During the first decade of the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance, one significant political development in Africa has been the resort to popular protests or uprisings against tyrannical rule. These uprisings have been remarkable for their scale and extraordinary political ramifications, and succeeded in unseating longstanding authoritarian rulers. They presented serious challenges to the African Union's democratic and constitutional governance norms, in particular regarding the status of uprisings in relation to the ban on unconstitutional changes of government and the determination of whether and when resultant changes of government are constitutional. In addressing these issues, this article contends that, although popular uprisings (also called “democratic revolutions”) are not a priori deemed constitutional, the AU's application of its norm banning unconstitutional changes of government to the popular uprisings in North Africa and Burkina Faso has opened a legal avenue that offers constitutional legitimacy for popular uprisings overthrowing authoritarian regimes.
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