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Sunday, June 16, 2024

Human rights for all?

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With Aisha Jallow

A while ago, I read an article in The Standard Newspaper telling that in the formal opening of the 79th ordinary session of the Africa Commission on Human and People’s Rights, the Foreign Minister Mamadou Tangara made a statement. He stressed that The Gambia will not go back to human rights abuses. Well, that must have felt like a relief for those of you who had been wondering if or when the abuses would be continued. Minister Tangara explained that The Gambia is committed to promoting human rights to boost reforms that include the implementation of plans presented by the truth commission.

So no more sleepless nights listening for cars stopping outside your compound and rifles banging on your door. No more forced so called treatments for diseases with no cure. No more youngsters shot on the streets when they peacefully demonstrate against something. No more people followed by black cars and men in black suits. No more torture, no more rapes, no more abusing in any way. No more killings and throwing dead bodies in empty wells. No more accusing old women of being witches and humiliating them in front of their families. Minister Tangara; is this a promise or a target? You see, a promise made shall not be broken or your trust has been broken. A target is not as tricky as a promise, as you can always blame this or that for your shortcomings.

Isn’t that what has been the case so far, that the government had some targets, but lost sight of them? We have heard so many beautiful words, and empty promises, but when comes the day when we actually can hold you to your promises? In Minister Tangara’s statement, we could hear some new promises, or was it targets, and it will be very interesting to follow up what will happen to all of these. Perhaps we should begin with inventing a new word; targises? A combination between targets and promises, where the promises are more of a light version than a real promise. Like: I promise you this, only if… If this “only if” doesn’t appear, then it’s not the government’s fault, it is something or someone else we can blame.

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What are human rights?

Human rights are rights inherent to all human beings, regardless of race, sex, nationality, ethnicity, language, religion, or any other status. Human rights include the right to life and liberty, freedom from slavery and torture, freedom of opinion and expression, the right to work and education, and many more.  Everyone is entitled to these rights, without discrimination. What about someone from a different tribe than yours? Does this list of human rights include them too?

You see; this is an African problem, your tribe is your main focus, not that all of you are humans.

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If you are Fula, does the blood of a Mandinka have a different colour than yours? Can a Wolof mother feel pain and sorrow when she loses her child, but a Serer mother is indifferent to the same loss? Does a Jola father work harder than a Serahule? Are Manjago fathers more worried about how to feed their families than an Aku? If you begin to ask yourself this, you will soon see how stupid this is. The Gambia is such a small country, and all of you depend on everyone else. You breathe the same air, drink the same water and sweat under the same sun. You share the same emotions and worries, so why split 2 million people in small groups? You can’t have different rules or laws depending on which tribe you belong to. This is not how a democracy works.

Checking a dictionary, we read that a human being is a culture-bearing primate classified in the genus Homo, especially the species Homo sapiens. Human beings are anatomically similar and related to the great apes but are distinguished by a more highly developed brain and a resultant capacity for articulate speech and abstract reasoning.

Humans are distinguished by a more highly developed brain, it says. If that means that a human brain is larger than an ape brain, I can agree, but telling that a human brain is highly developed – hmm, no! Of course this is correct in some senses, that a human brain has more functions, but as long as humans act worse than the great apes there is no sign of this high development.

Animals don’t kill each other just for fun, they don’t kill for revenge. They kill for defence or for food. Animals don’t torture other animals, they don’t rape other animals’ spouses in an act of dominance. Animals don’t kill animal babies, they don’t use weapons to cause maximum damage. Animals follow their instincts and we have a lot to learn from them. Some people believe that we are above the animals and therefore we can dominate them and treat them as we wish. We must remember that the animals were here first, and humans evolved from the apes. We are part of the nature, and after death we will go back to nature. When we try to eliminate unwanted people, the animals will survive. If a village is bombed and all the humans dead, the animals will take over. We are not above the animals, we are part of them.

In our education system, in The Gambia, we should strive to implement human rights education. Human rights education and training are key in contributing to the promotion, protection and effective realisation of all human rights.

For human rights to be implemented as a practice in day-to-day life, individuals need to know their rights and have the attitude and skills to claim them. Duty-bearers need to know their human rights obligations and possess the attitude and skills to respect, protect and fulfil human rights.

It’s not easy to know your rights if you, first of all, are taught from early childhood that you don’t have the right to your own opinion. Second of all it is also very hard to know your rights if you are unable to read and write. You must be able to read so you will understand what you are taught. You must also be able to write to remember your rights and be able to reflect. The system of slavery is so deeply ingraved in the Gambian people, that you don’t seem able to cast off the shackles and understand that you are free. As long as you allow someone to rule your life, you will never be free.

Demand your human rights, speak freely and demand that the rulers are listening to you. Minister Tangara made a statement that there will never more be any abuse of the human rights in The Gambia. Don’t settle with a ”targis ”, don’t settle with anything less than a promise and make sure your rulers never break them. #nevereveragain

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