Article 12 (5) of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights forbids “mass expulsion of non-nationals” on the basis of national, racial, ethnic or religious origin. Mass expulsions of this type were common in the decades following independence: for example, the expulsions of Nigerians and Ghanaians to each other’s countries and of Dahomeyans (Beninois) in West Africa or the expulsion of Ugandan Asians in East Africa. But, despite the adoption of the African Charter in 1981, such expulsions have continued.
Some of these expulsions have targeted recent immigrants; such as Angola’s Operaçao Brilhante in 2004 and 2005 which targeted foreign citizens involved in artisanal mining, mostly from the two Congos and West Africa. However, in other cases expulsions have been targeted against those that until a change in political fortunes had been considered citizens. For example, although the split between Ethiopia and Eritrea was more or less amicable, the former allies soon fell out and war broke out in 1998. Following the outbreak of the war, Ethiopia deported an estimated 75,000 persons of Eritrean origin without due process, while Eritrea carried out similar deportations of persons of Ethiopian origin although on a smaller scale. In another example, Mauritania deported approximately 75,000 black Mauritanians with recognised citizenship in 1989-90.