‘Accountability’ is suggestive of many different meanings and can be a difficult concept to define, especially in relation to archives. This article analyses various definitions of accountability, for example in legal, political, social-cultural and economic terms. It focuses on the need for accountability following human rights abuses and analyses the roles that criminal prosecutions and truth commissions play in the process of holding a person or group accountable for their actions. It suggests that archivists and records managers are realising the role they play in resolving human rights and accountability questions. The challenges for accountability in Africa, primarily due to poor economies and political instability, are explored and the author concludes that there needs to be greater emphasis on the role of records in the context of accountability given that the absence of records undermines efforts to hold the instigators of human rights abuses accountable.