African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance

The member states of the African Union,

INSPIRED by the objectives and principles enshrined in the Constitutive Act of the African Union, particularly Articles 3 and 4, which emphasize the significance of good governance, popular participation, the rule of law and human rights,

RECOGNIZING the contributions of the African Union and regional economic communities to the promotion, nurturing, strengthening and consolidation of
democracy and governance,

REAFFIRMING our collective will to work relentlessly to deepen and consolidate the rule of law, peace, security and development in our countries,

GUIDED by our common mission to strengthen and consolidate institutions for good governance, continental unity and solidarity,

COMMITTED to promote the universal values and principles of democracy, good governance, human rights and the right to development,

COGNIZANT of the historical and cultural conditions in Africa,

SEEKING to entrench in the Continent a political culture of change of power based on the holding of regular, free, fair and transparent elections conducted by competent, independent and impartial national electoral bodies,

CONCERNED about the unconstitutional changes of governments that are one of the essential causes of insecurity, instability and violent conflict in Africa,

Determined to promote and strengthen good governance through the
institutionalization of transparency, accountability and participatory democracy,

CONVINCED of the need to enhance the election observation missions in the role they play, particularly as they are an important contributory factor to ensuring the regularity, transparency and credibility of elections,

DESIRING to enhance the relevant Declarations and Decisions of the OAU/AU (including the 1990 Declaration on the political and socio-economic situation in Africa and the fundamental changes taking place in the world, the 1995 Cairo Agenda for the Re-launch of Africa’s Economic and Social Development, the 1999 Algiers Declaration on Unconstitutional Changes of Government, the 2000Lomé Declaration for an OAU Response to Unconstitutional Changes of Government, the 2002 OAU/AU Declaration on Principles Governing Democratic Elections in Africa, the 2003 Protocol Relating to the Establishment of the Peace and Security Council of the African Union), and

COMMITTED to implementing Decision EX.CL/Dec.31 (III) adopted in Maputo, Mozambique, in July 2003 and Decision EX.CL/124(V) adopted in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, in May 2004 respectively, by the adoption of an African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance,

Have agreed as follows:

Chapter 1

Article 1

In this Charter, unless otherwise stated, the following expressions shall have the following meaning:

“AU” means the African Union;

“African Human Rights Commission” means the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights;

“African Peer Review Mechanism” APRM means the African Peer Review

“Assembly” means the Assembly of Heads of State and Government of the
African Union;

“Commission” means the Commission of the Union;

“Constitutive Act” means the Constitutive Act of the Union;

“Charter” means the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance;

“Member states” means the Member States of the African Union;

“National electoral body” means a competent authority, established by the
relevant legal instruments of a State Party, responsible for organizing and
supervising elections;

“NEPAD” means the New Partnership for Africa’s Development;
“Peace and Security Council” means the Peace and Security Council of the
African Union;

“Regional economic communities” means the regional integration blocs of the African Union;

“State party” means any Member State of the African Union which has ratified or acceded to this Charter and deposited the instruments for ratification or accession with the Chairperson of the African Union Commission; 

“Union” means the African Union.

Chapter 2

Article 2

The objectives of this Charter are to:

1. Promote adherence, by each State Party, to the universal values and
principles of democracy and respect for human rights;

2. Promote and enhance adherence to the principle of the rule of law
premised upon the respect for, and the supremacy of, the Constitution
and constitutional order in the political arrangements of the State

3. Promote the holding of regular free and fair elections to institutionalize
legitimate authority of representative government as well as
democratic change of governments;

4. Prohibit, reject and condemn unconstitutional change of government in
any Member State as a serious threat to stability, peace, security and

5. Promote and protect the independence of the judiciary;

6. Nurture, support and consolidate good governance by promoting
democratic culture and practice, building and strengthening
governance institutions and inculcating political pluralism and

7. Encourage effective coordination and harmonization of governance
policies amongst State Parties with the aim of promoting regional and
continental integration;

8. Promote State Parties’ sustainable development and human security;

9. Promote the fight against corruption in conformity with the provisions of
the AU Convention on Preventing and Combating Corruption adopted
in Maputo, Mozambique in July 2003;

10. Promote the establishment of the necessary conditions to foster citizen
participation, transparency, access to information, freedom of the press
and accountability in the management of public affairs;

11. Promote gender balance and equality in the governance and
development processes;

12. Enhance cooperation between the Union, Regional Economic
Communities and the International Community on democracy,
elections and governance; and

13. Promote best practices in the management of elections for purposes of
political stability and good governance.

Chapter 3

Article 3

State parties shall implement this Charter in accordance with the following

1. Respect for human rights and democratic principles;

2. Access to and exercise of state power in accordance with the
constitution of the State Party and the principle of the rule of law;

3. Promotion of a system of government that is representative;

4. Holding of regular, transparent, free and fair elections;

5. Separation of powers;

6. Promotion of gender equality in public and private institutions;
7. Effective participation of citizens in democratic and development
processes and in governance of public affairs;

8. Transparency and fairness in the management of public affairs;

9. Condemnation and rejection of acts of corruption, related offenses and

10. Condemnation and total rejection of unconstitutional changes of

11. Strengthening political pluralism and recognising the role, rights and
responsibilities of legally constituted political parties, including
opposition political parties, which should be given a status under
national law.

Chapter 4
Democracy, Rule of Law and Human Rights

Article 4

1. State parties shall commit themselves to promote democracy, the
principle of the rule of law and human rights.

2. State Parties shall recognize popular participation through universal
suffrage as the inalienable right of the people.

Article 5

State parties shall take all appropriate measures to ensure constitutional rule, particularly constitutional transfer of power.

Article 6

State parties shall ensure that citizens enjoy fundamental freedoms and human rights taking into account their universality, interdependence and indivisibility.

Article 7

State parties shall take all necessary measures to strengthen the Organs of the Union that are mandated to promote and protect human rights and to fight
impunity and endow them with the necessary resources.

Article 8

1. State parties shall eliminate all forms of discrimination, especially those
based on political opinion, gender, ethnic, religious and racial grounds as
well as any other form of intolerance.

2. State parties shall adopt legislative and administrative measures to
guarantee the rights of women, ethnic minorities, migrants, people with
disabilities, refugees and displaced persons and other marginalized and
vulnerable social groups.

3. State Parties shall respect ethnic, cultural and religious diversity, which
contributes to strengthening democracy and citizen participation.

Article 9

State parties undertake to design and implement social and economic policies and programmes that promote sustainable development and human security.

Article 10

1. State parties shall entrench the principle of the supremacy of the
constitution in the political organization of the State.

2. State parties shall ensure that the process of amendment or revision of
their constitution reposes on national consensus, obtained if need be,
through referendum.

3. State parties shall protect the right to equality before the law and equal
protection by the law as a fundamental precondition for a just and
democratic society.

Chapter 5
Culture of Democracy and Peace

Article 11

The state parties undertake to develop the necessary legislative and policy
frameworks to establish and strengthen a culture of democracy and peace.

Article 12

State parties undertake to implement programmes and carry out activities
designed to promote democratic principles and practices as well as consolidate a culture of democracy and peace.

To this end, state parties shall:
1. Promote good governance by ensuring transparent and accountable

2. Strengthen political institutions to entrench a culture of democracy
and peace.

3. Create conducive conditions for civil society organizations to exist
and operate within the law.

4. Integrate civic education in their educational curricula and develop
appropriate programmes and activities.

Article 13

State parties shall take measures to ensure and maintain political and social dialogue, as well as public trust and transparency between political leaders and the people, in order to consolidate democracy and peace.

Chapter 6
Democratic Institutions

Article 14

1. State Parties shall strengthen and institutionalize constitutional civilian
control over the armed and security forces to ensure the consolidation of
democracy and constitutional order.

2. State parties shall take legislative and regulatory measures to ensure that
those who attempt to remove an elected government through
unconstitutional means are dealt with in accordance with the law.

3. State parties shall cooperate with each other to ensure that those who
attempt to remove an elected government through unconstitutional means
are dealt with in accordance with the law.

Article 15

1. State parties shall establish public institutions that promote and support
democracy and constitutional order.

2. State parties shall ensure that the independence or autonomy of the said
institutions is guaranteed by the constitution.

3. State Parties shall ensure that these institutions are accountable to
competent national organs.

4. State Parties shall provide the above-mentioned institutions with
resources to perform their assigned missions efficiently and effectively.

Article 16

state parties shall cooperate at regional and continental levels in building and consolidating democracy through exchange of experiences.

Chapter 7
Democratic Elections

Article 17

State Parties re-affirm their commitment to regularly holding transparent, free and fair elections in accordance with the Union’s Declaration on the Principles Governing Democratic Elections in Africa.

To this end, state parties shall:

1. Establish and strengthen independent and impartial national electoral
bodies responsible for the management of elections.

2. Establish and strengthen national mechanisms that redress election-related disputes in a timely manner.

3. Ensure fair and equitable access by contesting parties and
candidates to state controlled media during elections.

4. Ensure that there is a binding code of conduct governing legally
recognized political stakeholders, government and other political
actors prior, during and after elections. The code shall include a
commitment by political stakeholders to accept the results of the
election or challenge them in through exclusively legal channels.

Article 18

1. State Parties may request the Commission, through the Democracy and
Electoral Assistance Unit and the Democracy and Electoral Assistance
Fund, to provide advisory services or assistance for strengthening and
developing their electoral institutions and processes.

2. The Commission may at any time, in consultation with the State Party
concerned, send special advisory missions to provide assistance to that
State Party for strengthening its electoral institutions and processes.

Article 19

1. Each State Party shall inform the Commission of scheduled elections and
invite it to send an electoral observer mission.

2. Each State Party shall guarantee conditions of security, free access to
information, non-interference, freedom of movement and full cooperation
with the electoral observer mission.

Article 20

The Chairperson of the Commission shall first send an exploratory mission
during the period prior to elections. This mission shall obtain any useful
information and documentation, and brief the Chairperson, stating whether the necessary conditions have been established and if the environment is conducive to the holding of transparent, free and fair elections in conformity with the principles of the Union governing democratic elections.

Article 21

1. The Commission shall ensure that these missions are independent and
shall provide them with the necessary resources for that purpose.

2. Electoral observer missions shall be conducted by appropriate and
competent experts in the area of election monitoring, drawn from
continental and national institutions such as, but not limited to, the Pan-
African Parliament, national electoral bodies, national legislatures and
eminent persons taking due cognizance of the principles of regional
representation and gender equality.

3. Electoral observer missions shall be conducted in an objective, impartial
and transparent manner.

4. All electoral observer missions shall present the report of their activities to
the Chairperson of the Commission within a reasonable time.

5. A copy of the report shall be submitted to the State Party concerned within a reasonable time.

Article 22

State parties shall create a conducive environment for independent and impartial national monitoring or observation mechanisms.

Chapter 8
Sanctions in Cases of Unconstitutional Changes of Government

Article 23

State parties agree that the use of, inter alia, the following illegal means of
accessing or maintaining power constitute an unconstitutional change of
government and shall draw appropriate sanctions by the Union:

1. Any putsch or coup d’Etat against a democratically elected

2. Any intervention by mercenaries to replace a democratically elected

3. Any replacement of a democratically elected government by armed
dissidents or rebels.

4. Any refusal by an incumbent government to relinquish power to the
winning party or candidate after free, fair and regular elections; or

5. Any amendment or revision of the constitution or legal instruments,
which is an infringement on the principles of democratic change of

Article 24

When a situation arises in a State Party that may affect its democratic political institutional arrangements or the legitimate exercise of power, the Peace and Security Council shall exercise its responsibilities in order to maintain the constitutional order in accordance with relevant provisions of the Protocol Relating to the Establishment of the Peace and Security Council of the African Union, hereinafter referred to as the Protocol.

Article 25

1. When the Peace and Security Council observes that there has been an
unconstitutional change of government in a State Party, and that
diplomatic initiatives have failed, it shall suspend the said State Party from
the exercise of its right to participate in the activities of the Union in
accordance with the provisions of articles 30 of the Constitutive Act and 7
(g) of the Protocol. The suspension shall take effect immediately.

2. However, the suspended State Party shall continue to fulfill its obligations
to the Union, in particular with regard to those relating to respect of human

3. Notwithstanding the suspension of the State Party, the Union shall
maintain diplomatic contacts and take any initiatives to restore democracy
in that state party.

4. The perpetrators of unconstitutional change of government shall not be
allowed to participate in elections held to restore the democratic order or
hold any position of responsibility in political institutions of their State.

5. Perpetrators of unconstitutional change of government may also be tried
before the competent court of the Union.

6. The Assembly shall impose sanctions on any Member State that is proved to have instigated or supported unconstitutional change of government in another state in conformity with Article 23 of the Constitutive Act.

7. The Assembly may decide to apply other forms of sanctions on
perpetrators of unconstitutional change of government including punitive
economic measures.

8. State parties shall not harbour or give sanctuary to perpetrators of
unconstitutional changes of government.

9. State Parties shall bring to justice the perpetrators of unconstitutional
changes of government or take necessary steps to effect their extradition.

10. State Parties shall encourage conclusion of bilateral extradition
agreements as well as the adoption of legal instruments on extradition and
mutual legal assistance.

Article 26

The Peace and Security Council shall lift sanctions once the situation that led to the suspension is resolved.

Chapter 9
Political, Economic and Social Governance

Article 27

In order to advance political, economic and social governance, State Parties shall commit themselves to:

1. Strengthening the capacity of parliaments and legally recognised
political parties to perform their core functions;

2. Fostering popular participation and partnership with civil society

3. Undertaking regular reforms of the legal and justice systems;
4. Improving public sector management;

5. Improving efficiency and effectiveness of public services and
combating corruption;

6. Promoting the development of the private sector through, inter alia,
enabling legislative and regulatory framework;

7. Development and utilisation of information and communication

8. Promoting freedom of expression, in particular freedom of the press
and fostering a professional media;

9. Harnessing the democratic values of the traditional institutions; and

10. Preventing the spread and combating the impact of diseases such as
Malaria, Tuberculosis, HIV/AIDS, Ebola fever, and Avian Flu.

Article 28

State Parties shall ensure and promote strong partnerships and dialogue
between government, civil society and private sector.

Article 29

1. State Parties shall recognize the crucial role of women in development
and strengthening of democracy.

2. State Parties shall create the necessary conditions for full and active
participation of women in the decision-making processes and structures at
all levels as a fundamental element in the promotion and exercise of a
democratic culture.

3. State Parties shall take all possible measures to encourage the full and
active participation of women in the electoral process and ensure gender
parity in representation at all levels, including legislatures.

Article 30

State parties shall promote citizen participation in the development process
through appropriate structures.

Article 31

1. State Parties shall promote participation of social groups with special
needs, including the Youth and people with disabilities, in the governance

2. State Parties shall ensure systematic and comprehensive civic education
in order to encourage full participation of social groups with special needs
in democracy and development processes.

Article 32

State Parties shall strive to institutionalize good political governance through:

1. Accountable, efficient and effective public administration;

2. Strengthening the functioning and effectiveness of parliaments;

3. An independent judiciary;

4. Relevant reforms of public institutions including the security sector;

5. Harmonious relationships in society including civil-military relations;

6. Consolidating sustainable multiparty political systems;

7. Organising regular, free and fair elections; and

8. Entrenching and respecting the principle of the rule of law.

Article 33

State parties shall institutionalize good economic and corporate governance
through, inter alia:

1. Effective and efficient public sector management;

2. Promoting transparency in public finance management;

3. Preventing and combating corruption and related offences;

4. Efficient management of public debt;

5. Prudent and sustainable utilization of public resources;

6. Equitable allocation of the nation’s wealth and natural resources;
7. Poverty alleviation;

8. Enabling legislative and regulatory framework for private sector

9. Providing a conducive environment for foreign capital inflows;

10. Developing tax policies that encourage investment;

11. Preventing and combating crime;

12. Elaborating and implementing economic development strategies
including private-public sector partnerships;

13. An efficient and effective tax system premised upon transparency
and accountability.

Article 34

State parties shall decentralize power to democratically elected local authorities as provided in national laws.

Article 35

Given the enduring and vital role of traditional authorities, particularly in rural
communities, the State Parties shall strive to find appropriate ways and means to increase their integration and effectiveness within the larger democratic system.

Article 36

State Parties shall promote and deepen democratic governance by implementing the principles and core values of the NEPAD Declaration on Democracy, Political, Economic and Corporate Governance and, where applicable, the African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM).

Article 37

State parties shall pursue sustainable development and human security through achievement of NEPAD objectives and the United Nations Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

Article 38

1. State parties shall promote peace, security and stability in their respective countries, regions and in the continent by fostering participatory political systems with well-functioning and, if need be, inclusive institutions;

2. State parties shall promote solidarity amongst Member States and support the conflict prevention and resolution initiatives that the Union may
undertake in conformity with the Protocol establishing the Peace and
Security Council.

Article 39

State Parties shall promote a culture of respect, compromise, consensus and tolerance as a means to mitigate conflicts, promote political stability and security, and to harness the creative energies of the African peoples.

Article 40

State parties shall adopt and implement policies, strategies and programmes required to generate productive employment, mitigate the impact of diseases and alleviate poverty and eradicate extreme poverty and illiteracy.

Article 41

State parties shall undertake to provide and enable access to basic social
services to the people.

Article 42

State parties shall implement policies and strategies to protect the environment to achieve sustainable development for the benefit of the present and future generations. In this regard, State Parties are encouraged to accede to the relevant treaties and other international legal instruments.

Article 43

1. State Parties shall endeavour to provide free and compulsory basic
education to all, especially girls, rural inhabitants, minorities, people with
disabilities and other marginalized social groups.

2. In addition, State Parties shall ensure the literacy of citizens above
compulsory school age, particularly women, rural inhabitants, minorities,
people with disabilities, and other marginalized social groups.

Chapter 10
Mechanisms for Application

Article 44

To give effect to the commitments contained in this Charter:
1. Individual State Party Level

State Parties commit themselves to implement the objectives, apply the
principles and respect the commitments enshrined in this Charter as follows:

(a) State Parties shall initiate appropriate measures including legislative,
executive and administrative actions to bring State Parties’ national
laws and regulations into conformity with this Charter;

(b) State Parties shall take all necessary measures in accordance with
constitutional provisions and procedures to ensure the wider
dissemination of the Charter and all relevant legislation as may be
necessary for the implementation of its fundamental principles;

(c) State Parties shall promote political will as a necessary condition for
the attainment of the goals set forth in this Charter;

(d) State Parties shall incorporate the commitments and principles of the
Charter in their national policies and strategies.

2. Commission Level

A. At Continental Level

(a) The Commission shall develop benchmarks for
implementation of the commitments and principles of this
Charter and evaluate compliance by State Parties;

(b) The Commission shall promote the creation of favourable
conditions for democratic governance in the African
continent, in particular by facilitating the harmonization of
policies and laws of State Parties;

(c) The Commission shall take the necessary measures to
ensure that the Democracy and Electoral Assistance Unit
and the Democracy and Electoral Assistance Fund provide
the needed assistance and resources to State Parties in
support of electoral processes;

(d) The Commission shall ensure that effect is given to the
decisions of the Union in regard to unconstitutional change
of government on the Continent.

B. At Regional Level

The Commission shall establish a framework for cooperation with
Regional Economic Communities on the implementation of the
principles of the Charter. In this regard, it shall commit the
Regional Economic Communities (RECs) to:

a) Encourage Member States to ratify or adhere to this Charter, and

b) Designate focal points for coordination, evaluation and
monitoring of the implementation of the commitments and
principles enshrined in this Charter in order to ensure
massive participation of stakeholders, particularly civil
society organizations, in the process.

Article 45

The Commission shall:

(a) Act as the central coordinating structure for the implementation of
this Charter;

(b) Assist State Parties in implementing the Charter;

(c) Coordinate evaluation on implementation of the Charter with other
key organs of the Union including the Pan-African Parliament, the
Peace and Security Council, the African Human Rights Commission,
the African Court of Justice and Human Rights, the Economic, Social
and Cultural Council, the Regional Economic Communities and
appropriate national- level structures.

Chapter 11

Final Clauses
Article 46

In conformity with applicable provisions of the Constitutive Act and the Protocol
Relating to the Establishment of the Peace and Security Council of the African
Union, the Assembly and the Peace and Security Council shall determine the
appropriate measures to be imposed on any State Party that violates this

Article 47

1. This Charter shall be open for signature, ratification and accession by
Member States of the Union in accordance with their respective
constitutional procedures.

2. The instruments of ratification or accession shall be deposited with the
Chairperson of the Commission.

Article 48

This Charter shall enter into force thirty (30) days after the deposit of fifteen (15)
Instruments of Ratification.

Article 49

1. State Parties shall submit every two years, from the date the Charter
comes into force, a report to the Commission on the legislative or other
relevant measures taken with a view to giving effect to the principles and
commitments of the Charter;

2. A copy of the report shall be submitted to the relevant organs of the Union
for appropriate action within their respective mandates;

3. The Commission shall prepare and submit to the Assembly, through the
Executive Council, a synthesized report on the implementation of the

4. The Assembly shall take appropriate measures aimed at addressing
issues raised in the report.

Article 50

1. Any State Party may submit proposals for the amendment or revision of
this Charter;

2. Proposals for amendment or revision shall be submitted to the
Chairperson of the Commission who shall transmit same to State Parties
within thirty (30) days of receipt thereof;

3. The Assembly, upon the advice of the Executive Council, shall examine
these proposals at its session following notification, provided all State
Parties have been notified at least three (3) months before the beginning
of the session;

4. The Assembly shall adopt amendments or revisions by consensus or
failing which, by two-thirds majority;

5. The amendments or revisions shall enter into force when approved by
two-thirds majority of State Parties.

Article 51

1. The Chairperson of the Commission shall be the depository of this

2. The Chairperson of the Commission shall inform all Member States of the
signature, ratification, accession, entry into force, reservations, requests
for amendments and approvals thereof;

3. Upon entry into force of this Charter, the Chairperson of the Commission
shall register it with the Secretary General of the United Nations in
accordance with Article 102 of the Charter of the United Nations.

Article 52

None of the provisions of the present Charter shall affect more favourable
provisions relating to democracy, elections and governance contained in the
national legislation of State Parties or in any other regional, continental or
international conventions or agreements applicable in these state parties.

Article 53

This Charter, drawn up in four (4) original texts, in Arabic, English, French and Portuguese languages, all four (4) being equally authentic, shall be deposited with the chairperson of the Commission who shall transmit certified copies of same to all Member States and the United Nations General Secretariat.

Adopted by the Eighth Ordinary Session of the Assembly, held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, 30 January 2007.