Stockholm: International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance (IDEA)
This policy paper explains why an African democratic norm came into being despite the very heterogeneous membership of the African Union. It offers policy recommendations which address effective defense and promotion of democracy support in Africa.
Non-acceptance of Unconstitutional Change of Government (UCG) is an African norm that was legalized between 2002 and 2012. Today, it is a legally binding norm that holds the national governments of AU member states responsible for maintaining a stable and democratic regime within their countries. Moreover, the notion of UCG has become more democratic. Accordingly, fears that non-acceptance of UCG would support governments that aim to stabilize a non-democratic regime are not realized—at least on the normative level. Despite the reduced space for a pro-autocratic legal interpretation of this norm, it remains the task of AU member states to implement it in a democratic way. The analysis showed that the interplay of five factors influenced the legalization and democratization of the non-acceptance of UCG in the AU. Inner-African factors outweigh the role of OECD donors’ influence. While demand-driven factors explain norm creation until 2002, support-driven factors fostered its legalization and democratization after 2002. On the demand side, a functional approach that guaranteed peace and security on the African continent as well as the vital interests of the hegemonic powers led to the introduction and codification of the non-acceptance of UCG. On the supply side, ECOWAS served as a normative reference model; its member states proactively supported the legalization of the non-acceptance of UCG on the regional level. Moreover, the AU Commission’s contributions make clear that non-acceptance of UCG has become a binding rule and democratic provision. Finally, donors’ financial support of member states and AU organs reinforced regional developments and strengthened the independence of AU organs from their member states.