When the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights was adopted in 1981, its founding fathers may have envisaged and hoped that the spirit and content of the Charter would seep down into municipal legal systems for the benefit of African citizens. However, it is doubtful if even the most visionary of African leaders or the most optimistic of human rights advocates ever foresaw the adoption of the African Charter by other African international organisations.
By 2007, the African Charter had become such a common feature in the founding instruments of some regional economic communities in Africa that it was asserted that the Charter was gaining the status of a common sub-regional human rights standard. Since then, the idea of human rights has moved from its lifeless mention in treaty documents into the court rooms of sub-regional judicial bodies and the work of other organs of the sub-regional organisations. While the African Charter has also moved along with the concept of rights realisation in the sub-regional organisations, there have also been theoretical and practical challenges to its application. The Charter is becoming entrenched as an adopted catalogue within the framework of certain RECs, yet in others it is fighting for its survival as an applicable instrument. This contribution analyses the application of the African Charter in sub-regional organisations between 2007 and 2010. The contribution highlights the gains and pains in the application of the Charter and makes projections for the future.