13 May 2010



The increase in human rights violation in Africa, the systematic denial of democratic change and the refusal to recognize the fundamental rights of the human being as well as the unacceptable reversal of constitutional order with no regard for the right of the population have been blamed on bad governance in the continent. Chairperson of the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights, Mrs. Reine Alapini Gansou, gave this remark at the opening of the 47th Ordinary Session of the Commission in Banjul.
According to her, Africa has considerable assets which can contribute to its economic development and without a doubt make up for lost time in its development. However, several human rights violations are perpetuated with impunity by states who are parties to the African Commission.
She said that the Commission has deployed great efforts in the combat against torture, against the death penalty, the right of human right defender associations, the right of journalists and has also convinced the stakeholders to accept the right to be different and in particular to that of non-discrimination.
“There is evident correlation,” she noted, “between democracy, good governance and human rights, a necessary link which should give life to human rights in normative contexts, which take into account the general interest through a regular checking of the high performing, responsible and participative republican institution, founded on a basis which guarantees multiparty democracy, the rule of law, and a system which guarantees the effective promotion and protection of human rights, of individual and collective liberties.”
According to her, there cannot be good governance where arbitrary arrests, torture in custody, problems of gender based discrimination or the population’s HIV status are the order of the day; or “where the most basic of fundamental freedoms are muzzled and are replaced by liberticidal or restrictive rights; where journalists disappear for having accomplished their mission; where women are excluded from the decision making or peace process.”
She said only respect for the standards and principles of democratisation, respect for human rights and presence of constructive sociopolitical dialogue between various actors can bring about good governance.
Commissioner Reine then expressed her joy over the partnership established between the commission and state parties, which should be strengthened at all cost, keeping in mind that each stakeholder must be obligated to respect scrupulously the African Charter on Human and People’s Right.
In her speech, Commissioner for Political Affairs in African Union, Julia Dolly Joiner disclosed that the continent has, since the dawn of the 21st century, stood witness to a simple and irreversible reality whereby Africans are establishing, expressing and asserting their human rights more than it has been the case in the past. She added that this, by all accounts, is attributable to the expressed commitment of heads of states and governments, the positive efforts of institutions and direct activism of African civil society.
“No matter our differences or contestations of content might be, I am certain that there is amongst us a recognition that we are on a positive and sustainable path to the future. Even whilst we grapple with continuing human rights challenges and the intricacies of reports presented to this august body, we need to take a step back and look at the journey traveled and the progress registered,” she stated.
She said that it is imperative that the continent builds on that which it has succeeded in putting in place, the most significant of which are the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights and the African Court on Human and Peoples' Rights.
She also noted that there are many suggestions that the continent moves to a higher level of success in its human rights promotion and protection efforts.
For her part, Miss Hannah Foster, the executive director of the ACDHR who spoke on behalf of the NGOS Forum, noted that the forum acknowledged that although challenges in the human rights and democracy situation persist leading to violence, insecurity and conflict, some real and positive developments have been registered in a good number of African countries.
She said that the forum has drawn attention to the suppression of the freedom of expression, opinion, assembly and the press. In this regard, the forum requests the AC to pay particular attention to the situation in Angola, Burundi, Central African Republic, The Democratic Republic of Congo DRC, Ethiopia, The Gambia, Eritrea, Nigeria, Senegal, Somalia, Sudan, Swaziland, Tunisia and Zimbabwe. “We thereby request the AC to express solidarity with all journalists living under extreme persecution and to urge states to abolish repressive laws and to ensure a conducive environment for the protection of journalist in Africa.”
The forum wishes to express its satisfaction so far in working with the mechanisms of the African Commission and urge the AU to provide sufficient resources for the maintenance of all its mechanism to ensure greater impact.
While declaring the 47th Ordinary Session of African commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights open, the Attorney General and Minister for Justice, Edward Gomez called on human rights activists to exercise objectivity in pursuit of respect for and observance of human rights.
Responding to human rights concerns about freedom of expression in The Gambia, Mr. Gomez retorted that journalists sometimes publish sensational articles so as to boost paper sales without observing the basic principles of the profession by verifying the content. Whilst noting that it will be difficult to recognize the rights of those who infringe the rights of others, Mr. Gomez extended an invitation to anyone who nurtures doubts about his assertions to visit him at his office for a frank and open discussion. He disclosed that the government of The Gambia respects human rights and upholds it.
He closed by characterising the increasing occurrence of rape on the continent as a terrible practice that warrants ‘castration’ for the perpetrators, concluding that in The Gambia the penalty for rape is life imprisonment.

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