The Legal Framework for Subregional Humanitarian Intervention in Africa : A Comparative Analysis of ECOWAS and SADC Regimes

Authors John-Mark Iyi

ISSN: 2026-8556
Affiliations: Research/Teaching Associate, Webber Wentzel Scholar and PhD Candidate, School of Law, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg
Source: SADC Law Journal, The, 2012, Issue 2, p. 281 – 303


The history of Africa in the 1990s is one of conflicts that reached their height in the Rwanda genocide of 1994. African subregional organisations like the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the Southern African Development Community (SADC) have found themselves undertaking humanitarian military interventions not authorised by the United Nations Security Council (UNSC). The African Union (AU) has also shifted its paradigm from regime security to human security by constructing an interventionist legal framework which rests on African subregional organisations for its implementation. This paper examines the existing legal frameworks for humanitarian intervention under the constitutive documents of ECOWAS and SADC, and argues that, in terms of normative reach, there is a conflict between what is envisaged by the AU architecture and what actually exists in the SADC regime, particularly in relation to obtaining UNSC authorisation for humanitarian interventions in Africa. The paper calls for a review of the SADC regime to bring it in line with the AU architecture.