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African heads of state urged to promote human rights

The 50th Ordinary Session is historic as it coincides with the final round of activities marking the 30th Anniversary of the Adoption of the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights and Golden Jubilee.

Speaking at the forum, Reine Alapini-Gansou, the chairperson of the African Commission on Human and Peoples Rights Commission said Africa cannot develop without the active support and promotion of human and people rights.

She further said that there cannot be any sustainable development in any African country if heads of State and government did not promote human rights in their respective countries. She described 2011 as the worst year in human rights violations in the world particularly African countries.

Alapini-Gansou dilated on the situation in Libya, describing it as alarming. She said innocent people have been killed by rebels, so-called freedom fighters and that nothing has been done by the political leaders.

Commenting on the issue of Ivory Coast, she noted that over 3000 people have been killed during the conflict and something must be done to stop such massive human rights violation. She assured that the Commission will engage state parties on dialogue with regards to promoting human rights in the African continent.

Alapini-Gansou also informed the gathering that the Commission is working more on capacity building and building cooperation with other organisations in Africa.

She finally called on African heads of State to stand firm to ensure that the promotion of human rights is their top priority, as it requires greater commitment and collaboration with stakeholders among others.

For his part, the Attorney General and minister of Justice, Edward Gomez said the government of The Gambia has been leading the way in the promotion and protection of human rights.

He averred that human rights are sacrosanct and inviolable and are not subject to any form of negotiation. The Justice minister further noted that any system of government, which is not only denying but also making the protection of human rights impossible, is clearly inviting a situation in which the use of violence is inevitable, adding that a living testimony to such assertion is the political upheavals as witnessed in Tunisia, Egypt, Syria and most recently in Libya.

He then called on the African Commission to consider the conclusions and the recommendations of the NGO forum that proceeded the session. Speaking on behalf of the commissioner, Political Affairs of the African Union Commission, Sallah Ahmed said 30 years after the adoption of the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights, it is important to reflect on the lessons learnt, and one of those lessons is that the respect for human rights is sine qua non towards sustainable development. He added that equally important is the fact that achieving peace and security is premised on a culture of respect for human rights.

He recalled that the African heads of State and government during the AU Summit of January 2011 dedicated 2012 as the year of shared values in Africa, which was a noble way of bringing to light the importance of sharing and consolidating Africa’s integration including human rights.

Ahmed admitted that the realisation of Africa’s common vision of a united and prosperous continent as well as building of the culture of human rights promotion and protection remains a mammoth task, which requires common resolve.

He said today, all member states of the AU have ratified the African charter, the majority has also ratified several UN instrument, in most cases, steps have not been taken to internalize these instruments.

He added : “Today, many member states are yet to ratify basic African human rights instruments such as the Maputo Protocol, the African Charter on Democracy, Election and Governance, the Kampala Convention on IDPs and the Protocol establishing the African Court of Justice and Human Rights.

In respect to the latter, more than twelve years after it was adopted, only twenty-five AU Members states have ratified it, and only four have made the declaration allowing direct access to individuals to the court.”

He them made it clear that the establishment of the court was a deliberate decision taken by African leaders, as they understood the protection of human rights as a catalyst to sustainable peace and development.

Hannah Forster, the executive director of the ACDHRS who was speaking on behalf of the NGOs steering committee, underscored the importance of the forum, describing it as timely and in the right direction.

She confirmed that 53 out of the 54 countries have ratified the charter that is to ensure that human right is promoted. She opined that it should be a collective responsibility from all states parties to ensure that violation of human rights is being eradicated in the continent, saying that 2011 has witnessed numerous human rights violations particularly in the African continent, the victims of whom are very innocent people.

Speaking on behalf of the AU Members states, Hon Edouard Nduwimana, minister of Home Affairs of the Republic of Burundi, commended the participants and the government of The Gambia for hosting the event. He said despite the commitment of the government of Burundi in ensuring that human and peoples’ rights are not violated, there are still challenges.

He called on members of the Commission to help them in addressing the issue, as sustainable development cannot take place without the promotion of human and people’s rights.

Judge Fatsah Ouguergouz, who spoke on behalf of the African Court on Human and People Rights said the importance of the forum cannot be overemphasised, adding that the Commission is doing very instrumental work in the protection of human and peoples rights in the continent.

by : Momodou Jawo

Publié le 28 octobre 2011