, Lybyans arent better off as they see their oil leaving ports everyday. Criminalising such vionce protects a state from unconstitutional assauts by organised anti-people elements. So after each election there would be an uprising.

Don Wezhira - 3 June 2014

Please Mr Editor tell it the way it is i.e. ZPF wants to do this not Zimbabwe. We want freedom & economic opportunities that we will never get while this lot are in power.

saundy - 3 June 2014

Which law was enacted that legalized Mbuya Nehanda and Sekuru Kaguvi to cause an uprising? Where was that meeting held and by whom? Even after King Lobengula had signed the Ruud Concession war was inevitable. Does African Union's debate and deliberations on this matter make any difference. It is just like trying to promulgate a law for baboons to stop making noise in the mountains. Who'll actually shut their mouths?

Regalia - 3 June 2014

Not Zim but ZANU PF

mukwerekwere - 3 June 2014

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