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Saturday, January 16, 2021

Rights campaigners demand end to impunity, electoral malpractice in Africa

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Dr Mabassa Fall of the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), who led a panel presentation on the “status of democracy and human rights: democracy and election in Africa”, described impunity as one of the major causes of insecurity in Africa.  

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Fall said ensuring justice is one sure path to achieving peace and called on political leaders to pay special attention to the protection of the right of women who, he said, wear the face of most human rights violations on the continent.

He said: “Impunity is the mother of terrorism and all security menaces. It is not enough to conduct free and fair elections – impunity has to also stop to ensure security. We must ensure justice because justice as one prominent human right defender puts it, ‘is the spinal cord of democracy’. The fight against impunity is really an issue on the continent right now.

“The role of women is crucial in the fight against impunity and human rights violations on the continent because they are the first victims of rights violations. They are being used by politicians on the continent during elections as cheer leaders at campaign frontlines without being involved in governance.”

 According to him, Africa is on transition to democracy, as the continent was faced with the task of decolonisation and then progressed to fighting against some hard line dictatorship.

“Our first leaders have said they are developing Africa and no one must oppose them. But unfortunately, after decades of silence we got nowhere. Then followed a one-party system but it is time to embrace democracy and rule of law because dictatorship and one-party system have failed to lead us anywhere,” he said.  

Also speaking at the forum, Andrew Chigovera, the chair, African Centre of Development and Human Rights Studies (ACDHRS), said the biggest hurdle that the continent has to grapple with is the fight against impunity together with member states’ refusal to honour and implement some of the international human rights protocols and conventions that they have signed up to.

“As we are all aware, the overriding challenge for human rights, however, is the implementation of the agreed commitments and standard which make human rights a reality to everyone,” he said.

He added that most of the continent, despite modest improvement in some places, still grapples with basic human rights issues and corruption, bad governance and the violations of economic, social and cultural rights.

Chigovera said: “While the landscape of human rights and democracy on the continent continues to attract attention as a result of the changes in priorities and perception at the national, regional, and international levels, we have to acknowledge that some real and positive developments have been registered in Africa as a result of the efforts of NGOs and those of the commission such as the increasing trend of cooperation between states and the commission and between the states and non-state actors for human rights in Africa. 

“A lot, however, leaves much to be desired considering the fact that in many of our states, the rule of law is still precarious and corruption, lack of good governance, violations of economic, social and cultural rights are still prevalent in the context of poverty, insecurity and conflicts.”

Abdoul Gadiry Diallo, the NGO forum steering committee, has also voiced concern over fair play, constitutional manipulation and potential electoral malpractice which can cause security volatility on the continent as many countries prepare to elect new presidents in 2015 and 2016.

He was deeply concerned that some of the countries like Democratic Republic of Congo, Burundi, Burkina Faso and Togo all of which are due to hold presidential elections have a history of pre-and post-electoral violence.

The Gambia is also expected to hold presidential elections sometime in 2016.   

Also speaking at the forum, HE Commissioner Mohamed Bechir Kahafallah, vice chairperson African Centre for Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR), recognised the “great roles played by the African Union, United Nations, civil society members and the international community in the collective fight against Ebola epidemic”.

He also expressed concern over the rising threat of terrorism in Africa and praised the roles that NGOs play in development, citing their “successful strive” in poverty alleviation and human rights protection across the continent.   

At the start of the forum, a minute of silence was observed in remembrance of the people who have lost their lives in the xenophobic attacks in South Africa, Kenya Garissa University attack by Al -Shabaab, Boko Haram attacks in Nigeria and the museum bombing in Algeria.

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