Justice Africa initiated an innovative programme of research and dialogue on the mechanisms of Constitutional Reform in Eritrea and the Greater Horn between 1999 and 2002. This focused on the role of the courts, public education, civil society initiatives and the requirements for resources and appropriate government policies. African countries have some of the finest and most expertly crafted constitutions in the world.

The problem more commonly lies in the implementation of those constitutions. How are the fine principles concerning human rights actually carried out in practice? Often they are not. There are close links between the degree of constitutional implementation and internal stability and regional security.
The initial focus of this programme was Eritrea, where Justice Arica founding member Paulos Tesfagiorgis, a former secretary to the Constitutional Commission, focussed his efforts.

Justice Africa has also been engaged in helping to formulate constitutional principles for Sudan, including the implementation of the right of self-determination, and has organised comprehensive cross-country citizen consultations in South Sudan. The Horn of Africa Constitutional programme ended in 2002.


Justice Africa’s involvement with Sudanese civil society began through a first Civil Project in Sudan, which was a response to human rights abuses in Sudan.
The Civil Project (al Mashru’ al Medani) was an ambitious attempt to develop a broad civil programme in support of human rights, democracy and a sustainable peace in Sudan and had practical impacts: forming coalitions of civil society organisations, and developing capacity to address issues such as press laws, party laws, judicial reform, self-determination, administrative decentralisation, civic and human rights, trade union and employments rights, education, educational curricula, women’s rights, food policy, land reform, disarmament and demobilisation, and the return and resettlement of refugees and displaced persons.

The Civil Project grew out of an earlier initiative known as the Committee for Human Rights in the Transition in Sudan. This Committee, formed of four different organizations (African Rights, the host, and then transferred to Justice Africa in 1999; the Sudan Human Rights Organization, the South Sudan Law Society, and Nuba Mountains Solidarity Abroad), was established in 1996 with the aim of ensuring that when peace and a transition to democracy finally occurred in Sudan, the opportunity for protecting and promoting human rights and civil society would not be missed.

On two previous occasions, the overthrow of military dictatorships in Sudan had ushered in a bright dawn of democracy, but hopes were quickly dashed when Sudanese democrats and civil society leaders failed to organise effectively to protect their gains. The leaders of this group were determined that this failure should not happen again.

In 1999, the Committee held its first conference on human rights in the transition in Sudan, in Kampala, Uganda. More than 100 delegates representing civil society groups from all corners of Sudan attended the conference. At the conference, the delegates decided to change the name of the project to the “Civil Project,” in opposition to the National Islamic Government’s “civilisation project”, which was imposing a homogenous extremist vision upon Sudan’s social and cultural diversity – and doing so by force. The concept of the Civil Project is also a remedy to the long-standing exclusivism and intolerance that has characterised successive governments in Khartoum and an attempt to reinvigorate Sudan’s tradition of plurality and toleration. The next activities of the Civil Project were aimed at injecting human rights and civil society concerns into the Sudanese peace process, which became reinvigorated in 2001. Our efforts in particular focused on trying to bring the marginalized peoples of Northern Sudan, namely the Nuba, Blue Nile, Beja and Darfurians into the peace process.
We had mixed success with the Nuba and Blue Nile but our efforts to bring the issues of the Beja and Darfur to the peace process were blocked by a combination of the main Sudanese parties and the international community. Additionally, the Civil Project convened the first-ever Sudanese National Women’s Convention, which enabled Sudanese women to develop their own agenda and strategy for pursuing it.
By the time of the signing of the CPA in 2005, the Civil Project had active members in Khartoum, South Sudan and several parts of the Northern Sudanese regions. However, as international donors flocked to Khartoum and Juba to support local NGOs, the attractions of a consortium of local agencies working together on a long-term project for civil rights were reduced.



The African Civil Society Governance and AIDS Initiative (GAIN)
GAIN is a partnership of African organisations that focuses on providing a coordinated, African, civil-society response to HIV/AIDS focusing on alleviating the social, political and economic burdens of the epidemic. The programme was developed as a civil society response, and compliment, to the activities and purpose of the United Nations Commission on HIV/AIDS and Governance in Africa. Since its’ inception, GAIN has made distinctive and innovative intellectual and policy contributions to the African and global debate on HIV/AIDS and governance. GAIN brings together treatment activists with democracy and governance advocates in a coalition to address the challenges of ensuring that democracy, human rights and good governance are sustained during the HIV/AIDS epidemic and governments’ responses to it.  Further details of the GAIN programme are available here.

GAIN Issues Brief
Current news and research undertaken by GAIN members is disseminated through the regular GAIN Issues   Brief, published electronically every two months. Read the GAIN Brief here.

Research Programme on the Social Effects of HIV/AIDS
This programme commissions and supports new and relevant small-scale social research into HIV/AIDS produced by African researchers. Its purpose is to both expand the body of knowledge on the social effects of HIV/AIDS in Africa, and to encourage and support an African research capacity to investigate and propose solutions to these challenges.
To access details of current research check the GAIN Brief blog and see our HIV/AIDS research papers.


The African Union Human Rights Memorial (AUHRM) project is an initiative of the African Union Commission (AUC), which Justice Africa has welcomed and supported. The AU resolved in 2004 to create a memorial at its headquarters in Addis Ababa as an expression of regret for the failure of its predecessor, the Organisation of African Unity (OAU), to intervene to halt the 1994 genocide in Rwanda; and in recognition of the unique history of the organisation’s location in Addis Ababa, at the epicentre of the 1977-78 ‘Red Terror’. The new AU headquarters has been built upon the former site of Addis Ababa’s Kerchele prison and its torture centre ‘Alem Bekagn’, a site of historical atrocities and human rights abuses.

From 2010, the AUC launched a series of consultations on the form and function of the AUHRM with experts and stakeholders, including survivors associations and human rights organisations. In response, the African Union widened the concerns of the project to include the memory of Apartheid and slavery. Justice Africa provided organisational support to the AUC for these meetings, was appointed as a member of the AUHRM Interim Board, and attended the ceremony which laid a foundation stone for the memorial at the new AU headquarters in January 2012.

The inscription on the AUHRM foundation stone reads:

For all the victims of human rights abuses in Africa, including those of the slave trade and colonialism, and particularly the genocide in Rwanda (1994), the Alem Bekagn prison massacres (1937 & 1974), the Red Terror (1977-78) in Ethiopia and Apartheid in South Africa.

The reference to ‘all the victims of human rights abuses’ left open the door for other episodes of human rights violations in Africa to be memorialised. During a third consultative meeting convened by the Department of Political Affairs in 2013, the decision was made to also give attention to the remembrance of Libyan victims of human rights violations, in particular the victims of the June 1996 massacre at Abu Salim prison, Tripoli; and the victims of civil war in Sudan and South Sudan.

The third consultative meeting paved the way for the launch by the Department of Political Affairs of a series of in-country consultative meetings to be organised by Justice Africa in collaboration with in-country members of the AUHRM Interim Board or network: Aegis Trust and Ibuka in Rwanda; Ethiopian Red Terror Documentation and Research Centre and Inter Africa Group in Ethiopia; La Maison des Esclaves and the Directorate for Cultural Heritage in Senegal; Constitution Hill in South Africa; and the Centre for Africa Research and Studies, regarding Libya. The 2013-14 consultations brought together survivor groups, memorial experts, academics, civil society organisation representatives and government representatives, to produce a series of recommendations for the AUHRM Interim Board and the AUC, to promote a Pan-African network in support of the memorial, and to raise awareness of the project.


The Civil Project has however, maintained its long-term vision of and approach to civic engagement in South Sudan, through support to civil capacities vis-à-vis trainings requested by civil society themselves. These trainings have focussed on technical capacities around conflict mapping, sexual and gender based violence policy, and the Local Government Act. The Civil Project’s Resource Governance component has continued to work with civil society to assist them to engage on issues of oil revenue and public expenditure tracking – one of the key structural issues in the current crisis. This long-term approach to capacity support is through continuous and relevant engagement, support and mentoring, and is unique to Justice Africa.

Finally, the Civil Project provides small-scale funding, through a unique ‘Pot-fund’ mechanism, which strategically assists civil forces to pursue their agenda, without corrupting their organisations.  The pot funds have been extremely well-received by civil society, and have provided civic organisations with opportunities to strengthen their institutions for long-term action and engagement in South Sudan.

The Civil Project, through the kind support of the Danish Government, has continued to work side-by-side with civil society in South Sudan, in their pursuit of a prosperous, equitable, and happy society. Civic engagement in Africa continues to require this long-term approach and vision, as well as assisting civil forces to respond to emerging crises as they evolve. Justice Africa is extremely grateful to the Government of Denmark for its commitment to supporting this work towards sustainable civic engagement.

“Justice Africa is an organisation that stands uncompromisingly for what is right, and is a crucial part of the mosaic of civil society and NGOs working for Africa.”
-Professor Alan Whiteside, Commissioner, United Nations Commission.