The Concept of HUMAN RIGHTS in Africa (Second Edition)


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The Concept of Human Rights in Africa attempts to reconceptualise human rights ideology from the stand point of the working people of the continent. lt argues that the dominant human rights discourse in/and on Africa, however well-intentioned, is objectively a part of the ideologies of domination. Both the critique of the dominant discourse as well as the reconceptualisation are located firmly within the current social science and jurisprudential debates on democratic struggles in Africa. Hitherto, the human rights debate in Africa has been an exclusive preserve of lawyers and philosophers. Professor Shivji breaks new ground in this book in that he firmly anchors the debate on the social and political planes without losing sight of its legal and philosophical dimensions.

While greatly stimulating for the general reader, this work can be fruitfully used in colleges and universities in such academic disciplines as sociology, political science, development studies, law, and jurisprudence.

Issa Shivji is Professor Emeritus of Law at the University of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. He taught law at the University of Dar es Salaam for 36 years (1970-2006). He was appointed the first Mwalimu Julius Nyerere Professor in Pan-Africanism between 2008-2013. He was the Director of the Nyerere Resource Centre at the Commission for Science and Technology (2014- 2019). He has published over a dozen books and numerous book chapters and articles. His latest book is a three-volume biography of Julius Nyerere called Development as Rebellion co-authored with other two colleagues.


ISBN 978 2 38234 100 1



“Although in certain respects it is a work of its time, Shivji’s The Concept of Human Rights in Africa is a critique of human rights that remains relevant for both a research agenda on human rights and radical politics in the 21st century.”

Paul O’Connell, Reader in Law at SOAS, University of London.


“Shivji’s book in particular firmly anchors the debate on human rights on the “social and political planes,” without losing sight of the appropriate legal and philosophical dimensions.”

Joseph R. A. Ayee, Review published in Canadian Journal of African Studies /Revue Canadienne des Études Africaines, Vol. 25, No. 1, 1991, p. 116.


“Shivji presents a thought-provoking study, and one does not have to accept his entire perspective to find his analysis and criticisms useful. While some of his points have been well made before, he does provide a useful agenda for future human rights research on Africa.”

David R. Penna, Review published in Africa Today, 4th Qtr., 1990, Vol. 37, No. 4, p. 76.


“I would say that I have enjoyed reading this book. It is profoundly committed and very political. For those interested in human rights in Africa, it is compulsory reading, as it convincingly puts many aspects of traditional thinking into a revealing perspective.”

Filip Reyntjens, Review published in Journal of African Law, 1991, Vol. 35, No. 1/2, p. 217.

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