Thursday, April 11, 2013

We cannot hope African governments will uphold legal provisions

Human Rights Defenders at the Forum on the Participation of Non-governmental Organisations (NGOs) in the 49th Ordinary Session of the ACHPR and the 23rd African Human Rights Book Fair in Banjul from April 25-27, 2011 (Photo Credit: M.S. Joof/TNBES)
We cannot always hope that our governments will willingly uphold constitutional and legal provisions and also abide by their legal obligations under treaties and conventions especially human rights treaties they have ratified, Emmanuel Daniel Joof said on Monday.

Speaking at the closing of the NGOs Forum in Banjul, The Gambia on April 8, the Human Rights Lawyer said: “It is a known fact that respect and adherence to rule of law and human rights and the strife towards attaining social justice cannot only be left in the hands and goodwill of those who govern”.

Hence, Mr Joof noted the significant role been played by NGOs for effective adherence and respect for the rule of law and human rights, good governance and attainment of social justice – even in the developed world and emerging democracies.

Amid reported killings, intimidation and harassment of human rights defenders in Africa, Joof admitted that the “attainment of fundamental rights and freedoms is a continuous struggle for people all over the world and more so for people in Africa”.

Like in The Gambia, Africa is a continent where many are poor and uneducated.

These people, according to Joof, are consequently not aware of their rights and how to claim and enforce them. Therefore, he said human rights organizations in Africa have a crucial and equally uphill task of promoting and protecting human rights.

 Authoritarian governments often argue that human rights is a western imposition on Africa, however, Joof said: “The erudite Senegalese Jurist and former Judge and Vice President of the International Court of Justice, the Late Keba Mbye, once proclaimed that the tenets and roots of human rights are firmly entrenched in African traditional cultures and he went on to say that the Wollof saying “nit moy garabu nit” emphasized human rights values of fairness, equity, support and fair play of treating others the way you would like them to treat you.”

During Saturday’s opening, the Chairperson of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR) Commissioner Catherine Dupe Atoki noted with great concern reprisals by States Parties against NGOs in the conduct of their mandate.

“These reactions by State Parties are indicative of the efficacy of human rights advocacy by NGOs, as it implies that the activities of the NGOs are actually impacting the states concerned,” Atoki said.

She reaffirmed to the NGOs community that the ACHPR remains committed to protecting and defending human right defenders and urges that such incidences be urgently brought to the attention of the Commission.

The African Union (AU) is preparing to celebrate its Golden Jubilee of 50 years of existence as an organisation.

“Despite all this progress made in Africa, the continent still continue to be plagued with serious and widespread human rights violations,” Atoki admitted.

The Gambia’s Attorney General and Minister of Justice Lamin Jobarteh, admits NGOs have played and continue to play unprecedented roles in societies.

But said “In spite all these improvement some authoritarian governments have either outlawed or restricted NGOs in their operations.”

Africa has a long way to go in relation to its development and human rights record, Jobarteh said.

Human Rights agencies often criticised and accuse The Gambia of massive human rights violations. 40 of them boycotted the 53rd Ordinary Session of the ACHPR that started on April 9, 2013 in Banjul.

The Forum on the Participation of Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) and the African Human Rights Book Fair usually precede the biannual Ordinary Sessions of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR).

Written by Modou S. Joof

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