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PAMBAZUKA NEWS 176: FROM BEIJING TO ADDIS ABABA: WHAT PROGRESS FOR AFRICAN WOMEN?

A weekly electronic forum for social justice in Africa

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CONTENTS: 1. Highlights from this issue, 2. Features, 3. Advocacy & campaigns, 4. Books & arts, 5. Women & gender, 6. Human rights, 7. Refugees & forced migration, 8. Elections & governance, 9. Corruption, 10. Development, 11. Health & HIV/AIDS, 12. Education, 13. Racism & xenophobia, 14. Environment, 15. Land & land rights, 16. Media & freedom of expression, 17. Social welfare, 18. News from the diaspora, 19. Conflict & emergencies, 20. Internet & technology, 21. eNewsletters & mailing lists, 22. Fundraising & useful resources, 23. Courses, seminars, & workshops

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Highlights from this issue

Special issue on Beijing +10

2004-09-30

http://pambazuka.org/en/category/highlights/24950

The fourth World Conference on Women held in Beijing in September 1995 raised hopes of a substantial improvement in women's condition across the world and particularly in Africa. The Beijing Declaration and programme of action considered by the United Nations' Secretary General to be "one of the most remarkable documents ever produced by an intergovernmental conference" commits States to taking concrete action in twelve priority areas in relation to women's autonomy. Ten years after Beijing and on the heels of the seventh regional conference at Addis Ababa, in evaluating the implementation of the platform of Action adopted there, where are we now? Have African women and girls really made remarkable gains in such essential areas as education, fundamental human rights, violence against women, their participation in decision making, health and the fight against poverty?

This special of Pambazuka News focuses on women's issues and has been prepared in association with FEMNET for distribution at the forthcoming Seventh Regional Conference on Women (Beijing + 10) and the Fourth African Development Forum (ADF IV) on Governance, being held from 6-15 October 2004 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. These two conferences mark an important step towards achieving gender equality and equity in Africa through national and regional action.




Features

1 From Beijing to Addis Ababa: what progress for African women?

Kafui Adjamagbo-Johnson

2004-09-30

http://pambazuka.org/en/category/features/24944

The fourth World Conference on Women held in Beijing in September 1995 raised hopes of a substantial improvement in women's condition across the world and particularly in Africa. The Beijing Declaration and programme of action considered by the United Nations' Secretary General to be "one of the most remarkable documents ever produced by an intergovernmental conference [1] " commits States to taking concrete action in twelve priority areas in relation to women's autonomy. Ten years after Beijing and on the heels of the seventh regional conference at Addis Ababa, in evaluating the implementation of the platform of Action adopted there, where are we now? Have African women and girls really made remarkable gains in such essential areas as education, fundamental human rights, violence against women, their participation in decision making, health and the fight against poverty?

Notable progress but significant challenges remain in education

Education, a fundamental human right for women, is also a tool for transformation and an essential means of implementing egalitarian objectives, development and peace. In ten years of implementation of the Beijing platform, noticeable progress has been made in education and training for women and girls. Effort to bring about universal primary education for all, positive discrimination in favour of women's and girls' education and training in areas apparently reserved for men, and awareness-raising campaigns have had encouraging results. However, there are still major constraints on equal access to education form men and women. Cultural practices and stereotypes have a negative influence on access, maintenance and development of girls across the whole school curriculum. Credits allocated are usually insufficient, girls continue to be the object of sexual harassment in educational institutions, as is evidenced by the concept of "sexually transmitted marks" which persists under different appellations in several African countries. These are only a few of the challenges to be faced before women and girls enjoy full human rights in education and training.

For the complete article in English: Further details: http://www.pambazuka.org/index.php?id=24944


DE BEIJING A ADDIS ABEBA : QUELS PROGRES POUR LES FEMMES AFRICAINES?

De Beijing à Addis Abéba : quels progrès pour les femmes africaines?

La tenue de la quatrième Conférence mondiale sur les femmes à Beijing en septembre1995 a nourri des espoirs pour une amélioration substantielle de la condition des femmes dans le monde et notamment en Afrique. En effet, la Déclaration et le programme d'action de Beijing considérés par le Secrétaire Général de l'Organisation des Nations-Unies comme " l'un des plus remarquables documents jamais produit par une Conférence intergouvernementale [1] " engagent les États à mener des actions concrètes dans douze domaines prioritaires en vue de l'autonomisation des femmes. Dix ans après Beijing, et à l'orée de la septième Conférence régionale d'Addis Abéba, devant évaluer la mise en œuvre de la plateforme d'Action qui y a été adoptée, où en sommes nous? Les femmes et les filles africaines ont-elles vraiment acquis des gains remarquables dans des domaines aussi essentiels que l'éducation, les droits humains fondamentaux, la violence à l'égard des femmes, leur participation aux prises de décision, la santé et la lutte contre la pauvreté ?

Des progrès notoires qui laissent subsister cependant d'importants défis en matière d'éducation

L'éducation, droit humain fondamental des femmes, est aussi un outil de transformation et un moyen essentiel de réalisation des objectifs d'égalité, de développement et de paix. En dix ans de mise en œuvre de la plate forme de Beijing, des progrès ont été remarqués en matière d'éducation et en formation des femmes et des filles. Les efforts pour concrétiser l'éducation universelle primaire pour tous, des actions de discrimination positive en faveur de l'éducation et de la formation des femmes dans des domaines qui semblaient être réservés aux hommes et des campagnes de sensibilisation ont permis d'obtenir des résultats encourageants. Cependant, on note toujours des contraintes majeures à une jouissance égale du droit à l'éducation par les hommes et les femmes. Les pratiques culturelles et les stéréotypes influent négativement sur l'accès, le maintien et l'évolution des filles tout au long du cursus scolaire. Les crédits alloués sont généralement insuffisants, les filles continuent d'être l'objet de harcèlement sexuel dans les établissements de formation comme en témoigne le concept de "notes sexuellement transmissibles" en vigueur sous des appellations différentes dans plusieurs pays africains. Ce ne sont là que quelques-uns uns des défis à relever pour que les femmes et les filles jouissent pleinement du droit fondamental à l'éducation et à la formation.

Aller vers une concrétisation des droits humains fondamentaux des femmes

La question des droits des femmes en Afrique a connu une évolution remarquable du point de vue du cadre juridique de référence. Les pays africains ont presque tous ratifié la Convention sur l'élimination de toutes les formes de discrimination à l'égard des femmes (CEDEF), instrument juridique de référence sur le plan mondial.

Sur le plan régional africain, la nomination d'une rapporteure spéciale sur les droits de la femme la première fois en 1998 par l'ancienne OUA sur proposition de la Commission africaine des droits de la femme a été perçue comme une opportunité à saisir afin qu'une plus grande attention soit accordée aux droits des femmes. Un protocole à la Charte Africaine des Droits de l'Homme et des Peuples relatif aux Droits de la Femme a été adopté en juillet 2003.

Au niveau national, la plupart des constitutions reconnaissent à tous les citoyens les mêmes droits humains fondamentaux sans discrimination basée sur le sexe. On a assisté ces dernières années à des réformes législatives visant globalement à reconnaître et à protéger les droits humains fondamentaux des femmes [2] . Des services d'aide juridique gratuits sont mis à la disposition des femmes dans tous les pays, des volontaires à l'éducation aux droits connus sous l'appellation de parajuristes ou juristes aux pieds nus font un travail de sensibilisation aux droits des femmes sur le terrain. Des actions de renforcement de capacité à l'endroit des acteurs chargés d'appliquer le droit sont initiées ici et là. Ces progrès sont appréciables.

Cependant, de nombreux obstacles doivent encore être surmontés en vue d'une jouissance effective de leurs droits par les femmes.

Plusieurs pays ont émis des réserves à la CEDEF. Le protocole relatif aux droits des femmes africaines attend de recevoir le nombre minimum de ratifications requises pour être applicable. Les difficultés actuelles rencontrées pour obtenir la ratification de cet instrument ne sont-elles pas le signe d'un manque de volonté politique des gouvernements? Ces derniers se sont engagés encore une fois en juillet 2004 à Addis Abéba à ratifier le protocole avant 2005. Le point sur cette question au terme de l'échéance qu'ils se sont fixés eux-mêmes nous édifiera définitivement sur l'existence d'une volonté politique de promouvoir les droits des femmes. Toujours au niveau régional, la première rapporteure spéciale sur les droits des femmes ainsi que celle dont le mandat est actuellement en cours se heurtent à des difficultés de moyens pour faire un travail consistant, susceptible de faire avancer les droits des femmes.

Au niveau des pays, beaucoup de lois faisant partie de l'arsenal juridique interne renferment toujours des dispositions qui constituent une véritable négation des droits fondamentaux des femmes : les codes des personnes et de la famille confèrent dans presque tous les pays africains le monopole du pouvoir de décision au mari chef de famille. L'instauration au Mali du devoir d'obéissance de la femme au mari illustre bien la non reconnaissance du pouvoir de décision à la femme au sein du foyer dans la plupart des législations africaines. Au Togo, la loi donne au mari la possibilité de s'opposer à l'exercice d'une profession séparée par la femme. Dans le même pays comme dans bien d'autres, les successions coutumières légalisées par le code des personnes et de la famille excluent les femmes de l'accès aux biens successoraux. Au Sénégal, au Mali, c'est toujours une disposition légale qui autorise l'application des successions musulmanes qui n'accordent aux femmes que la moitié de la part de leur collatéral homme dans la succession de leur ascendant. Les dispositions en vigueur dans les relations de travail interdisent parfois l'accès des femmes à certains emplois dans plusieurs pays ou soumettent la titularisation des femmes stagiaires à la production d'un certificat médical attestant qu'elles ne sont pas enceintes.

À ces dispositions discriminatoires s'ajoutent les vides juridiques qui ne permettent pas de protéger les femmes face aux nouvelles formes de violations de droits.

Enfin, dans la pratique, les femmes africaines continuent de subir de nombreuses violations des droits qui leur sont pourtant reconnus. Dans beaucoup de pays, elles n'ont pas le même accès à la justice que les hommes.

Les causes de ces nombreuses violations de droits des femmes sont multiples et complexes. Il y a bien sûr l'ignorance des lois et de leurs droits par les femmes, mais aussi par les hommes et les différentes composantes de la société. Cette ignorance est aggravée chez les femmes par leur situation d'analphabétisme. La pauvreté de ces dernières est un facteur favorisant la violation de droits. Il y a aussi le rôle négatif que jouent un certain nombre d'acteurs judiciaires et extrajudiciaires (magistrats, avocats, médecins, police judiciaire, chefs traditionnels et religieux) intervenant dans le règlement informel ou formel des conflits. Alors que leur mandat les prédestine naturellement à œuvrer pour la protection des droits des individus, l'observation a montré qu'ils contribuent dans bien des cas aux violations de droits des femmes [3] . Le Rapport Mondial sur le Développement Humain 2002 confirme ce constat dans un encadré sur le partis pris contre les femmes et les procédures judiciaires [4] .

Deux autres paramètres sont déterminants dans le peu de progrès enregistrés sur le plan de l'effectivité des droits des femmes. Il s'agit du manque de volonté politique des Etats qui, malgré leurs engagements, ne montrent que peu de détermination dans la plupart des pays à poser des actes concrets mais aussi de l'influence du fondamentalisme religieux.

Pour aller de l'avant il est pourtant indispensable que des pas importants soient franchis à l'avenir vers une concrétisation de ces droits.

La participation aux prises de décisions publiques : un droit encore théorique?

Un pas important a été franchi dans la représentation parlementaire des femmes au niveau de certains pays comme le Rwanda classé au premier rang mondial avec 48 % de femmes au parlement depuis 2003. Cependant, la faible représentation des femmes dans les instances de prise de décisions publiques amène à conclure que leur participation reste un droit théorique reconnu aux femmes africaines. Les statistiques de l'Union Interparlementaire sont éloquentes à cet effet. En septembre 2002, au niveau de la représentation nationale, l'Afrique subsaharienne venait en avant-dernière position (avant les pays arabes dont le pourcentage de femme dans les parlements est de 5 %) avec un taux de représentation des femmes au parlement de 13,6 % [5] . La participation au pouvoir exécutif qui n'était guère plus reluisante se situait autour de 10 % [6] . Les mêmes statistiques au 31 juillet 2004 montrent un léger progrès dans la représentation parlementaire avec une moyenne de 14,4 %, toutes chambres confondues. Ces résultats ne sont pas étonnants lorsque l'on considère que même dans la sphère privée, et notamment au sein des familles, le pouvoir de décision est toujours exercé par les hommes. Il en est ainsi également lorsque exceptionnellement, comme au Burkina Faso, selon la loi la famille doit être dirigée collégialement par l'homme et la femme.

De manière générale, les femmes du continent vivent encore dans des sociétés patriarcales au sein desquelles les hommes ont le contrôle sur la prise de décision à tous les niveaux ainsi que sur les ressources.

Persistance de la violence à l'égard des femmes, malgré quelques efforts

Des efforts ont été notés en matière de violence à l'égard des femmes depuis Beijing. Ils ont consisté en l'adoption de lois réprimant certaines formes spécifiques de violence telles que les mutilations génitales féminines, les violences domestiques et le harcèlement sexuel [7] . Les ONG ont sensibilisé les populations sur les effets de la violence à l'égard des femmes et constitué des coalitions pour lutter contre le phénomène. Cependant, la violence à l'égard des femmes persiste dans le cadre familial et professionnel, dans la communauté et la société sous diverses formes : violences physiques morales et psychologiques, bains d'acide, mutilations génitales féminines, viol conjugal, harcèlement sexuel, et exploitation des femmes et des filles etc. On continue d'assister dans beaucoup de pays à des mariages forcés de filles et au lévirat [8] , malgré l'exigence légale du consentement personnel des époux au mariage. Des formes particulières de violence comme la traite des femmes et des filles prennent de l'ampleur dans la sous région Afrique de l'Ouest.

Ici encore, les obstacles sont liés au fait que les lois sont difficilement appliquées et les ressources allouées aux actions sont insuffisantes. La pression sociale, les préjugés et les pesanteurs socioculturelles inhibent les résultats des actions qui sont menées. Si l'on a assisté à une prise de conscience de plus en plus croissante des populations et, notamment des hommes qui commencent à être associés à la lutte contre les violences à l'égard des femmes, le chemin semble encore long vers une réduction considérable de ce type de violence.

La santé : trop de femmes qui meurent encore en donnant la vie ou subissent le fléau du VIH/SIDA

Sur le plan de la santé, l'adoption de politiques et de lois notamment en santé de la reproduction a facilité la mise en œuvre de programmes sensés permettre aux femmes de progresser vers une meilleure jouissance de leurs droits et un plus grand contrôle de leur corps. Cependant, les chiffres des différents rapports annuels sur le développement humain jusqu'en 2004 ont toujours indiqué un taux élevé de mortalité maternelle et de femmes enceintes souffrant d'anémie.

Bien plus, la question émergente dans tous les pays, en matière de santé, est la vulnérabilité particulière des femmes au VIH/SIDA [9] . Différentes analyses mettent clairement en relief le lien entre les violations des autres droits des femmes et leur vulnérabilité à cette pandémie. Que trop de femmes meurent aujourd'hui encore en donnant la vie, ou subissent le VIH/SIDA, n'est donc pas une fatalité.

Des conflits armés qui continuent de peser particulièrement sur les femmes et les filles

La multiplication des situations de conflits armés en Afrique Centrale et de l'Ouest notamment favorise et accentue les formes spécifiques de violence à l'égard des femmes. Il s'agit de viols, exactions de tout genre, commis parfois par des agents de l'État ou des travailleurs humanitaires sensés les protéger. Une évolution positive en matière de répression de ces types de violences a été constatée dans le travail des tribunaux sur le Rwanda et la Sierra Leone qui ont jugé certains de ces actes. Mais cette catégorie d'actes répréhensible reste en général encore impunie.

Les femmes ont compris l'importance de s'organiser pour être plus visible dans les actions de prévention, de gestion des conflits, et de mieux participer à la reconstruction post conflit. L'exemple du Réseau de la paix en Afrique de l'Ouest des femmes de la rivière Mano (MARWOPNET) en est la preuve. Cependant, on est bien obligé de reconnaître que des efforts doivent être encore faits pour une participation des femmes au même titre que les hommes à la prévention et à la gestion des conflits ainsi qu'à la reconstruction de la paix [10] .

En toile de fond, la pauvreté qui prend un visage de femme

Tous ces constats ont pour toile de fond la pauvreté qui prend de plus en plus un visage de femme. Plusieurs actions et stratégies ont été développées par les Etats en vue de la réduction de la pauvreté comme en témoignent les nombreux plans de lutte appliqués dans les pays. Néanmoins, les plans ne sont pas conçus dans une perspective égalitaire et ils ne sont pas suffisamment sensibles aux problèmes et aux intérêts stratégiques des femmes. Les actions et stratégies qui y sont inscrites permettent rarement aux femmes d'avoir un contrôle des ressources et des facteurs de production.

Les programmes d'ajustement structurel et la globalisation sont par ailleurs des facteurs qui ont accentué la pauvreté des femmes africaines. La globalisation renforce le caractère inégalitaire de l'ordre économique mondial en limitant l'accès et la maîtrise des rouages du marché international par les femmes.

Il n'y a en définitive aucun doute que l'application qui a été faite de la plate forme d'action de Beijing n'a pas été à la hauteur des attentes des femmes africaines. Mais un des acquis de la Conférence de Beijing est que ces dernières ont pu en dix ans s'organiser davantage pour se constituer en véritable lobby poussant les gouvernements à agir. Au niveau régional, l'adoption de la parité au sein de la commission de l'Union africaine et du Conseil économique, social et culturel (ECOSOCC) [11] et d'un protocole à la Charte Africaine des Droits de l'Homme et des Peuples relatif aux Droits de la Femme sont des exemples de ce qu'elles peuvent obtenir lorsqu'elles sont bien organisées. De même au niveau national, les groupes de pression féministes ont réussi à obtenir des réformes de politiques et de lois importantes pour les femmes dans divers pays.

Il est à présent urgent que ces mouvements soient amplifiés et conduisent les États à réaliser davantage de programmes et à prendre des mesures concrètes qui font vraiment une différence dans la vie des femmes et des filles d'Afrique.

Kafui Adjamagbo-Johnson is coordinator of the Women in Law and Development in Africa (WILDAF) in West Africa (http://www.wildaf-ao.org)

NOTES
[1] Déclaration et programme d'action de Beijing suivis de Beijing+5 Déclaration politique et document final, Nations Unies, Département de l'information Organisation des Nations Unies. New York, 2002.
[2] On peut citer en exemple toute la série de lois sur les mutilations génitales féminines enregistrées à la fin des années 1990 et au début de l'an 2000 au Togo, au Sénégal, en Côte d'Ivoire, au Kenya ; l'adoption récente en 2002 du code des personnes et de la famille au Bénin, le même processus en cours au Mali et au Togo où il est plus précisément question d'une révision du code des personnes et de la famille en vigueur depuis 1980 ; l'adoption de lois également sur les violences domestiques au Sénégal, sur le harcèlement sexuel dans le même pays et en Côte d'Ivoire ; l'adoption de lois sur les quota pour la participation des femmes en politique au Cap-Vert et au Niger.
[3] Fort heureusement, les actions mises en œuvre à l'instar du programme de renforcement de capacité des acteurs judiciaires et extrajudiciaires réalisé en Afrique de l'Ouest par le WiLDAF/FeDDAF ont montré que ces acteurs peuvent contribuer plus efficacement au respect des droits des femmes lorsqu'ils sont sensibilisés et reçoivent les informations appropriées concernant les normes en vigueur.
[4] P.66.
[5] L'analyse des données par pays confirme cette tendance malgré les différences parfois considérables entre pays. Ainsi, le Sénégal enregistre le plus fort taux de participation dans la sous région Afrique de l'Ouest avec 19,2 % de femmes au parlement depuis les élections de avril 2001. Ces taux sont respectivement de 12 %, 11,7 %, 9 %, 6 % et 4,9 % au Nigeria (élections de février 1999), au Burkina-Faso (élections de mai 2002), au Ghana (élections de décembre 2000), au Bénin (élections de mars 1999).
[6] Population Reference Bureau, Les femmes dans le Monde 2002.
[7] Une campagne contre les violences faites aux femmes et le trafic des femmes et des enfants devrait débuter d'ici deux ans sur tout le continent africain si l'on se réfère à la déclaration solennelle faite par les Chefs d'État de l'Union Africaine lors de la dernière Conférence à Addis Abéba en juillet 2004. (Assembly/AU/Decl.12 (III) Rev.1)
[8] Lévirat : « Obligation d'un frère d'un défunt d'épouser la veuve sans enfants de celui-ci.»
[9] Un rapport de UNAID, UNFPA et UNIFEM de juillet 2004 révèle que 57 % des adultes séropositifs en Afrique sub-saharienne sont des femmes.
[10] Il faut espérer que l'Union Africaine mettra en œuvre ce qu'elle a déclaré sur l'intégration des femmes dans les processus de paix lors de la dernière Conférence des Chefs d'État en juillet 2004 dans la déclaration solennelle sur l'égalité entre les hommes et les femmes et qui se lit comme suit : Qu'ils ont convenus d'« assurer la pleine participation et représentation des femmes au processus de paix … et de désigner des femmes comme envoyées spéciales et représentantes spéciales de l'Union Africain;» (Assembly/AU/Decl.12 (III) Rev.1)
[11] 50 % des membres du Conseil devra respecter le principe d'égalité du genre (article 4.2).Statuts adoptés lors de la Conférence de juillet 2004. (Assembly/AU/Dec. 48 (III))
From Beijing to Addis Ababa: what has progressed for African women?

The fourth World Conference on Women held in Beijing in September 1995 raised hopes of a substantial improvement in women's condition across the world and particularly in Africa. The Beijing Declaration and programme of action considered by the United Nations' Secretary General to be "one of the most remarkable documents ever produced by an intergovernmental conference [i] " commits States to taking concrete action in twelve priority areas in relation to women's autonomy. Ten years after Beijing and on the heels of the seventh regional conference at Addis Ababa, in evaluating the implementation of the platform of Action adopted there, where are we now? Have African women and girls really made remarkable gains in such essential areas as education, fundamental human rights, violence against women, their participation in decision making, health and the fight against poverty?

Notable progress but significant challenges remain in education

Education, a fundamental human right for women, is also a tool for transformation and an essential means of implementing egalitarian objectives, development and peace. In ten years of implementation of the Beijing platform, noticeable progress has been made in education and training for women and girls. Effort to bring about universal primary education for all, positive discrimination in favour of women's and girls' education and training in areas apparently reserved for men, and awareness-raising campaigns have had encouraging results. However, there are still major constraints on equal access to education form men and women. Cultural practices and stereotypes have a negative influence on access, maintenance and development of girls across the whole school curriculum. Credits allocated are usually insufficient, girls continue to be the object of sexual harassment in educational institutions, as is evidenced by the concept of "sexually transmitted marks" which persists under different appellations in several African countries. These are only a few of the challenges to be faced before women and girls enjoy full human rights in education and training.

Towards the implementation of fundamental human rights for women

The issue of women's rights in Africa has undergone a remarkable change in the legal arena. Almost all African countries have ratified the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), a global legal instrument.

In the African region, the appointment of a special rapporteur on women's rights for the first time in 1998 by the former OAU proposed by the African Commission on women's rights was seen as an opportunity to draw greater attention to women's rights. A protocol of the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights relating to Women's Rights was adopted in July 2003.

At the national level, most constitutions recognise the same fundamental human rights for all citizens regardless of sex. The last few years have seen legislative measures aimed at global recognition and protection of women's fundamental human rights [ii] . Women have had access to free legal aid in all countries and volunteers in human rights education under the appellation of paralegals or barefoot legal workers have carried out awareness-raising work on women's rights on the ground. Capacity-building activity relating to those charged with implementing the law has been initiated. There has been considerable progress in this area.

However, many obstacles must still be overcome before women participate in full rights.

Several countries have ratified CEDAW with reservations. The protocol relating to African women's rights has still to receive the required minimum number of ratifications to become applicable. Shouldn't the current difficulties in ratifying this instrument be seen as the sign of a lack of governments' political will? Governments' have now committed themselves once again in July 2004 in Addis Ababa to ratifying the protocol before 2005. What happens at the end of the due date that they themselves have appointed, will definitively settle the question on the existence of political will to promote women's rights. And at the regional level, the first special rapporteur on women's rights as well as the current rapporteur have come up against difficulties in carrying out consistent work to promote women's rights.

At the national level, many laws still have provisions that constitute a veritable denial of women's fundamental rights: Codes on People and Families in almost all African countries confer the monopoly of decision-making power on the male head of the family. The introduction in Mali of the duty of obedience of a woman to her husband illustrates the failure to recognise the power of decision making for women in the family sphere in most African countries. In Togo, a husband has the legal right to forbid his wife from having a separate career. Also in that country, as in many others, traditional forms of inheritance enshrined in law deny women any rights of inheritance. In Senegal and Mali, the legal system authorises Islamic laws of succession under which women are permitted only half the inheritance permitted to their male relatives. Provisions in force in industrial relations sometimes forbid women's participation in certain types of work in certain countries, or permit the registration of women trainees only on production of a medical certificate certifying that they are not pregnant.

In addition to discriminatory provisions there are also gaps in legal systems which fail to protect women faced with new forms of violation of their rights.

Finally, African women continue in practice to suffer numerous violations of rights which are, in theory, recognised. In many countries they do not have the same access to justice as men.

The causes of such numerous violations of women's rights are many and complex. There is, of course, ignorance of the law and of their rights on the part of women, but also on the part of men and the different strands of society. This ignorance is aggravated by illiteracy among women. Their poverty is an additional factor contributing to violation of their rights. A negative role is also played by certain holders of judicial and extrajudicial positions (magistrates, lawyers, doctors, police, traditional and religious leaders) intervening in the informal or formal resolution of conflicts. Despite the fact that their mandate constrains them to act to protect the rights of individuals, observation has shown that in many cases they contribute to violations of women's rights[iii] . The Global Report on Human Development 2002 confirms this on a section on prejudice against women and legal proceedings[iv] .

Two other factors in determining progress in implementing women's rights. They are the lack of political will in States which, despite their commitments, show little enthusiasm in most countries in carrying out concrete reforms; and the influence of religious fundamentalism.

Nonetheless, looking to the future it is vital that certain significant steps are taken towards the implementation of these rights.

Participation in public decision making: still only a theoretical right?

An important step has been taken in the representation of women in government by countries such as Rwanda, now among world leaders with 48% female members of parliament since 2003. However, the generally poor representation of woman in public decision making indicates that their participation remains only a theoretical right for African women. Statistics compiled by the Interparliamentary Union are eloquent. In September 2002, at the national level, sub-Saharan Africa came next to last (before the Arab countries whose percentage of women in parliament was 5%) with a total of women in parliament of 13.6%[v] . Participation in executive power, which was hardly any more impressive stood at 10% for sub-Saharan Africa [vi] . The same statistics at 31 July 2004 show slight progress in parliamentary representation with an average of 14.4% of all houses combined. These results are hardly surprising when one considers that, even in the private sphere, and particularly within families, decision making is always accorded to men. It is also the case even when, unusually, families, according to the law, has been headed by the man and woman in partnership.

In general, women in the Continent still live in patriarchal societies where men control decision making at all levels as well as controlling resources.

Persistence of violence against women, despite some action

Some action is noteworthy in respect of violence against women since Beijing. This consists in the adoption of laws outlawing certain specific forms of violence such as female genital mutilation, domestic violence and sexual harassment[vii] . NGOs have raised awareness among populations about the effects of violence against women and set up coalitions to fight this phenomenon. However, violence against women still persists in the professional and domestic spheres, in the community and in society in many forms: physical, moral and psychological violence, acid baths, female genital mutilation, marital rape, sexual harassment, exploitation of women and girls etc. In many countries forced marriages still continue along with Levirat[viii] , despite legal requirement for the consent of both parties to a marriage. Particular forms of violence such as trafficking in women and girls are increasing in volume in the West African sub-region.

Here again, obstacles are linked to the fact that it is difficult to enforce the law and the resources allocated are inadequate. Social pressure, prejudice and sociocultural inhibitions prevent action from being effective. If one has observed a growing awareness among populations and particularly among men who are beginning to be associated with the fight against violence against women, the road leading to a significant reduction in this type of violence seems a long one.

Health: still too many women dying or facing the scourge of HIV/Aids

In the health arena, the adoption of policies and laws addressing reproductive health issues in particular has facilitated the setting up of programmes designed to allow women a greater enjoyment of their rights and control of their bodies. Nonetheless, figures from the different annual reports on human development up to 2004 have continued to indicate high levels of maternal mortality and incidence of anaemia among pregnant women.

Furthermore, an emerging question in all countries, in relation to health, has been the particular vulnerability of women to HIV/Aids[ix] . Different analyses throw into sharp relief the links between violations of women's other rights and their susceptibility to this pandemic. It is no accident that too many women die or have to suffer from HIV/Aids.

Armed conflicts continue to impose a particular burden on women and girls

The increase in situations of armed conflict particularly in Central and West Africa gives rise to and exacerbates specific forms of violence against women. This includes rape and coercion of all kinds, sometimes committed by agents of the State or by humanitarian workers charged with their protection. One positive outcome in limiting this type of violence has been seen in the work of the tribunals in Rwanda and Sierra Leone which have passed judgement on this type of act. But in general this type of reprehensible act remains unpunished.

Women have understood the importance of organising themselves to be more visible in preventive work, during the conduct of conflicts and in post-conflict reconstruction. One example of this is the Network of Women of the Mano River for Peace (MARWOPNET). However, we need to recognise that more effort is needed to enable women's participation on an equal basis with men in the prevention and conduct of war as well as in reconstruction in peacetime[x] .

A context in which poverty has a woman's face

All these facts have as their background a kind of poverty which increasingly has a woman's face. Several actions and strategies have been developed by States with the objective of reducing poverty, as is evidenced by the numerous action plans undertaken across countries. Nonetheless, such plans have not been conceived from an egalitarian perspective and they have not been sufficiently sensitive to the problems and strategic interests of women. The action and strategies developed rarely give women control of resources or means of production.

Moreover, structural adjustment programmes and globalisation have exacerbated the poverty of African women. Globalisation reinforces the inegalitarian character of the world economic order while limiting access for women to control of the internal workings of the international market.

There is no doubt at all that the implementation of the Beijing platform of action has failed to meet the expectations of African women. But one of the advantages of the Beijing Conference has been that during ten years women have been able to organise themselves into a genuine lobby group pushing governments to act. At the regional level, the adoption of parity within the Commission of the African Union and the Economic, Social and Cultural Council (ECOSOCC) [xi] and the protocol to the African Charter of Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women are examples of what can be won when women are well organised. Similarly, at the national level, feminist pressure groups have succeeded in obtaining important political and legal reforms for women in a variety of countries.

It is now an urgent matter to enlarge these movements and bring States to develop further programmes and take concrete measures which will make a real difference to the lives of women and girls in Africa.

i. Beijing Declaration and programme of action and Beijing+5 policy Declaration and final document, United Nations Information Department, UNO, New York, 2002.
ii. For example, the whole series of laws on female genital mutilation enacted at the end of the 1990s and at the beginning of 2000 in Togo, Senegal, Ivory Coast and Kenya; the recent adoption in 2002 of the Code on People and Families in Benin and the same precess currently under way in Mali and Togo, where Codes on People and Families in existence since 1980 are being revised; the adoption of laws on domestic violence in Senegal; on sexual harassment in Senegal and Ivory Coars; and the adoption of quotas for women's participation in political life in Cape Verde and Niger.
iii. Fortunately, capacity-building work among holders of judicial and extrajudicial positions begun in West Africa by WiLDAF/FeDDAF has shown that such people do contribute more effectively to respect for women's rights if they are made aware and receive appropriate information concerning current legal norms.
iv. P.66.
v. Analysis of the data by country confirms this trend, despite considerable differences between countries. For example, Senegal has the highest level of participation in West Africa with 19.2% of women in parliament since its elections in April 2001. The totals are respectively 12%, 11.7%, 9%,6% and 4.9% in Nigeria (elections in February 1999), Burkina Faso (elections in May 2002), Ghan (elections in December 2000) and Benin (elections in March 1000).
vi. Population Reference Bureau, Women in the World, 2002.
vii. A campaign against violence against women and trafficking in women and children should commence in two years across Africa instigated by the solemn declaration made by the Heads of State of the African Union at the time of the recent Addis Ababa Conference in July 2004. (Assembly/AU/Decl.12(III Rev.1)
viii. Levirat: "Duty of the brother of a deceased husband to marry his childless widow".
ix. A report by UNAID, UNFPA and UNIFEM in July 2004 reveals that 57% of HIV positive adults in sub-Saharan Africa are women.
x. It is to be hoped that the African Union will implement its declaration on the integration of women in the peace process at the time of the recent Conference of Heads of State in July 2004 in the solemn declaration on equality between men and women, which reads as follows: that they agree to "assure the full participation and representation of women in the peace process … and to designate women as special envoys and representatives of the African Union" (Assembly/AU.Decl.12 (III) Rev.1)
xi. 50% of the Council's members are committed to the principle of gender equality (article 4.2). Agreement adopted at the Conference in July 2004 (Assembly/AU/Dec.48(III))


2 The road to Beijing, emerging human rights issues that need attention: trafficking in women and children

Marren Akatsa-Bukachi

2004-09-30

http://pambazuka.org/en/category/features/24945

"All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood."
Article 1, Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 1948

This article examines the emerging human rights issue of trafficking in humans, mainly women and children. In a protocol supplementing the United Nations Convention Against Transnational Organized Crime, trafficking has been defined as: "…the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons, by means of the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, for the purpose of exploitation.

Exploitation shall include, at a minimum, the exploitation of the prostitution of others or other forms of sexual exploitation, forced labour or services, slavery or practises similar to slavery, servitude or the removal of organs."

Statistics about trafficking are unreliable for a number of reasons, including the clandestine nature of the activity. However, rough estimates suggest between 700,000 to 2 million women are trafficked across international borders annually. Adding domestic trafficking would bring the total much higher, to perhaps 4 million persons per year. Although slavery has been abolished from the world, the trade in human misery continues. Women are still considered property in some communities and may be sold into marriage. Men or women may be coerced into working in brothels, sweat shops, construction sites and fields. Many illegal immigrant workers may be subjected to sexual violence, horrific living conditions, threats against their families and dangerous workplaces. The majority of trafficked people are women and girls, most of who, according to experts, are sent from Africa and Eastern Europe for the sex trade in Western Europe. Thus, human trafficking is the fastest growing form of modern day slavery and our governments must play a concerted role to deal with it.

Although the problem is worldwide this paper will examine the problem as it affects Africa in particular.

The Dimensions of the Problem

Human trafficking has become a global business, generating huge profits for traffickers. New trafficking routes are regularly established and the market for fraudulent travel documents, clandestine transportation and border crossing has become increasingly well organised. Some victims are lured into subjugation by advertisements for good jobs. Others are sold into service by a relative, acquaintance or family friend. Traffickers target the most vulnerable and poor and may show up during a drought or before harvest, when food is scarce, to persuade poor families to sell their daughters for small amounts of money. According to a UNICEF study released in April 2004, about 80 percent of African countries researched, practice some form of human trafficking. The study also found that children were the most vulnerable to being exploited. Fifty-three countries were surveyed in this extensive research into the problem of human trafficking in Africa and analysis reported that although it was not possible to get reliable estimates on the actual number of people being trafficked, it continues to be a huge problem. The study found that in almost 89 percent of the cases, trafficking was conducted internally in Africa, meaning trafficking of women and children from African countries to African countries. The study also found that in 34 percent of the cases, there were cases of trafficking to Europe, and more interestingly, 26 percent of African countries were reporting trafficking directly to Middle Eastern and Arab countries. Trafficking is also increasing the HIV/AIDS scourge fuelled by the myth about curative powers of virginity of young girls. In some of the hardest hit countries, teenage girls are infected at five-to six times compared to that of teenage boys. Trafficking in children is a global problem affecting large numbers of children. Some estimates have as many as 1.2 million children being trafficked every year.[i] There is demand for trafficked children as cheap labour or for sexual exploitation. Children and their families are often unaware of the dangers of trafficking, believing that better employment and lives lie in other countries.

Root Causes and reasons for Trafficking in human beings

- Poverty and inequity are believed to be the root causes of trafficking;
- Conflict situations are a fertile environment for human trafficking;
- Gender discrimination within the family and the larger community, as well as a tolerance of violence against women and children, also come into play;
- Lack of appropriate legislation and political will to address the problem;
- Restrictive immigration policies;
- Globalisation of the sex industry; and
- The involvement of transnational organised crime networks is another causal factor.

The situation in Africa- A scan

In Africa, every country represents a different problem. Patterns of instability, oppression and discrimination may place women and children at greater risk, with social and cultural prejudices and the prevalence of gender violence presenting additional challenges to their effective protection from trafficking. The links between poverty, violence and trafficking have been compounded by the effects of HIV/AIDS. For many Africans trapped in the trade, it can be difficult to escape the clutches of traffickers. Often the victims' families boost their low income by tacitly cooperating with traffickers, which some see as the only option for leaving their countries and the accompanying problems. The only way out they have is to move, and since it is illegal in many instances to enter another border without proper authorisation, the only option they have is to go through trafficking patterns.

Trafficking is perceived as a particular problem among West and Central African countries, mainly because most of the countries in the region are origin countries.[ii] In West Africa, victims originating from war torn Ivory Coast, Liberia and Sierra Leone, end up in Nigeria and Gabon, while individuals from countries such as Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Mozambique, Zambia, and Angola are taken to South Africa, one of the only countries with an anti trafficking programme. African governments have not ratified much in terms of international conventions. The laws are inadequate so that while traffickers are usually apprehended, they are rarely condemned. For example, in Benin there is no anti-trafficking law but the country does have decrees, issued in 1905 and 1920, which address international and transnational trafficking. A 1961 law addresses the movement of minors under the age of 18 across borders and a 1973 ordinance modified the penal code 'sur la traite des personnes et l'enlèvement des mineurs.' In Burkina Faso, trafficking is a serious problem due its geographical location at the centre of Africa. It has become a transit country that receives people from different parts of the continent. Burkina Faso subscribes to the definition of trafficking in the UN Trafficking Protocol. Cote D'ivoire is a country of destination, transit and origin. However, there is still no law expressly forbidding trafficking. Due to the political crisis in the country authorities have not been able to pay sufficient attention to human trafficking. Many African governments are yet to ratify the main international conventions outlawing the trade in humans. African countries need to increase efforts and work in close cooperation with one another to eradicate trafficking in humans. South Africa has become a major centre for the problem-simultaneously a destination, a trading point and a source of human sale. Human trafficking in South Africa is currently dealt with under a variety of laws such as those against kidnapping and prostitution, which government agencies say have proved inadequate in dealing with the crime. A new law to specifically criminalize trafficking for sexual purposes is currently being prepared for consideration by legislators. As recently as August 2004, Home Affairs Ministers from Southern African Countries meeting in Tanzania, ordered law enforcements in the region to intensify measures against human trafficking. The ministers also pledged to review legislation in their respective countries to ease the transfer of evidence for criminal prosecution of suspects.

UN and African Protocols

The United Nations Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, especially women and Children, supplementing the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime was adopted on 15 November 2000 by resolution A/RES/55/25 and came into force on 25 December 2003. Although the majority of African countries have signed the original protocol, (Transnational Organized Crime), those that have ratified it as of 18 September 2004 include, Algeria, Benin, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Egypt, Gambia, Lesotho, Mali, Namibia, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, South Africa but with reservations, and Tunisia. Countries such as Kenya, Malawi, Sudan, and Zimbabwe, to mention but a few have not even signed the Protocol. Out of fifty-three African countries, the figure is dismal indeed.

At the Africa level, African governments have their own Protocol on the Rights of Women that is in African Women's eyes, the most wide-ranging and woman-friendly protocol ever adopted by African governments. The Protocol guarantees a wide range of women's civil and political rights as well as economic, social and cultural rights, thus reaffirming the universality, indivisibility and interdependency of all internationally recognized human rights of women. These rights include the right to life, integrity and security of person, protection from harmful traditional practises, prohibition of discrimination and the protection of women in armed conflict. Moreover, the Protocol guarantees the right to health and reproductive rights of women; access to justices; equal protection before the law, and prohibits exploitation or degradation of women. In sum, the Protocol obligates state parties to integrate gender perspectives in their policy decisions, legislation, development plans and to ensure the overall well being of women. African governments have to push for the ratification of the Protocol by the end of 2004. So far, ratification of the Protocol which was made by the AU Assembly in 2003 at its 2nd Summit in Maputo, Mozambique is a far cry from the commitments to achieve a speedy and regional wide ratification and thus remains largely unfulfilled.

The Protocol is an important tool relevant to everyday lives of women and would enable women to bring their concerns to the attention of regional human rights bodies such as the African Court of Human and People's Rights.

From the above, it is noted with concern that governments in Africa are not giving the issue of trafficking in human beings the priority that it deserves. Now that the Protocol has been adopted, African governments should show their commitment to ending discrimination and violence against women and the issue of trafficking in women and children, (italics mine) by ensuring a speedy and full ratification to pave the way for a prompt entry into force of the instrument, and its effective implementation (Amnesty international).

It is strongly recommended that:

- Governments Ratify the Protocol on the Rights of Women in Africa without further delay and without reservations.
- Implement the protocol by reviewing all national laws, policies, practises and procedures to ensure that they meet the obligations set out in the Protocol. States parties should incorporate the rights enshrined in the Protocol into their domestic legislation and take all necessary measures to implement the instruments in good faith
- Ratify all other regional and international human rights instruments essential for the effective promotion and protection of women's human rights in Africa and examining any limiting reservations, with a view to withdrawing them. This is particularly important in the case of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, (CEDAW), where the commitment of many governments is seriously undermined by the extent of their reservations.
- Ensure the provision of specialised assistance for the support, rehabilitation and compensation for women whose rights have been violated under the Protocol;
- Train and sensitise judicial and police officials with regards to women's human rights recognised under the Protocol and other relevant instruments.
- Anti trafficking efforts across the continent must be strengthened by enacting tough laws and by punishing those responsible for trading in human beings.

If fully ratified and implemented, the Protocol on the Rights of Women could become an important framework for ending impunity for all attacks on human rights of women in Africa. The member states of the African Union made a commitment to sign and ratify the protocol by the end of 2004. We urge them to fully adhere to this commitment. It is not too late!!!!!

Marren Akatsa-Bukachi is Executive Director of Eastern African Subregional Support Initiative for the Advancement of Women (EASSI), Kampala, Uganda
http://www.eassi.org

NOTES
i. material from UNICEF
ii. Adapted from 'Patterns, root causes and policy responses to trafficking in women and children'. Africa;


3 The Human Rights of African Women in the 21st century

Patricia McFadden

2004-09-30

http://pambazuka.org/en/category/features/24943

One of the most profoundly amazing features of human society is the manner in which we have created – often through difficult and protracted struggles amongst ourselves, notions and practices of inclusion and acceptability, as well as brutal rituals and systems of exclusion and denigration. The human narrative is rife with battles over the ownership of wealth and identity; over the occupancy of space and the control over the physical and creative capacities of some groups or individuals by others. We have differentiated amongst ourselves on the basis of colour and race; gender; location; sexual orientation; ability and; social class. All of these markers have fractured and or cemented into seemingly impenetrable and unchangeable social and cultural notions of who is considered human and who can or cannot belong to the heavily mediated and qualified ways.

All social groups and communities in the world have traveled the path of struggle and resistance against different forms of exclusion and impunity. And each group and the individuals who constitute it, have had to find the courage and the desire to imagine themselves 'outside' the bounded notions and enclosures that their respective societies have tried to lock them into. Working people; people with disabilities; black people, female people; people with a non-heterosexual orientation; and numerous other social groups have had to resist exclusion in order to initiate the process of becoming part of their societies. For example, working people have over the millennia struggled and demanded to be remunerated for their labour, and for as long as they fought as
individuals, trapped in a fundamentally unequal relationship to those who controlled and owned the means through which human life is sustained, they did not have a snow-balls chance in hell of succeeding.

However, when they finally recognized that collective agency is the most powerful resource available to those who are faced with discrimination and exploitation, the journey towards a changing relationship with their societies, and those who wielded power was initiated. And, most crucially, this journey entailed stepping outside the boundaries of the privatized locations within which human labour could and had been ruthlessly exploited, largely through the manipulation of individual vulnerabilities, fears and insecurities. The crucial change occurred when the struggles of working people became both public and political – and their demands and interests were located within the public domain. This led to the phenomenon of Rights as Entitlements to become a historical fact that had to be reckoned with, acknowledged and respected – albeit still with the caveat that the struggle to ensure and improve, exercise and protect those rights remains a central priority of all worker's movements and organizations universally.

Black people have taken a very similar journey through the human historical – especially during the past half millennium; bought and sold with impunity, commodified in ways that are unimaginable but real in the living memory of millions of Africans around the world, immortalized in the blatantly inhuman practices of enslavement and barbaric cruelty on all the continents of the earth. And whilst the struggle against racist exclusion and supremacist impunity continues to rage on the African continent and in the diaspora, the transition from enslavement to recognition that Africans are human and persons occurs also when we collectively, persistently and with incorrigible resilience, struggle against the violation of our integrity and personhood as individuals with a collective identity and agency.

Why have I used such a detailed preface to arrive at the issue of the rights of African women today? There are many reasons, but for purposes of this short discussion, I would like to draw attention to two aspects or commonalities among these three social categories of human beings who have had to 'earn' the right to be recognized, and sometimes treated as human beings – and more recently as citizens of the societies they live in.

First of all, it is important to draw attention to the historical significances and commonalities between the struggles of working people, black people and women. We must look at these groups within a context and time period where neo-liberalism is trying to depoliticize and appropriate the legacies of each group in the academy, through post-structuralist and post-modernist claims and dismissive rhetoric, and through scrutiny, censorship and the sanitization of political debates at the policy levels in both state and civil society groups everywhere.

Secondly, while the struggles against exploitation, racism and sexism have been waged at different moments and in varied arenas over centuries of time, it is in the lives and on the bodies of black women – of African women – that these three crucial social differentiators play themselves out in the most dramatic and in-human ways.

Much has been written, said, declared and pronounced with regard to the human rights of women – globally and within Africa, much of which is admirable and often quoted. Therefore, while the statement in Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights that proclaims "All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards each other in a spirit of brotherhood" flew in the face of colonial and apartheid reality, in addition to being overtly and unabashedly sexist and exclusionary in its language and content – it did mark an interesting moment in the ideological and moral shift within the West as well as globally.

Without a doubt, since 1948 women all over the world have become visible and vocal in ways that were unthinkable only a few decades ago. In 1993, through the crafting of the Vienna Declaration, women from all walks of life across the globe insisted on the recognition and adoption of an international protocol that stated categorically that "The Human Rights of women and the girl-child are an inalienable and indivisible part of Universal Human Rights" (Article 18). With hind-sight, it is clear that we have come a long way within human society; from a place where we were booty and bounty – things to be bought sold, exchanged and used – to currently standing at the cusp of a vibrant, modern identity; an identity that has become one of the most distinctive features of the progress in all our societies. Our conviction in ourselves and the determination to change our communities, families, societies, nations – the world, have become the flags that governments and often quietly resentful males of all classes, ages, colours and social statuses nonetheless proclaim as collective social achievements.

However, beyond the Conventions and Declarations lies the reality that much of what is understood as women's human rights are still basically rhetorical and inaccessible to the majority of African women. There are undoubtedly instances where small minorities of middle class women who have the knowledge, resources, mobility and courage to demand access, are able to exercise such rights in situations that affect their private and public lives. But for the vast majority of African women, rights are barely a dream; especially for those women who are located in the deeply feudal, privatized spaces of the countryside, or in the slums and ghettos on the margins of the cities and towns, or in the desolate vulnerability of so-called refugee camps – places where misogynist violation and impunity rampage across the lives and bodies of women and their children with a vengeance almost impossible to imagine or bear. Here, in these places of ruin and destruction, of incredible pain and waste of human life and worth - awaits the critical challenge to the claim that African women have human rights that are real and reachable.

That is why I would like to interrogate and juxtapose, even if only briefly, the claims of the current notion of Human Rights, in its liberal, universalistic, all-inclusive rhetorical construction, against an analysis of women's oppression and social exclusion from the category of 'human-ness'. 'Human-ness' centers the notions of bodily/physical integrity, autonomy, dignity and personhood vis-a vis the prevailing and dominant systems and practices of patriarchal supremacy, impunity, sexism and the private ownership of women as 'things' – as social goods that are born, bred, socialized and used by males, everywhere.

The fact of the matter is that Rights are the social outcomes of struggles and political engagements not only with the state, but with those institutions and structures within patriarchal societies that have institutionalized and preserved – and which protect and perpetuate the privileges and prerogatives – of maleness and male power. In every African country, the state, core patriarchal institutions and individuals across all the social divides, actively and deliberately collude and perpetuate practices and cultural myths that facilitate for or directly violate the human-ness of women and female children.

And the patriarchal, heterosexual family is the earliest and most resistant site of male control over the female body and its capabilities. In Africa, one need only look at the relationships of authority, control, surveillance and violation that men exercise over women and female children in particular, as their 'right' as the man who owns a family (or even as a brother or uncle) to see the connections between the denial of women's human-ness and personhood, and the perpetuation and institutionalization of male privilege in all the societies of the continent.

In these privatized spaces of families and rural areas where often the most basic infrastructure through which individuals could begin to acquire a consciousness of entitlement and a sense of being 'righted' simply do not exist, millions of women and female children survive in almost pre-historic conditions. The state remains a distant arbiter of tensions and conflict among males, often intervening only to intensify the crises of social and political reproduction in a particular location – in places like Darfur at the present time – and women and their families become trapped in the age-old struggles between males over the control of critical resources – both material and ideological, with disastrous consequences. In situations such as these, it becomes crystal clear that in spite of the fine sounding rhetoric and the claims by neo-colonial African states that they recognize and respect the rights of women (and poor men), the reality is actually radically different.
[...]

[...]
Rights have to be understood and experienced not only as rhetorical devices in the articulation of demands and particular interests by classes or social categories of people within a society. Much more than that, they have to become the expression of an interactive, negotiated, flexible and mutually respective relationship between individuals – in this case women as individual persons – and the state, which is the dominant social and political player in the lives of Africans at the present time, regardless of whether we accept the existence of the state or not.

Humans invent and create states as mechanisms through which the tensions between and among groups and classes of people can be discussed, managed, negotiated and hopefully resolved. We create states so that they can manage and distribute, in the most equitable manner, those critical resources that our societies are endowed with, on behalf of those who cannot compete with others – for reasons related either to class, age, gender, and or other exclusionary systems that emerge in societies that are socially and economically differentiated.

Therefore, for all the reasons that historians, social scientists, and philosophers have ponder upon and debated for millennia, the state must always be made accountable and responsible to the people, regardless of who the people are. This is a fundamental premise for the existence of the state. And the protection of women's physical, sexual, and bodily integrity as citizens of our societies is neither negotiable nor open to any kind of compromise. The integrity and wholeness of women's bodies; their right to a life with dignity and protection is a responsibility that the state cannot and must not be allowed to compromise as an accommodation of some backward notion of cultural authenticity or African-ness. The Right of women and girls to integrity in all its aspects is fundamental to making rights real for women everywhere.

Pat McFadden is a feminist activist and writer currently based in the US.
* The full text of this article is available at the link shown below
One of the most profoundly amazing features of human society is the manner in which we have created – often through difficult and protracted struggles amongst ourselves, notions and practices of inclusion and acceptability, as well as brutal rituals and systems of exclusion and denigration. The human narrative is rife with battles over the ownership of wealth and identity; over the occupancy of space and the control over the physical and creative capacities of some groups or individuals by others. We have differentiated amongst ourselves on the basis of colour and race; gender; location; sexual orientation; ability and; social class. All of these markers have fractured and or cemented into seemingly impenetrable and unchangeable social and cultural notions of who is considered human and who can or cannot belong to the heavily mediated and qualified ways.

All social groups and communities in the world have traveled the path of struggle and resistance against different forms of exclusion and impunity. And each group and the individuals who constitute it, have had to find the courage and the desire to imagine themselves 'outside' the bounded notions and enclosures that their respective societies have tried to lock them into. Working people; people with disabilities; black people, female people; people with a non-heterosexual orientation; and numerous other social groups have had to resist exclusion in order to initiate the process of becoming part of their societies. For example, working people have over the millennia struggled and demanded to be remunerated for their labour, and for as long as they fought as
individuals, trapped in a fundamentally unequal relationship to those who controlled and owned the means through which human life is sustained, they did not have a snow-balls chance in hell of succeeding.

However, when they finally recognized that collective agency is the most powerful resource available to those who are faced with discrimination and exploitation, the journey towards a changing relationship with their societies, and those who wielded power was initiated. And, most crucially, this journey entailed stepping outside the boundaries of the privatized locations within which human labour could and had been ruthlessly exploited, largely through the manipulation of individual vulnerabilities, fears and insecurities. The crucial change occurred when the struggles of working people became both public and political – and their demands and interests were located within the public domain. This led to the phenomenon of Rights as Entitlements to become a historical fact that had to be reckoned with, acknowledged and respected – albeit still with the caveat that the struggle to ensure and improve, exercise and protect those rights remains a central priority of all worker's movements and organizations universally.

Black people have taken a very similar journey through the human historical – especially during the past half millennium; bought and sold with impunity, commodified in ways that are unimaginable but real in the living memory of millions of Africans around the world, immortalized in the blatantly inhuman practices of enslavement and barbaric cruelty on all the continents of the earth. And whilst the struggle against racist exclusion and supremacist impunity continues to rage on the African continent and in the diaspora, the transition from enslavement to recognition that Africans are human and persons occurs also when we collectively, persistently and with incorrigible resilience, struggle against the violation of our integrity and personhood as individuals with a collective identity and agency.

Why have I used such a detailed preface to arrive at the issue of the rights of African women today? There are many reasons, but for purposes of this short discussion, I would like to draw attention to two aspects or commonalities among these three social categories of human beings who have had to 'earn' the right to be recognized, and sometimes treated as human beings – and more recently as citizens of the societies they live in.

First of all, it is important to draw attention to the historical significances and commonalities between the struggles of working people, black people and women. We must look at these groups within a context and time period where neo-liberalism is trying to depoliticize and appropriate the legacies of each group in the academy, through post-structuralist and post-modernist claims and dismissive rhetoric, and through scrutiny, censorship and the sanitization of political debates at the policy levels in both state and civil society groups everywhere.

Secondly, while the struggles against exploitation, racism and sexism have been waged at different moments and in varied arenas over centuries of time, it is in the lives and on the bodies of black women – of African women – that these three crucial social differentiators play themselves out in the most dramatic and in-human ways.

Much has been written, said, declared and pronounced with regard to the human rights of women – globally and within Africa, much of which is admirable and often quoted. Therefore, while the statement in Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights that proclaims "All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards each other in a spirit of brotherhood" flew in the face of colonial and apartheid reality, in addition to being overtly and unabashedly sexist and exclusionary in its language and content – it did mark an interesting moment in the ideological and moral shift within the West as well as globally.

Without a doubt, since 1948 women all over the world have become visible and vocal in ways that were unthinkable only a few decades ago. In 1993, through the crafting of the Vienna Declaration, women from all walks of life across the globe insisted on the recognition and adoption of an international protocol that stated categorically that "The Human Rights of women and the girl-child are an inalienable and indivisible part of Universal Human Rights" (Article 18). With hind-sight, it is clear that we have come a long way within human society; from a place where we were booty and bounty – things to be bought sold, exchanged and used – to currently standing at the cusp of a vibrant, modern identity; an identity that has become one of the most distinctive features of the progress in all our societies. Our conviction in ourselves and the determination to change our communities, families, societies, nations – the world, have become the flags that governments and often quietly resentful males of all classes, ages, colours and social statuses nonetheless proclaim as collective social achievements.

However, beyond the Conventions and Declarations lies the reality that much of what is understood as women's human rights are still basically rhetorical and inaccessible to the majority of African women. There are undoubtedly instances where small minorities of middle class women who have the knowledge, resources, mobility and courage to demand access, are able to exercise such rights in situations that affect their private and public lives. But for the vast majority of African women, rights are barely a dream; especially for those women who are located in the deeply feudal, privatized spaces of the countryside, or in the slums and ghettos on the margins of the cities and towns, or in the desolate vulnerability of so-called refugee camps – places where misogynist violation and impunity rampage across the lives and bodies of women and their children with a vengeance almost impossible to imagine or bear. Here, in these places of ruin and destruction, of incredible pain and waste of human life and worth - awaits the critical challenge to the claim that African women have human rights that are real and reachable.

That is why I would like to interrogate and juxtapose, even if only briefly, the claims of the current notion of Human Rights, in its liberal, universalistic, all-inclusive rhetorical construction, against an analysis of women's oppression and social exclusion from the category of 'human-ness'. 'Human-ness' centers the notions of bodily/physical integrity, autonomy, dignity and personhood vis-a vis the prevailing and dominant systems and practices of patriarchal supremacy, impunity, sexism and the private ownership of women as 'things' – as social goods that are born, bred, socialized and used by males, everywhere.

The fact of the matter is that Rights are the social outcomes of struggles and political engagements not only with the state, but with those institutions and structures within patriarchal societies that have institutionalized and preserved – and which protect and perpetuate the privileges and prerogatives – of maleness and male power. In every African country, the state, core patriarchal institutions and individuals across all the social divides, actively and deliberately collude and perpetuate practices and cultural myths that facilitate for or directly violate the human-ness of women and female children.

And the patriarchal, heterosexual family is the earliest and most resistant site of male control over the female body and its capabilities. In Africa, one need only look at the relationships of authority, control, surveillance and violation that men exercise over women and female children in particular, as their 'right' as the man who owns a family (or even as a brother or uncle) to see the connections between the denial of women's human-ness and personhood, and the perpetuation and institutionalization of male privilege in all the societies of the continent.

In these privatized spaces of families and rural areas where often the most basic infrastructure through which individuals could begin to acquire a consciousness of entitlement and a sense of being 'righted' simply do not exist, millions of women and female children survive in almost pre-historic conditions. The state remains a distant arbiter of tensions and conflict among males, often intervening only to intensify the crises of social and political reproduction in a particular location – in places like Darfur at the present time – and women and their families become trapped in the age-old struggles between males over the control of critical resources – both material and ideological, with disastrous consequences. In situations such as these, it becomes crystal clear that in spite of the fine sounding rhetoric and the claims by neo-colonial African states that they recognize and respect the rights of women (and poor men), the reality is actually radically different.

Millions of women become trapped in restricted social situations where they remain the private property of both their male counterparts as well as the controlling state; outside the reach of any social reforms and legal protections that the African women's Movement may have been able to put in place at the level of the state. Thus, women's lives are regulated and determined mainly through social status laws and conventions that keep them isolated and unable to transform themselves into autonomous citizens in their own right as human beings. And when crisis erupts in these fragile, desolate places they call home, they are the first to experience the wrath and impunity of being without a personhood or and identity that is respected and protected by the state and other social institutions.

The images of African women, desperately clutching their infants – in flight – without any rights and protections and unable to demand the accountability of the state and of the males whose jingoism and greed feed the chaos and destruction that rages around them and on their bodies; in their lives, often for decades – these images remind us in tragically poignant ways, that the reality between a pompous declaration that 'all are equal as human beings before the global and national state' are lies and hypocritical drivel.

None of the African states have made substantive efforts to translate the actual content of the CEDAW or Beijing Platform for Action protocols into reality at the national and local levels, and in spite of their claims that they recognize women as equal citizens in the recently adopted 'Women Charter' that forms part of the African Charter on Human and People's Rights, they all still fail the most fundamental test of such claims: when crises erupt on the continent, not a single African state has taken a stand in the African Union or in regional structures like the SADC to protect and defend the integrity and dignity of those citizens who cannot jet-off to a safe haven in France or London.

The atrocities that continue to be committed, with unmitigated impunity upon the lives of millions of women, children, elderly and disabled people in the DRC, Côte d'Ivoire, Sudan, and in other so-called hot spots on the continent, are testimony to the emptiness that accompanies the UN declarations about rights and dignity for most Africans.

At the crux of the matter is the blatant fact that the neo-colonial state does not consider the people under its domain either as citizens or human beings deserving of the most basic human dignities and respect. For over five decades, cliques of black men have ruthlessly used the state to position themselves as rulers over the very people they promised a life with pride as Africans. Each time I fly South African airways and I hear the expression " proudly South African" it makes me feel sick to the stomach because it's so opportunistically a mobilization of people's nationalist instincts towards to the consolidation of a national project that is basically about enabling a small group of black men to accumulate and rule, these days, in cahoots with an even greedier hoard of white males whose true colours we know only too well – they basked in the privilege provided by apartheid and now they are roaming across the continent, driven by an unquenchable appetite for profit and material wealth whose ruthlessness has laid waste the lives of millions of Africans across the southern African region over the past three centuries. And they seem unstoppable now, what with the connivance of hungry and eager black counterparts in all the countries of the continent that have been waiting to realise themselves as a true capitalist class.

Next to the interests and needs of an emerging ruling class to acquire the long-desired status of owners of immense wealth and power, what chance does the demand of a poor, rural woman have; who never had the chance to learn how to read and write – and know that she was born 'equal and free' – and whose life, and that of all her foremothers has been essentially an endless struggle to survive? ZERO – without the commitment and dedication of individuals who have the wherewithal to make the kinds of demands and put the kinds of pressure on the state that will enable each and every person in all our societies to enter into a direct relationship with the state – through the provision of access to the most essential activities and practices that underpin a modern social system.

As far as I am concerned, and I have said this repeatedly over the years, we have to become modern as Africans. We have to re-position ourselves in relation to the modernist project in ways that reject the European hegemonization of modernity as a moment through which they plundered the rest of the world and then exported their deeply flawed versions of life and 'being in the world' as Edward Said would say – insisting that we imitate them and replicate their economic, social, cultural and political values – often without question. And while the anti-colonial, anti-imperialist struggles have marked the 20th century as a century of resistance – in terms of the rights of women, black people, people of the South, etc – we still have not broken free of the ideological fatuousness of liberal rhetoric, particularly when it comes to issues of Rights and notions of democracy and citizenship.

Democracy, rights and citizenship remain deeply entrenched in discourses and systems of property ownership and privilege, defined largely by the experiences and world-views of white males, and emulated almost to perfection by most black men in and out of the state across the continent and the world. That is why so little has been done to change the character of politics and political practice in all our societies. Instead, we see an 'appropriate' version of colonial politics everywhere, which continues to exclude the people from the practice of politics and the definition of identity, even as it rallies the working poor in aid of the nationalist agendas of emerging ruling classes whose hegemony is threatened by persistent racist alliances on and off the continent. The case of Zimbabwe is most instructive in this regard. While cliques of men both in and outside of the state jockey for the control of the Zimbabwean state and it's vast wealth, the people of Zimbabwe have been thrust into a quagmire of destitution and shameful neglect.

Not withstanding the courage and commitment of activists in all sectors of the African civil society, particularly in those societies that are wrecked by war, blatant plunder of resources, a rampaging HIV/AIDS crisis, drought, famine, and the collapse of the health, transport and educational infrastructures – whose demise was triggered mainly by the implementation of Structural Adjustment Policies across the continent throughout the 1980s and 1990s – the issues of Human Rights for women continue to pose an extraordinarily difficult challenge to all who strive to transform our continent.


Let me use another example of how the intersection between the private and the public divide underpins this seeming inability even of highly conscious activists, to shift the rights issue to a level where the lives of women and of their communities begin to change in real and sustainable ways.

In my feminist opinion and understanding of the reasons why Women Rights, whether they be reproductive, sexual, health, economic, personal and social rights, present such a dilemma to most activists – female and male in the African civil society – is that we have not begun to make the personal political.

What does this mean, especially for women's rights activists and scholars? Basically, it means that we have to re-conceptualize the meaning and practical exercise of rights for women in relation to several core notions that determine how women can embrace their rights and use them. In order to become autonomous individuals who understand their ability to craft new identities, they need to position themselves in direct relationships with the state and those institutions and structures/systems that have facilitated and or sanctioned their subordination and exclusion in the private (families and heterosexual relationships) and in the public (in educational, legal, juridical, economic, political, religious and other civil terms) spheres.

Unless we make every aspect of women's and girls' lives a political issue, we cannot initiate the process that will enable females in our society to enjoy lives of dignity and safety. It was not until the women's Movement demanded and insisted that the violation of women in the private sphere is a criminal offence and that the state had an obligation and responsibility to defend and protect each and every citizen from impunity and abuse, that what we now call 'domestic violence' became a public, political, legal issue. While demands and changes that women have made in their respective societies around the continent are highly contested and often meet with backlash from reactionary, vengeful males who feel threatened and resentful towards women who can no longer be treated as chattels and 'things' – the change has begun, and it is unstoppable.

However, unless we make the connections with those issues that still facilitate the violation and degradation of female bodies in most of our societies, we will not be able to strengthen those values, processes, procedures, call them what you will – that have to underpin the journey that each woman and female child must embark upon to become a person, with a sexual and physical integrity that is respected and celebrated, and with the assurance that her identity as a citizen will be protected and safe-guarded regardless of what happens in her society/in her personal world.

The most pernicious and persistent of such socially sanctioned violations is the blatantly misogynistic practice of female genital mutilation – which I insist must be named for what it is – a brutal practice that constructs the female body as being in need of 'cleansing' from it's 'femaleness' in order to be made accessible and 'desirable' to males who demand that the practice be performed. This blatant violation of female bodily integrity is not only backward and barbaric it is also frighteningly pervasive and persistent across huge swathes of the continent – paraded in the garb of cultural authentication and respectability. And women who themselves have been violated, continue to be not only the gate-keepers and custodians of this violation, but also the cultural defenders of one of the most deeply embedded expressions of patriarchal misogyny in our societies.

In certain academic and policy circles in the North as well as on the continent, feminist definition of such practices as mutilation, have been attacked as 'exaggerated' and anti-cultural. In some of the literature, we are warned that such 'strong' language only serves to frighten men away from change, and or that what is happening to millions of women and girls across our continent is really 'excision' or 'genital cutting' – a form of surgery which enables women to 'belong' to their communities and which is basically harmless and no deserving of such 'western feminist vitriol'.

I still do not know how to respond to such hypocrisy and callousness, even after three decades of mobilizing every single passionate cell in my body to resist what is without a doubt one of the clearest expressions of human violation known in the human narrative (next to foot binding and the commission of sati). But if one steps back from the emotional surge that such a violation invariably elicits in anyone who has any sensibility about the sacredness of human worth, it becomes clear that this brutal and reprehensible practice reflects in a dramatic and tragic manner, how deeply entwined the core of patriarchal violence/impunity and privilege/power are – and how they are etched in the construction of woman-hood and on the physical bodies of women (even as they are girls and children).

It is in these practices, which are embedded and woven into the 'cultural' fabric of our societies, and which provide such fiercely-guarded authenticators of our identities as women and or as Africans – that the real challenges to the meanings and validity of Rights for women lies. And the complicity of state and government officials in the perpetuation of such violations – either by passing laws that are ineffective and or difficult to implement, or by continuing to treat such matters as 'private' – is a major backlash against the struggle by women for Rights as real and lived possibilities.

The same analysis can be made of lobola or so-called bride-price. Across the class spectrum in Africa one finds endless excuses and explanations for the revival or continuance of this ancient expression of one of the earliest forms of human commodification. It is through this construction of the female body as an exchange value in relation to other things – like cattle or goats, or salt or gold – that we see the first expressions of market exchange – within family relationships.

Beneath the declarations of love (which in feudal and in many present day societies, which I will not describe a modern although they exist in this modern moment) were considered superfluous and unnecessary, after all it was the families that were marrying – not the couple, we are often told by the gurus of African history, flowed the earliest expressions of male greed and callousness – the buying and selling of women, disguised as a social, bonding ritual, that would supposedly bring joy, satisfaction and stability to the couple and the community within which they lived.

Over time, the exchange process moved beyond the family as an institution, and became the dominant arbiter of what we call the public as a space where institutions and systems that are central to the consolidation and exercise of power are located. Male control of the public space ensured the institutionalization of privilege and power and the accumulation of wealth, and the concomitant domestication of women and their socialization and 'branding' as privatized beings, is a common phenomenon across the African continent and beyond. The notions of the public and the private are not European inventions or expressions of 'westernism' as some women activists would like to argue. The phenomenon of the public/private divide emerges side by side with the rise of classes and social differentiation in all societies, and African societies are no exception. All one has to do is read history without a nationalist bias, and the ways in which feudalism structured gender relations within all the major social formation on the continent long before colonial occupation bears this out very clearly.

The privatization of women as 'things' that are owned and controlled by males, and the ownership of children – something that most Africans accept as normal and unproblematic – became the basis for the exclusion of women and children, which overtime became the foundation of male authority and power in all societies. When modernized Africans 'go home' to the rural areas – which many millions do all the time –they figuratively step back into feudal spaces and literally perform the same practices and gestures that have characterized rural life for many centuries. It's euphemistically called 'tradition' and 'culture', and it did exist before the white man came.

It is within this context of patriarchal supremacy that the struggle for women's rights is rooted, and whose origins we need to understand. When a man rapes and mauls his baby daughter, and defiantly tells the doctor who is trying to save the child's life that 'It's mine, I can do whatever I want with it'; when a young man rapes a woman and arrogantly declares that 'She asked for it' by inviting him into her room at 2am in the morning; when the soldiers of the occupying army mutilate and desecrate the bodies of women and children of all ages 'because we are conquerors and these are the spoils of war'; and when a husband rapes and murders the woman he should be loving and protecting because ' the bitch smiled at another man on the bus' – then we understand how the ancient yet persistent practices and prejudices that nurture and encourage male dominance and female subordination lie at the root of the anger, violence, hatred and misogynistic behaviour of males everywhere in the world.

These for me are the most fundamental issues facing Africans when it comes to the meaning and definition of Rights as both social and political resources which we can define and use in positioning ourselves as citizens – in the public as a common space, a space that is available to each and every one of us on the basis of our membership in our societies; and in the shaping and ownership of a relationship with the state and the most powerful institutions and structures in our societies as we contest and define the experience of becoming and being citizens.

We have to separate, both conceptually and legally, those practices and systems that conflate the bodies and lives of women into ancient notions of private property, such as the exclusion of women from the ownership and use of property. Instead, women need to re-position themselves within communities and in relation to the state as autonomous individuals with an identity of their own, and the integrity and dignity of a human being who is 'born free and equal'.

This is a deeply cultural, emotional yet critical challenge for all Africans who work as catalyst of change on and off the continent. We cannot expect to make real and sustainable progress in transforming our societies/continent without doing the difficult but necessary political conceptual and practical work of re-defining what personhood and human integrity mean to us as Africans, especially when these notions are applied to African women, who in the main do not own or control property and wealth, but who feed, care for, nurture, support and sustain the bulk of our social existence, and have done so for millennia. The definition of 'things' that are material and can be owned and privatized has to be separated from the worth and value of a human being, a person, and we cannot continue to practice so-called cultural rituals and rites that reify women into property – regardless of whether it has assumed a 'cultural form' over the centuries.

We are creative, imaginative, life-loving people in so many ways, and we need to draw on these strengths and positive capacities – and craft new cultural signifiers; new distinguishing markers that will set us apart from others and enable us to express our uniqueness in modern African ways.

Rights have to be understood and experienced not only as rhetorical devices in the articulation of demands and particular interests by classes or social categories of people within a society. Much more than that, they have to become the expression of an interactive, negotiated, flexible and mutually respective relationship between individuals – in this case women as individual persons – and the state, which is the dominant social and political player in the lives of Africans at the present time, regardless of whether we accept the existence of the state or not.

Humans invent and create states as mechanisms through which the tensions between and among groups and classes of people can be discussed, managed, negotiated and hopefully resolved. We create states so that they can manage and distribute, in the most equitable manner, those critical resources that our societies are endowed with, on behalf of those who cannot compete with others – for reasons related either to class, age, gender, and or other exclusionary systems that emerge in societies that are socially and economically differentiated.

Therefore, for all the reasons that historians, social scientists, and philosophers have ponder upon and debated for millennia, the state must always be made accountable and responsible to the people, regardless of who the people are. This is a fundamental premise for the existence of the state. And the protection of women's physical, sexual, and bodily integrity as citizens of our societies is neither negotiable nor open to any kind of compromise. The integrity and wholeness of women's bodies; their right to a life with dignity and protection is a responsibility that the state cannot and must not be allowed to compromise as an accommodation of some backward notion of cultural authenticity or African-ness. The Right of women and girls to integrity in all its aspects is fundamental to making rights real for women everywhere.


4 Ratification of the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and People's Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa

Mary Wandia

2004-09-30

http://pambazuka.org/en/category/features/24946

The African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights, hereafter referred to as the Charter, recognizes the importance of women's rights through three main provisions. Article 18(3), covering the protection of the family, promises to ensure the elimination of all discrimination against women and also ensure protection of the rights of women. Article 2, the non-discrimination clause, provides that the rights and freedoms enshrined in the Charter shall be enjoyed by all irrespective of race, ethnic group, colour, sex, language, religion, political or any other opinion, national and social origin, fortune, birth or other status. And Article 3, the equal protection clause, states that every individual shall be equal before the law and shall be entitled to the equal protection of the law.

However, the above provisions are not adequate to address the rights of women. For example, while Article 18 prohibits discrimination against women, it does so only in the context of the family. In addition, explicit provisions guaranteeing the right of consent to marriage and equality of spouses during and after marriage are absent. These omissions are compounded by the fact that the Charter places emphasis on traditional African values and traditions without addressing concerns that many customary practices, such as female genital mutilation, forced marriage, and wife inheritance, can be harmful or life threatening to women. By ignoring critical issues such as custom and marriage, the Charter inadequately defends women's human rights.

The World Conference on Human Rights held in Vienna, Austria in 1993 made advances to human rights theory and practice with respect to women's human rights. The Declaration and Programme of Action of the World Conference on Human Rights at Vienna emphasized, "The human rights of women and of the girl child are an inalienable, integral and indivisible part of the universal human rights".

It also emphasized that elimination of violence against women is a human-rights obligation upon states. This was the first attempt to address the marginalisation of women's human rights from the work of the mainstream human rights. Thus the slogan that emerged from Vienna: women's rights are human rights. Following almost directly on from Vienna, it was imperative for the African Commission on Human and People's Rights (ACHPR) to expose the specific inequalities that impact negatively on the lives of women and thereby acknowledge that "women's rights as human rights must be respected and observed".

The Process of Developing the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and People's Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa. Article 66 of the Charter that provides for the establishment of Protocols and Agreements to supplement its provisions gave impetus for the consideration and subsequent formulation of the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa, hereinafter referred to as the Protocol. The process started with a meeting organised by Women in Law and Development in Africa (WiLDAF)[i] on the theme "The African Charter on Human and People's Rights and the Human Rights of Women in Africa" in March 1995 in Lome, Togo. The meeting called for the development of a Protocol to the Charter on Women's Rights. The meeting also called on the ACHPR to appoint a Special Rapporteur on Women's Rights in Africa.

The Assembly of Heads of States and Government of the Organisation of Africa Unity (OAU) at its 31st Ordinary Session in June 1995, in Addis Ababa, mandated the ACHPR to elaborate a Protocol on the Rights of Women in Africa[ii] . The first Draft was prepared by the experts group meeting organised by the ACHPR and the International Commission of Jurist (ICJ) in Nouakchott, Mauritania, April 1997. The experts comprising of members of the ACHPR, representatives of African NGOs and international observers prepared the first Draft Protocol that was submitted to the ACHPR during its 22nd Session held in October 1997 for consideration and comments. The draft was also circulated to NGOs for comments.

The 12th ICJ workshop on "Participation in the African Commission on Human and People's Rights", October 30 to November 1, 1997, in The Gambia, provided the opportunity for NGOs to make input into the Draft Protocol and pass a resolution calling upon the ACHPR to ensure the completion of the Draft Protocol in time for presentation to the next session of the ACHPR.

The First Meeting of the Working Group on Women's Rights that brought together members of the ACHPR, the ICJ, WiLDAF and the African Centre for Democracy and Human Rights Studies (ACDHRS) was held in Banjul, The Gambia from 26-28 January 1998. The meeting amended the Draft Protocol and developed the terms of reference for the appointment of a Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Women in Africa. During its 23rd Session held in April 1998, the ACHPR endorsed the appointment of the first Special Rapporteur on Women Rights in Africa with a mandate that included working towards the adoption of the Draft Protocol on Women's Rights. The ACHPR forwarded the Draft Protocol to the OAU Secretariat in 1999. The Inter Africa Committee (IAC) and ACHPR met to merge the Draft Convention on Traditional Practices with the Draft Protocol in 2000, in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

The first OAU Government Experts Meeting on The Draft Protocol was held in November 2001, in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. The experts amended the Draft Protocol developed by the ACHPR and called on the OAU to schedule a second AU experts meeting in 2002 to consider the draft again before the hosting of an OAU ministerial meeting on the same issue. African women's organisations participated in the meeting as observers. The OAU scheduled the second experts meeting and ministerial meeting two times in 2002 but had to postpone them due to lack of quorum. Thus the Draft was not presented for adoption by the inaugural Summit of the African Union (AU) held in Durban, South Africa in July 2002 and it seemed that there was little political will among African governments to move this process forward.

In January 2003, African women's organisations from across the continent met in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia at a meeting convened by Equality Now, FEMNET and the Ethiopian Women Lawyers Association (EWLA) to come up with strategies to lobby the AU and individual governments to schedule and attend the expert and ministerial meetings on the Draft Protocol. Represented at the meeting were ACDHR, Akina Mama Wa Africa, the Association of Malian Women Lawyers (AJM), the Association of Senegalese lawyers (AJS), Equality Now, EWLA, Femmes Afrique Solidarite (FAS), FEMNET, WiLDAF, and WRAPA. These organisations pooled comments in a collective mark-up to strengthen the document and bring it into line with international standards. Following the meeting they met with officials of the AU, including the then Acting Commissioner for Peace and Security, who was in charge of the Protocol, and urged him to call for the second experts and ministerial meetings on the Protocol in March 2003 in an effort to ensure that the Draft Protocol was adopted by the AU Summit in July 2003. The organisations further lobbied ministries of Justice and Gender at national level through their networks to confirm their participation to ensure the AU obtained the required quorum.

The Second AU Experts Meeting followed by the Ministerial Meeting on the Draft Protocol was held in March 2003, in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. The meetings amended and adopted the Draft Protocol and recommended it for adoption by the Executive Council and Assembly of the AU. But this was only after African women's organisations attended the meetings as observers and lobbied the experts and ministers to strengthen the Draft Protocol to the level of regional and international human rights agreements on women. The Second Ordinary Summit of the AU adopted the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa on July 11 2003 in Maputo Mozambique[iii] . The Assembly appealed to all member states to sign and ratify the Protocol in order to ensure its speedy entry into force. The Protocol will enter into force thirty days after the deposit of the fifteenth instrument of ratification. The Protocol will complement the African Charter in ensuring the promotion and protection of the human rights of women in Africa.

Content and meaning for women in Africa
Mainstream international human rights standards are defined in relation to men's experience, and stated in terms of discrete violations of rights in the public realm whereas most violations of women's human rights occur in private. The private/public dichotomy that is detrimental to women continues to exist. In most African countries, the same constitutional provisions that guarantee gender equality allow exceptions in the so-called "private law" areas of customary law, personal law and family law. Serious violations of women's human rights such as violence against women and provisions that discriminate against them are found in that private sphere.

Human rights guarantees in the legally binding human rights conventions such as those to the right of life, to bodily integrity, and to be free from torture, cruel and degrading treatment, have not been interpreted to include such acts as domestic violence, rape, female genital mutilation, forced sterilisation, forced childbirth, and numerous other forms in which violence against women and girls is manifested in Africa.

Provisions on women's human rights in the UN Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), and the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action have not involved a conceptual shift or effected structural changes needed to implement their resolutions. The Protocol[iv] primarily complements the African Charter and international human rights conventions by focusing on concrete actions and goals to grant women rights. It further domesticates CEDAW and the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action in the African context.

The Protocol is divided into three sections. The first section covers the rationale behind its elaboration, making reference to both regional and international commitments regarding women's human rights. The second section outlines the rights to be upheld by the Protocol. And the third and final section covers implementation by addressing the manner in which it is to be adopted and monitored, as well as the process through which it may be amended. The Protocol affirms four broad categories of rights: civil and political rights; economic, social and cultural rights; the rights to development and peace; and reproductive and sexual rights.

Status of Ratification
Almost a year after its adoption, only four member states of the AU, The Comoros, Rwanda, Libya and Namibia have signed and ratified it. Thirty-one member states have signed but are yet to ratify it as of July 19, 2004[v] . 12 more countries must ratify it in order for the Protocol to come into force. Its entry into force is critical because it will commit governments to:
- Submit periodic reports to the ACHPR on legislative and other measures they have undertaken to ensure the full realisation of rights recognised under the Protocol;
- Integrate a gender perspective in their policy decisions, legislation, development plans and activities and ensure the overall well-being of women;
- Include in their national constitutions and other legislative instruments fundamental principles of the Protocol and ensure their effective implementation;
- Eliminate all forms of violence and discrimination against women in Africa and promote equality between men and women;

Advocacy Needs and Initiatives
Given the time and effort necessary to persuade governments to adopt this Protocol compared with the desperate urgency to promote, protect and safeguard women's human rights in Africa, African civil society organisations have to campaign and lobby governments to sign and ratify the Protocol as soon as possible and in any event, as a gesture of commitment, before the end of 2004.

Oxfam GB, Equality Now, FEMNET, CREDO for Freedom of Expression and Associated Rights and FAHAMU have started a campaign targeting countries that have already signed with the aim of lobbying them to ratify. They have drafted a petition to be presented to the AU. Kindly sign up at: http://www.pambazuka.org/petition/petition.php?id=1

To supplement their efforts you could as an individual or organisation:
- Contact relevant government officials in ministries of foreign affairs, women's affairs, and justice and urge them to ratify the Protocol;
- Urge governments to be fully involved in the full realisation of the human rights of women, if they have not done so;
- Encourage government officials to include the issue of the Protocol in contacts with other governments and to state their positions publicly in the media or other events;
- Inform and increase public awareness about the Protocol by putting women's issues on the human rights agenda at various fora;
- Mobilise national and local support for the Protocol among academicians, parliamentarians, and the media;
- Work on creating a better and common understanding of issues as provided for in the Protocol;
- Support the organisation of local focal points on the Protocol to lobby and monitor government positions. The focal points will later be effective in the monitoring of implementation of the Protocol by governments;

Conclusion
The Protocol, once it enters into force, will usher in a new and significant era in the promotion and protection of the rights of women in Africa and end impunity for all forms of violations of the human rights of women in Africa. As Dr Angela Melo, Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Women, ACHPR notes:

"The women of Africa who have suffered for long, their efforts at building our beloved continent have gone on for long without acknowledgement, and the men of Africa should be equally committed to the task. The urgent need to work towards the ratification and effective implementation of the Protocol urgently is a great challenge, yet a duty we all owe to posterity and to Africa."[vi]

*Mary Wandia is the Advocacy Officer with The African Women's Development and Communication Network (FEMNET) E-mail: [email protected]
* This article was originally published in Pambazuka News Issue 159 in June 2003.

NOTES
i. http://site.mweb.co.zw/wildaf
ii. Resolution AH6/Res 240 (xxxi)
iii. Assembly/AU/Dec.19 (II)
iv. See full text of the Protocol at www.africa-union.org/home/Welcome.htm
v. See full list of countries that have signed/ratified at www.africa-union.org/home/Welcome.htm
vi. Dr Angela Melo, Special Rapporteur on Women's Rights in Africa, ACHPR in a paper presented during FEMNET's Regional Strategy Meeting on Gender Mainstreaming in the African Union on the theme "From OAU to African Union and NEPAD: Strategies for African Women" October 27-31, Nairobi, Kenya.




Advocacy & campaigns

Africa/Global: 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence

2004-09-30

http://womensnet.org.za/calendarofevents.php?page=showcomments&id=96

In order to emphasize the important intersection of violence against women and women’s health, and particularly that of violence against women and the HIV/AIDS pandemic, the 2004 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence theme is: "For the Health of Women, For the Health of the World: No More Violence".


Zambia: Campaign for a fair and transparent arbitration on debt

2004-09-30

http://www.afrodad.org/archive/FTA%20High%20Level%20Meeting.pdf

The African Forum and Network on Debt and Development (AFRODAD), in conjunction with other civil society organisations and concerned parties, is convening an indaba of experts in Lusaka, Zambia on 29 and 30 September, 2004, to deliberate on a campaign for the establishment of a Fair and Transparent Arbitration on African debt.




Books & arts

'International Human Rights and Islamic Law' by Mashood A Bederin

2004-09-30

http://pambazuka.org/en/category/books/24940

This book examines the important question of whether international human rights law and Islamic law are compatible, whether Muslim States can comply with international human rights law while adhering to Islamic law. It argues that there are no fundamental incompatibility between these two bodies of law. ICCPR, ICESR and CEDAW are examined in detail. Oxford, OUP 2003 ISBN 019926659X


'Nervous Conditions' by Tsutsi Dangarembga

2004-09-30

http://www.ayebia.co.uk/

Ama Ata Aidoo writes: "From the first days of its publication, it was obvious that Tsitsi Dangarembga's NERVOUS CONDITIONS" had the makings of a classic: a timeless coming-of-age tale, great lyrical narrative, unforgettable characters and courageous. Sixteen years down the line, the notion has been amply confirmed." With an introduction by Kwame Anthony Appiah, the novel is published by Ayebia ISBN 0954702336


Egypt: Using cultural resources to provide an alternative to mainstream perceptions of human rights

2004-09-30

http://www.comminit.com/africa/Pds22004/sld-1490.html

The Cairo Institute of Human Rights Studies (CIHRS) uses arts and literature to engage people in the human rights debate and to demonstrate that human rights are celebrated in Arab cultures. CIHRS seeks out philosophers and artists who understand the debate between Islam and human rights and who are motivated to respond to conservative elements.


Not yet a force for freedom

Equality Now, Femnet, Fahamu, Credo and Oxfam

2004-09-30

http://pambazuka.org/en/category/books/24939

The campaign for the ratification of the African Union Protocol for the Rights of Women in Africa have published a pamphlet to help mobilise support. The pamphlet is based on the special issue of Pambazuka News 162 of 24 June 2004. Further details: contact Faiza Jama Mohammed.




Women & gender

Africa/Global: Gender and Development, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, 6 - 14 October 2004

2004-09-30

http://www.uneca.org/fr/Beijing/Seventh_African_Regional_Conference.htm

The Seventh African Regional Conference on Women (Beijing+10) will be held in parallel with the Fourth African Development Forum (ADF IV) on Governance, 6-15 October 2004 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Beijing+10 fits within the global evaluation framework for assessing progress achieved after 10 years of implementing the 1995 Beijing Platform for Action on Women (BPFA). These two conferences mark an important step towards achieving gender equality and equity in Africa through national and regional action.


Africa/Global: The International Criminal Court: An Opportunity for Women

2004-09-30

http://www.whrnet.org/docs/issue-international_court.html

Women's Human Rights Net addresses key aspects of the The International Criminal Court (ICC) such as gender crimes and related case law, gender-sensitive proceedings and the possible implications of implementing international standards nationally to advance women's human rights. It is imperative that the women's movement monitor whether the ICC effectively investigates and sanctions the perpetrators of sexual and gender crimes committed against women.


Ghana: Women & Population Special: Countdown 2015: The Boyfriend

2004-09-30

http://www.unfoundation.org/media_center/crossette/ghana.asp

As part of the series of 10 independent reports called "Three Continents, Four Cultures: Ten years after Cairo, the people take charge," former New York Times United Nations Bureau Chief Barbara Crossette follows a personal story of a pregnant young woman who nearly died during an illegal abortion her boyfriend pressured her into.


Global: 21 Leaders for the 21st Century 2005

2004-09-30

http://pambazuka.org/en/category/wgender/24874

Women's eNews would like nominations of women or men of all ages, heritages, countries and professions who have made a positive impact on the lives of women. These leaders will be honored at the annual Women's eNews 21 Leaders for the 21st Century gala to be held on May 17th, 2005 in New York City.
21 Leaders for the 21st Century 2005
Now accepting nominations!

Here is your opportunity to honor the people you know personally or professionally who have made a difference in the lives of women.

Women's eNews would like nominations of women or men of all ages, heritages, countries and professions who have made a positive impact on the lives of women. These leaders will be honored at the annual Women's eNews 21 Leaders for the 21st Century gala to be held on May 17th, 2005 in New York City.

In the past, this honor has been bestowed on extraordinary women such as Shirin Ebadi, winner of the 2003 Nobel Peace Prize; Faye Wattleton, president of the Center for the Advancement of Women; Helen LaKelly Hunt, founder and president of the Sister Fund and Blu Greenberg, founder of the Jewish Orthodox Feminist Alliance.

You can read about all of our past newsworthy leaders and take a look at the photos from the 2004 gala by clicking on this link: http://www.womensenews.org/21leaders2004.cfm

Our editorial staff and board of directors will review each nomination and announce the honorees on New Year's Eve by posting their biographies and photographs on our Web site (http://www.womensenews.org), where they will remain for all of 2005.

Your nomination must include:

1. The nominee's name, organization, title, e-mail address and contact information
2. Your name, relationship to the nominee, your e-mail address and contact information
3. A summary--100 words or less--of how this person has made a lasting impact on behalf of women.

Please send your nominations to: [email protected] by midnight on October 17, 2004.

We look forward to reading the inspiring stories of the people who have touched your lives!


Sudan: Special Rapporteur Yakin Ertürk visiting Sudan

2004-09-30

http://pambazuka.org/en/category/wgender/24862

The Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights, Yakin Ertürk, is visiting Sudan from 25 September to 1 October 2004. She will be attending several meetings and consultations which will look at violence against women in Africa and the current situation of women in Sudan.
UNITED NATIONS
Press Release
27 September 2004

The Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and
consequences of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights issued the
following statement today:

The Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and
consequences of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights, Yakin
Ertürk, is visiting Sudan from 25 September to 1 October 2004.

In Khartoum, she participated, together with the Special Rapporteur on
Women's Rights of the African Commission on Human and Peoples Rights, in
an African Regional Consultation on violence against women organized by
African women's organizations. Experts on women's rights from 13 countries
participated in the consultation to discuss strategic interventions to end
violence against women in Africa.

Today, the Special Rapporteur will participate in a National Consultation
with local women's organizations to discuss the situation of women in
Sudan. She will also meet with various government representatives,
national institutions and United Nationss agencies to discuss the
particular situation of women in Darfur. At the invitation of the
Government, the Special Rapporteur will also travel from 28 September to 1
October to Nyala in South Darfur and El Genina in West Darfur to examine
the situation of women in situ and reach an independent assessment of
reports and allegations received in relation to her mandate. Her aim is to
formulate recommendations to strengthen the protection of women's rights
and response to violence against women.

The Special Rapporteur will also visit camps for internally-displaced
persons in both states and hold meetings with local authorities, United
Nations agencies, non-governmental organizations, women's organizations,
as well as to take testimonies from victims of violence. The Special
Rapporteur's findings will be presented to the sixty-first session of the
United Nations Commission on Human Rights in her annual report.

UN News Service


Zimbabwe: Women Protesters held in Zimbabwe

2004-09-30

http://www.mg.co.za/Content/l3.asp?cg=BreakingNews-Africa&ao=122927

The members of Women of Zimbabwe Arise (Woza) had walked 400km from Bulawayo, the country's second-largest city, and were stopped just 30km from Harare, their destination. The women began the 12-day protest march last week to raise money and awareness for human rights work at a time when Robert Mugabe's government had proposed a law to restrict human rights organisations. 48 women have been arrested.




Human rights

Africa/Global: Freedom House global survey now online

2004-09-30

http://www.freedomhouse.org/research/index.htm

Freedom in the World, the annual global survey of civil liberties and political rights, is now available on Freedom House's website. Covering 192 countries and 18 territories, the survey rates them according to criteria based largely on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, including the right to freedom of expression. Countries and territories are given a rating of "Free," "Partly Free" or "Not Free."


Kenya: Kenya prison conditions slammed

2004-09-30

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/africa/3701398.stm

Kenya's human rights commissioner Tirop Kitru has criticised conditions at Meru jail, where seven prisoners have died. After a tour of the prison, Kitur said many of the inmates had open wounds because of the cramped conditions and poor ventilation. Prison officials say the prisoners who died suffocated in a cell the size of a single bed. Another 28 inmates are in hospital in a critical condition.


Sudan: A test case for humanitarian intervention

2004-09-30

http://www.ocnus.net/artman/publish/article_14072.shtml

The Kofi Annan International Peacekeeping Training Centre has produced a paper which looks at the Darfur conflict as one which has been often over simplified by both international media and world leaders. The paper outlines the dilemmas emerging from a situation where there is a clear international responsibility to protect civilians and how the use of urgent and robust action is necessary to meet this responsibility.


Sudan: Donors must address atrocities fueling crisis

2004-09-30

http://hrw.org/english/docs/2004/09/27/darfur9390.htm

Donor governments gathering today in Oslo to discuss humanitarian needs in Darfur should also take steps to end the serious human rights abuses responsible for the crisis, Human Rights Watch said today. Donors should pledge support for civilian protection under an expanded African Union (AU) mission in Darfur.




Refugees & forced migration

Chad/Sudan: Another 100,000 refugees expected to flood across border by May

2004-09-30

http://www.irinnews.org/report.asp?ReportID=43380&SelectRegion=East_Africa,%20West_Africa&SelectCountry=CHAD-SUDAN

Chad's refugee camps, already straining at the seams, should steel themselves for the arrival of at least another 100,000 people fleeing Darfur within the next seven months, UN officials said. Chad has already provided a safe haven for almost 200,000 civilians who have escaped the campaign of slaughter, pillaging and rape being waged by the pro-government Janjawid militia in Sudan's Darfur province. But the end is not yet in sight.


Chad/Sudan: Erasing evil with education as refugee kids go back to school

2004-09-30

http://www.irinnews.org/report.asp?ReportID=43405&SelectRegion=West_Africa&SelectCountry=CHAD-SUDAN

CARE, the charity running the camp in eastern Chad, reckons there are about 4,500 children who should be in school. But with the formal education programme yet to swing into action, it admits that only half of those children are currently having lessons. Some 800 pupils are lucky enough to learn in one of the five school tents erected at the centre of the camp. Another 1,400 cluster more informally for classes under trees and the rest wile away the hours either helping with chores or playing in the dirt.


DRC/Burundi: Congo refugees back from Burundi

2004-09-30

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/africa/3692558.stm

Some 360 Congolese refugees have returned from neighbouring Burundi, despite violent protests from villagers who did not want them back. The refugees, who are ethnic Tutsis, spent two days stranded at the border with DR Congo after protesters blocked roads and threw stones at them. They eventually reached the eastern town of Uvira after troops were deployed to disperse the protests.


Global/Africa: Three new working papers from the RSC

2004-09-30

http://www.rsc.ox.ac.uk/

Three new working papers have been published by the Refugee Studies Centre under the RSC Working Paper series which is intended to stimulate discussion among the worldwide community of scholars, policymakers and practitioners. They are distributed free of charge in PDF format. Bound hard copies may also be purchased. The new titles are: "AIDS, gender and the Refugee Protection Framework", "The Meaning of Place in a World of Movement: Lessons from Long-Term Field Research in Southern Ethiopia" and "Refugees and their Human Rights."


Sudan: Concern about Darfur refugees

2004-09-30

http://www.news24.com/News24/Africa/News/0,,2-11-1447_1595348,00.html

Armed militiamen have surged into a border area near a western village where some of the first Darfur refugees attempting to return to their raided homes headed, UN security officials said on Sunday, raising further concern about how quickly 1.4 million displaced Sudanese will be able to return home. UN authorities were sending a team to the area to try to assess any risk to the refugees, said West Darfur UN refugee security officer Sabir Mughal.


West Africa/Liberia: West African countries sign agreements on Liberian returns

2004-09-30

http://www.unhcr.org/

Liberia and its neighbouring countries today signed a series of agreements with the UN refugee agency, giving Liberian refugees the right to choose repatriation starting on October 1. The Liberian government and UNHCR signed three separate agreements with the governments of Côte d'Ivoire, Guinea and Sierra Leone to set the main legal and operational framework for the voluntary return of more than 340,000 Liberian refugees scattered around the region. An agreement was also signed with the government of Ghana on September 22 in Accra.
UNHCR News

West African countries sign agreements on Liberian returns

MONROVIA, Liberia, Sept 27 (UNHCR) – Liberia and its neighbouring countries today signed a series of agreements with the UN refugee agency, giving Liberian refugees the right to choose repatriation starting on October 1.

On Monday, the Liberian government and UNHCR signed three separate agreements with the governments of Côte d'Ivoire, Guinea and Sierra Leone to set the main legal and operational framework for the voluntary return of more than 340,000 Liberian refugees scattered around the region. An agreement was also signed with the government of Ghana on September 22 in Accra.

The landmark agreements spell out, among other things, the right of Liberian refugees to freely choose to repatriate as well as details of the repatriation movement, such as immigration procedures.

"It is the government's responsibility to provide a secure and a safe environment to ensure the return of our compatriots in safety and dignity," said Philip Dwuye, Executive Director of the Liberia Refugee Repatriation and Resettlement Commission (LRRRC), at the signing ceremony in Monrovia.

The Liberian government recently declared four out of 15 counties safe for return. Peace has returned gradually to Liberia after 14 years of civil war ended with the departure of former president Charles Taylor in August 2003, the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Accord the same month, and the deployment of UN peacekeeping troops.

"This is going to be the third time we will be organising voluntary repatriation to Liberia after the 1991 and 1997 operations," said Zobida Hassim-Ashagrie, UNHCR Deputy Director of the Africa Bureau, who represented the agency at the ceremony. "Unfortunately at the time, the root causes of the conflict were not solved, causing new outflows of refugees, including up to last year. We hope this time that lasting peace will make repatriation sustainable."

The first convoy of refugees from eastern Sierra Leone is scheduled to leave Gondama and Tobanda camp later this week on a three-day 228-km journey, crossing into western Liberia at Bo Waterside on October 1. From Ghana, a flight of over 100 refugees is due to fly from Accra to Monrovia also on Friday. Convoys from Guinea will start arriving on October 4.

In all, UNHCR expects 100,000 Liberian refugees to return by the end of this year, including spontaneous returnees and those who have made their way home with UNHCR assistance. Already this year some 50,000 Liberians have gone home of their own accord, often using unsafe transport. UNHCR's voluntary repatriation seeks to provide a safe and dignified return for refugees.

Mass information campaigns are now underway to inform Liberian refugees about their home conditions, repatriation and reintegration assistance – information that will allow them to decide for themselves if they want to return.

All Liberian returnees will receive a returnee package comprising food, household items and basic tools to support their reintegration. In addition to ensuring a safe and sustainable return for the refugees, UNHCR has been working closely with the Liberian government and aid agencies on reconstruction and rehabilitation projects to help returnees settle back in their home communities.

The regional role is equally important, stressed representatives of the Guinea, Ivorian and Sierra Leonean governments at Monday's signing ceremony.

Justine Bangura, Executive Director of Sierra Leone's National Commission for Social Action, summed it up: "All governments should be working together to ensure durable solutions in conflict prevention in the sub-region." He also appealed to donors and the humanitarian community to help West Africa's governments in reintegration and rehabilitation programmes for internally displaced people, refugees and ex-combatants.




Elections & governance

Cameroon: A vote for computerization

2004-09-30

http://www.ipsnews.net/africa/interna.asp?idnews=25621

With the countdown to presidential elections in Cameroon gathering pace, a fierce debate is underway about computerization of the voting process. "We absolutely have to computerize if we want a transparent and credible election. If we can't do that, then the election should be postponed in the interests of the country," says John Fru Ndi, head of the Social Democratic Front (SDF).


Côte d'Ivoire/Africa: Ivorian Foreign Minister assures stable political process

2004-09-30

http://www.panapress.com/freenews.asp?code=eng058143&dte=28/09/2004

Hours after the UN Security Council urged President Laurent Gbagbo to restore confidence to the political process in Côte d'Ivoire, the Foreign Minister Mamadou Bamba said the government was taking steps to restore stability to the conflict-torn West African country.


Ethiopia: Federal parliamentary elections set for May 2005

2004-09-30

http://www.irinnews.org/report.asp?ReportID=43362&SelectRegion=Horn_of_Africa&SelectCountry=ETHIOPIA

Ethiopia will hold national elections for its federal parliament on 15 May 2005. Ten national and 57 regional parties will run in the polls, with results announced on 8 June 2005, officials from the National Election Board (NEB) said on September 25th. Ethiopia's Information Minister Bereket Simon said that the elections were likely to be fought on the issues of the economy and democratic reforms, adding that it would allow the electorate to vote on the government’s economic and development record.


Mozambique: Polls "not endangered" by political rivalry

2004-09-30

http://www.irinnews.org/report.asp?ReportID=43421&SelectRegion=Southern_Africa&SelectCountry=MOZAMBIQUE

Political skirmishes in Mozambique between the ruling FRELIMO party and the main opposition, RENAMO, "are not endangering the electoral process yet," FRELIMO's presidential candidate, Armando Guebuza, told IRIN on Wednesday. "We are hoping for a peaceful election," said Guebuza, who is currently FRELIMO's secretary-general. Mozambique will hold its third democratic election on 1 and 2 December this year.


Somalia: AU welcomes progress in peace process

2004-09-30

http://www.irinnews.org/report.asp?ReportID=43431&SelectRegion=Horn_of_Africa&SelectCountry=SOMALIA

The African Union (AU) has welcomed recent progress made towards the reestablishment of a functioning government in Somalia and urged the international community to assist the country's national institutions once they are fully installed, the AU said in a statement sent on Thursday. The 275 members of the assembly are due to elect the country's president on 10 October. The president will in turn appoint a prime minister, who will be required to form a government.


Somalia: Somali warlord rejects presidency

2004-09-30

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/africa/3692934.stm

A Somali warlord, who has returned to the peace process in neighbouring Kenya, says he will not contest in the presidential elections next month. General Morgan's forces battled those of a rival faction around the southern port of Kismayo earlier this month. He was the only major faction leader not taking part in the parliament tasked with electing a president.


Sudan: Charges over Sudan 'coup plot'

2004-09-30

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/africa/3704182.stm

Some 28 people, mostly members of the security forces, have been charged with trying to overthrow Sudan's government, the official Suna news agency reports. They were accused of declaring war on the state, planning to assassinate political leaders and cut communication links, Suna says. It is not clear whether they are from the Islamist opposition party, which has been accused of plotting a coup, however, the government says the group is allied to rebels in the Darfur region.




Corruption

DRC: Mineral smuggling is costing the DRC millions

2004-09-30

http://www.iol.co.za/index.php?set_id=1&click_id=136&art_id=qw1096346700102B252

Rampant corruption and smuggling in the Democratic Republic Congo (DRC) means the impoverished country loses millions of dollars in revenues from copper and cobalt mining each month. Rather than profiting from its vast mineral wealth, the DRC has been torn apart by years of war - often over its natural resources - and the country remains one of the world's poorest.


Kenya: Law to protect terror and graft witnesses

2004-09-30

http://admin.corisweb.org/index.php?fuseaction=news.view&id=115244&src=dcn

The Witness Protection Bill 2004 empowers the Attorney-General to provide a new identity, relocate, provide accommodation, transport and a "reasonable financial assistance" to witnesses who testify in graft and terrorism inquiries. If passed by Parliament, the law would usher criminal investigation and prosecution into a new era of public support widely cultivated in developed nations.


Kenya: UK renews corruption charges against Kenya

2004-09-30

http://www.mg.co.za/Content/l3.asp?cg=BreakingNews-Africa&ao=122811

Britain on Friday renewed corruption charges against Kenya, saying the drive to fight endemic graft in the east African country was "evidently flawed" and devoid of "political will". British High Commissioner Edward Clay however commended Nairobi for setting up the Kenya Anti-Corruption Commission (KACA) and other bodies charged with probing incidents of graft.


Nigeria: Nigerian Minister urges Western world to rethink Nigeria

2004-09-30

http://admin.corisweb.org/index.php?fuseaction=news.view&id=115258&src=dcn

Nigeria's Minister of Finance, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, told reporters her country is working to change the perception that the West African nation is riddled with corruption and not doing anything about it. The Nigerian government, she said, begun a wide-ranging series of reforms 15 months ago and they're already starting to produce results.




Development

Africa/Global: Blocking Progress: How the fight against HIV/AIDS is being undermined by the World Bank and the IMF

2004-09-30

http://www.actionaidusa.org/blockingprogress.pdf

A new policy briefing by ActionAid International USA, Global AIDS Alliance, Student Global AIDS Campaign, and RESULTS Educational Fund looks accuses the International Monetary Fund of being more concerned with keeping inflation low and maintaining macroeconomic stability than enabling governments in poor countries to save lives impacted by the HIV/AIDS pandemic.


Africa: Economic Report on Africa 2004 published, highlights trade

2004-09-30

http://www.uneca.org/eca_resources/Press_Releases/2004_pressreleases/pressrelease2004.htm

Entitled "Unlocking Africa's Trade Potential", this year's Economic Report on Africa (ERA 2004) argues that in order to boost growth and poverty reduction in Africa, countries will have to apply dynamic trade policies, alongside gradual and targeted liberalization schemes. Mauritius, South Africa, Namibia, and Tunisia are cited as Africa's most competitive nations.


South Africa: Africa's top foreign investor

2004-09-30

http://www.irinnews.org/report.asp?ReportID=43404&SelectRegion=Southern_Africa&SelectCountry=SOUTH_AFRICA

South Africa is the top foreign investor in Africa and the region's "most attractive country" for investment, according to an annual report by the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD). The report noted the liberalisation of South Africa's regulatory regime and trade and exchange controls, and a technological advantage over other African firms as factors that had driven the country's outward FDI.


Southern Africa: Some countries on track to meet sanitation MDG

2004-09-30

http://www.irinnews.org/report.asp?ReportID=43377&SelectRegion=Southern_Africa&SelectCountry=SOUTHERN_AFRICA

The tiny mountain kingdom of Lesotho has one of the most sustainable and innovative approaches to sanitation in the Southern African Development Community (SADC). Delegates at the SADC Water Resources, Sanitation and Hygiene Fair (WARSH), held last week in Harare, the Zimbabwean capital, heard that sustained political leadership, private sector support and community empowerment were underpinning Lesotho's success in the field.


Uganda: UNICEF seeks US $7.8 million for conflict-hit north

2004-09-30

http://www.irinnews.org/report.asp?ReportID=43412&SelectRegion=East_Africa&SelectCountry=UGANDA

The United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) on Wednesday appealed for US $7.8 million to fund projects to help an estimated 1.6 million internally displaced persons (IDPs) in strife-torn northern Uganda. UNICEF said that during the past 12 months it had expanded and accelerated its response in health, water and sanitation, education and HIV/AIDS prevention and noted that these sectors remained inadequately funded.




Health & HIV/AIDS

Africa: Risk and protection: Youth and HIV/AIDS in sub-saharan Africa

2004-09-30

http://www.guttmacher.org/pubs/riskandprotection.pdf

This report draws on data for 24 countries in Sub-Saharan Africa which shows that large proportions of adolescents in Sub-Saharan Africa have inadequate information on how to protect themselves against HIV, and substantial proportions are sexually active and engage in behaviors that place them at risk of becoming infected.


Ghana: Scattered health information hampers research

2004-09-30

http://www.ghanaweb.com/GhanaHomePage/NewsArchive/artikel.php?ID=66630

Dr Ken Sagoe, Director of Human Resource Development of Ghana Health Service (GHS), at a meeting on Monday called on stakeholders to collaborate to ensure the establishment of a national health library, where health information could be readily accessed and utilised. The meeting seeks to identify gaps in health information sharing and to explore opportunities for improvement at all levels within the health care delivery system in the country.


Madagascar: Madagascar to distribute 15 mln free condoms

2004-09-30

http://www.alertnet.org/thenews/newsdesk/L28219561.htm

Impoverished Madagascar is to distribute 15 million free condoms next year to promote safe sex and halt the spread of HIV/AIDS by making its 17 million people familiar with the product as a weapon against AIDS. While the country's infection figure of 1.1 percent of the population is low compared to some countries on Africa's mainland, it is on the rise.


South Africa: South African AIDS rate may be stabilizing

2004-09-30

http://edition.cnn.com/2004/WORLD/africa/09/23/aids.safrica.reut/index.html

According to a new report conducted by the government, while the number of South Africans carrying the virus that causes AIDS increased in 2003, the rate of infection, especially amoung teenagers, was stabilizing. "Stability observed particularly amongst teenagers and the non-significant difference between the national figures for HIV prevalence for 2002 to 2003 all point to an epidemic in stabilization phase," the report said.


Southern Africa: Famine puts two million people at risk

2004-09-30

http://www.mg.co.za/Content/l3.asp?cg=BreakingNews-Africa&ao=122914

The food shortage crisis in three southern African countries is far from over and the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) has appealed for $78-million to provide emergency aid to millions of people. WFP regional director Mike Sackett said the money was needed to provide emergency aid to 1.85-million people in Lesotho, Malawi and Swaziland in the first half of next year.


Uganda: War threatens Uganda AIDS success

2004-09-30

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/africa/3694372.stm

Although Uganda has been widely praised for its fight against AIDS in the past, the conflict in the north is threatening its success. HIV/AIDS is twice as common in the war-torn north of Uganda as it is in the rest of the country, says World Vision International.


Zimbabwe: Emergency school feeding to expand in rural Zimbabwe

2004-09-30

http://www.reliefweb.int/w/rwb.nsf/UNID/576A5837D49C4E90C1256F1C002A485F

With the advent of the new school term in Zimbabwe, emergency school feeding is supporting the nutritional needs of thousands of vulnerable children from families struggling to cope with rising food insecurity. USAID funded C-SAFE will be stepping up the feeding program through partners Catholic Relief Services, World Vision and CARE, targeting 354,000 children in 722 schools.


Zimbabwe: Zimbabwe capital faces cholera threat as water supplies run dry

2004-09-30

http://www.zwnews.com/issuefull.cfm?ArticleID=10237

More than half of Harare's three million residents are either chronically short of water or without any at all just days before the start of the hottest month of the year. President Robert Mugabe's administration is facing allegations of incompetence as dams feeding the city, although polluted by untreated sewage, are full. The Zimbabwean capital has also run out of foreign currency to buy chemicals to treat its water.




Education

Africa/Global: CIDA youth awards for Africa

2004-09-30

http://www.cbie.ca/cyeta/media.html

Young Africans will soon have a better chance of getting education and training, thanks to a new Canadian program. The Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) is assisting the Canadian Bureau for International Education (CBIE) to launch this fall a two-year $1.4 million pilot project designed to benefit up to 250 young men and women in eight African countries.


Africa: Commonwealth to Help Improve Quality of Education in Sub-Saharan Africa

2004-09-30

http://allafrica.com/stories/200409290886.html

There is a pressing need to improve teaching skills in Sub-Saharan Africa. A 'brain drain' of teachers taking their skills elsewhere, combined with the effects of HIV/AIDS infection on the teaching profession, is holding back development of education in the region. The Higher Education at the Secretariat is collaborating with the Commonwealth of Learning, the Association of Commonwealth Universities and the Commonwealth Centre for Education to assist member countries as they implement policies in support of these six action areas.


Kenya: Teachers' anger over pay cut bid

2004-09-30

http://www.eastandard.net/daily/hm_news/news.php?articleid=1644

This week, teachers in Kenya vowed to resist by all means any attempt to re-negotiate the contentious 1997 salary award. Kenya National Union of Teachers told the World Bank to keep off the internal affairs of Kenya after the World Bank proposed a number of austerity measures that could be taken to contain ministries that are spending more than their allocations from Treasury.




Racism & xenophobia

Global/Africa: Education and media either allies or threats to tolerance

2004-09-30

http://www.zenit.org/english/visualizza.phtml?sid=59382

The struggle against discrimination has two decisive allies or enemies: education and the media, the Holy See pointed out when addressing the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) at the conference in Brussels on tolerance and the struggle against racism, xenophobia, and discrimination.


Italy/Africa: Black Pinocchio: Tale of migrant dreams

2004-09-30

http://www.reuters.co.uk/newsPackageArticle.jhtml?type=worldNews&storyID=590931&section=news

Some Italians want African illegal immigrants deported, others want them arrested, but theatre director Marco Baliani believes one way to ease Italy's refugee crisis is with a long-nosed wooden puppet. And that's no lie. Baliani is touring Italy with "Black Pinocchio", a fresh spin on the classic tale which he hopes will help Italians better understand the desperation that drives boatloads of Africans to risk their lives to reach Italian shores.


South Africa: Apartheid legacy still haunts South Africa

2004-09-30

http://www.eastandard.net/archives/cm/hm_news/news.php?articleid=1363

In April this year, South Africans for the third time overwhelmingly re-elected the ruling African National Congress, now led by President Thabo Mbeki. Not surprisingly, the elections lacked the euphoria that marked the formal end of apartheid, led by Nelson Mandela, a decade ago. What’s more, the victory of the ANC may be dimmed by its own policy mistakes and the stubborn legacy of apartheid, an albatross that holds the young democracy in a death choke.


Sudan: Is Sudan not an Apartheid State?

2004-09-30

http://www.mmegi.bw/2004/September/Friday24/443627387812.html

At an extraordinary meeting, the UN Security Council adopted resolution 1564 which threatens sanctions on the Sudan's vital oil industry. Four countries abstained. When it last met, the AU, led by Alpha Konare, reportedly agreed to "move from non-interference to non-indifference". Initially, we may recall, at its last meeting the AU’s reported first reaction to the crisis was to refrain from describing the massacres as "genocide" or as "racist".


Zimbabwe: Police officers forced to attend ideological re-orientation course

2004-09-30

http://www.zwnews.com/issuefull.cfm?ArticleID=10256

The Zimbabwe Republic Police is running re-orientation courses in which officers are taught about the ill-treatment of blacks by whites including the killing by British settlers of Zimbabwe's 19th century spirit medium, Nehanda. Sources said the courses were meant to prepare the law enforcement agency for the crucial general election scheduled for March 2005, but have been criticized as being highly political and apparently meant to drive a wedge between the police and anyone who did not support the ruling Zanu PF party and government.


Zimbabwe: Racism hearing set to get underway

2004-09-30

http://usa.cricinfo.com/db/ARCHIVE/CRICKET_NEWS/2004/SEP/057812_ZIM_28SEP2004.html

The hearing to investigate allegations of racism levelled against the Zimbabwe Cricket Union by the group of rebel players began in Harare on Wedneday. If found guilty, the ZCU could face a range of penalties, including possible expulsion from the ICC. The findings will be presented to the ICC's executive board for discussion at it's next full meeting in October. The ZCU will deny all the charges, and is expected to counter-claim that there is a legacy of racism by whites in Zimbabwe and that previous regimes did nothing to encourage blacks.




Environment

Djibouti: Pastoral areas facing food shortages due to poor rainfall

2004-09-30

http://www.irinnews.org/report.asp?ReportID=43385&SelectRegion=Horn_of_Africa&SelectCountry=DJIBOUTI

Inadequate rainfall from July to September has brought about food shortages in the southeastern and northwestern pastoral zones, causing an increase in food prices since September and bringing hardship to many households throughout Djibouti, a famine alert agency reported.


Eritrea: A little role model in the horn of Africa

2004-09-30

http://www.ds-osac.org/view.cfm?KEY=7E4351404654&type=2B170C1E0A3A0F162820

Eritrea may hold a major piece of the puzzle to the solution to the environmental crisis's and food security problems the world is facing. On the southwestern coast of the Red Sea, it is the home of two cutting edge environmental developments based on the use of sea water to produce food, animal fodder and the ability to green the desert. Using sustainable aqua culture techniques along with the often despised mangrove tree, a company called Seawater Farms has developed the first commercial scale, self sufficient, non polluting production of food for humans and animals using sea water in Eritrea.


Kenya: Kenya pushes for ban on lion hunts

2004-09-30

http://www.mg.co.za/Content/l3.asp?cg=BreakingNews-Africa&ao=122938

Kenya is pushing for an international ban on trade in lion trophies and skins, arguing that the number of the animals has declined sharply over the years as a result of hunting, loss of habitat and lack of prey. Kenya will press world governments to give the African lion maximum protection under an international treaty governing trade in endangered or threatened plants and animals.


Southern Africa: Ivory Debate Again Takes Centre Stage

2004-09-30

http://www.ipsnews.net/africa/interna.asp?idnews=25663

Certain conservationists in Africa say they will oppose any move to revive commercial exploitation of elephants, at the 13th Convention on the Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) which opens in Bangkok, in the first week of October. As the Bangkok conference gets underway, South Africa and Botswana are also lobbying for permission to sell another batch of ivory.


Southern Africa: New UN-backed project for Africa's Limpopo River unveiled

2004-09-30

http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=12041&Cr=&Cr1=mozambique

The United Nations is backing a new project along the Limpopo River in Southern Afirca which is aimed to improve the way land along the river is managed, boost the ability of governments, local authorities and communities to respond to extreme flooding events and establish early-warning systems.


West Africa: Special report on the situation of the locust invasion No. 3

2004-09-30

http://www.reliefweb.int/w/rwb.nsf/UNID/FDAC2112955665ADC1256F1C003D38CA

According to the latest estimates from the countries in the region, approximately 3.5 million hectares of land have been infested by the desert locust. It is mainly Mauritania, Senegal, Mali, and Niger that have been affected, but Burkina Faso, Chad and Cap Verde are also witnessing the impact of the locusts.




Land & land rights

Namibia: Namibian workers threaten to seize white farm

2004-09-30

http://www.mg.co.za/Content/l3.asp?cg=BreakingNews-Africa&ao=122812

Workers at a white-owned farm in Namibia have decided to take over the property in three weeks' time to protest the government's failure to implement a decision to expropriate land owners, a union official said on September 24th. A Namibian newspaper separately said that the workers were also planning to seize several other farms from owners that they say are exploiting them.


Uganda: Herdsmen Evicted From Teso Wetlands

2004-09-30

http://allafrica.com/stories/200409290177.html

The eviction of pastoralists from the Teso wetlands started yesterday and it was spearheaded by the local leaders, the National Environmental Management Authority (NEMA) and security agencies. The two-week deadline given to the pastoralists to vacate the wetlands expired on Monday. The eviction started concurrently in Agu in Kumi district, Gweri sub-county in Soroti and Apujan in Katakwi district.


Zimbabwe: More settlers evicted from commercial farms

2004-09-30

http://www.irinnews.org/report.asp?ReportID=43373&SelectRegion=Southern_Africa&SelectCountry=ZIMBABWE

The Zimbabwe government has continued a campaign against "illegal" settlers on former commercial farms with the eviction of about 200 families from a property 10 km north of Bulawayo, the country's second city. The government has defended its actions, saying it had warned the settlers against erecting permanent structures on the farms they had occupied under the land redistribution programme. It pointed out that a rationalisation exercise was needed, as many did not have the skills to exploit the potential of the commercial farms they had taken over.




Media & freedom of expression

Africa/Global: Public information still hard to get, five country survey finds

2004-09-30

http://www.justiceinitiative.org/db/resource2?res_id=102207

A pilot survey was conducted in Armenia, Bulgaria, Macedonia, Peru and South Africa, monitoring freedom of information to test the limits of government transparency. The survey was released by the Open Society Justice Initiative on September 28, designated "Right to Know Day" by global Freedom Of Information groups.


Burundi: Expressing freedom of speech rewarded with arrest

2004-09-30

http://www.icftu.org/displaydocument.asp?Index=991220571&Language=EN

The arrests of two senior Burundi trade union leaders on 24th September 2004, closely followed the leaders' address before workers during which they reportedly criticised government plans to submit a new draft constitution to a national referendum. This led the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU) to address the country's President to urge for their immediate and unconditional release.


Kenya: Armed gang ransacks two independent weeklies

2004-09-30

http://www.ifex.org/en/content/view/full/61554/?PHPSESSID=e8b5aeefb80f6276c6790153384320a0

Reporters sans frontières (RSF) has condemned a 24 September 2004 attack on two alternative newspapers, the "Weekly Citizen" and "The Independent", in Nairobi. The newspapers were attacked by a gang of masked gunmen claiming to be police officers who ransacked the papers' offices, confiscated material and threatened staff.


Somalia: Militiamen raid Mogadishu radio station

2004-09-30

http://www.ifex.org/en/content/view/full/61435/

RSF has condemned a 22 September 2004 raid by militiamen on a local FM radio station in Mogadishu, in which a security guard was roughed up and a journalist was threatened and detained. The operation was ordered by a local Islamic court, after being prompted by a dispute between two businessmen.


South Africa: IFJ concerned over threats to editorial independence and protection of sources

2004-09-30

http://www.ifj.org/default.asp?Index=2714&Language=EN

The Freedom of Expression Institute's (FXI) annual report will be presented on 30 September, alerting the European Union to a new "state of emergency" in South Africa in which censorship is on the rise. This led the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) to express deep concerns over this "creeping censorship" of media and the emergence of direct pressures against journalists which threaten editorial independence and protection of sources.


Zimbabwe: Independent journalists detained and charged

2004-09-30

http://www.ifex.org/en/content/view/full/61441/

Editor Vincent Kahiya, reporter Augustine Mukaro, and General Manager Raphael Khumalo of the weekly Zimbabwe Independent were arrested and charged under Zimbabwe's repressive media law on September 23rd and told to report back to police next Tuesday for a court appearance. The charges stem from an article on why judgment has been postponed in the treason trial of opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai.




Social welfare

Africa/Global: FAO committee on world food security adopts voluntary guidelines

2004-09-30

http://www.hrea.org/learn/guides/food.html

The FAO Committee on World Food Security (CFS) has adopted Voluntary Guidelines to "support the progressive realization of the right to adequate food in the context of national food security." Seen by many as a breakthrough, the adoption of the Right to Food Guidelines comes after two years of often difficult, but constructive negotiation. This should improve the chances of reaching the hunger reduction target of the World Food Summit.


Angola: Donors still need convincing for reconstruction funding

2004-09-30

http://www.irinnews.org/report.asp?ReportID=43423&SelectRegion=Southern_Africa&SelectCountry=ANGOLA

Foreign minister Joao Miranda told state media that the international community should stop discriminating against Angola and instead be sensitive to Angola's need for a donor conference as it tried to reconstruct after a devastating 27-year civil war. But western diplomats said the oil-rich country should first prove its commitment to reform.


Ivory Coast: Can children bring peace to Ivory Coast?

2004-09-30

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/africa/3686452.stm

Ivory Coast's week of reconciliation, to mark the second anniversary of the crisis, ended with 160 children being made United Nations ambassadors of peace. The children, from throughout this divided country, spent four days in no-man's-land between the rebel and government forces learning how to avoid conflict.


South Africa: A health system under pressure

2004-09-30

http://www.irinnews.org/report.asp?ReportID=43334&SelectRegion=Southern_Africa

As South Africa rolls out its national treatment programme, the country continues to lose skilled healthcare professionals to wealthier nations abroad, leaving severe shortages in an already over-stretched public health system. In the face of the HIV/AIDS epidemic, the human resources factor is even more critical. Civil society groups have warned that the government programme to provide free antiretrovirals (ARVs) could fall apart unless more professionals are attracted into the health system.




News from the diaspora

Ghana/Netherlands: Dutch court throws out verification procedure

2004-09-30

http://www.ghanaweb.com/GhanaHomePage/diaspora/artikel.php?ID=66683

Ghanaians in The Netherlands have hailed a ruling by the Dutch Supreme Court (Raad van State) terminating exhaustive verification of documents tendered for legalization at the Dutch Embassy in Accra. The court presided by a former Justice minister mr. E. M. H. Hirsch Ballin ruled on two separate cases that the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs is only mandated to check the authenticity of the signature or stamp on the document and not the contents.


Ghanaian missions abroad building databases of Ghanaian diaspora professionals to tap into their skills

2004-09-30

http://www.ghanaweb.com/GhanaHomePage/NewsArchive/artikel.php?ID=65991&nav=next

Conference on migration opens
Accra Sept. 14, GNA - Ghanaian missions abroad are currently in the process of preparing a comprehensive list of Ghanaian professionals abroad as part of moves to assemble the necessary database to tap their skills and experiences. President John Agyekum Kufuor who announced this said the government has initiated various programmes to help transfer resources and skills from such professional for the development of the country. In a speech read for him at the opening of a two-day conference on Migration and Development in Ghana, the President said: "it will not be possible for this or any government anywhere in the world to stop the migration of its citizens."

"What will be necessary is to evolve various mechanisms, which will make it possible for migration, especially of skilled personnel who have been trained at great expense to be taken in an orderly manner." The President said: "migration is an important policy issue that needs to be managed effectively to enable Ghana tap into the financial resources and skills of non-resident Ghanaians."

The President said a bill was "currently before Parliament to give greater constitutional recognition to Ghanaians in the Diaspora so that they can equally exercise their basic citizenship rights of taking part in the process of electing the government of their country." "We are exploring with other bilateral partners ways in which we can assist in the return of non-resident Ghanaians for varying periods of time to assist with our national development." President Kufuor urged participants to come up with important policies and recommendations to help the country address the problems associated with migration.

The conference would be exploring the multi-faceted issues related to migration and development within the context of the economic and social development of Ghana. It is a partnership initiative between the United Nations Development Programme, Institute of African Studies and the Royal Netherlands Embassy meant to tackle the various challenges associated with migration. The conference would also try to discover the linkages between migration and development and to ensure that migration becomes mutually beneficial to the sending as well as receiving countries.

Mr Alfred Sallia Fawundu, UN Resident Representative in Ghana said there were both positive and negatives sides of migration involving remittances sent form lands from far away to families, friends and other loved ones and the utilization of those monies as part of the survival strategies of the recipient. "In another instance, it brings to mind the brain drain and the spectre of depletion of trained and qualified human resources for development" he added. Mr Fawundu said migration seemed to have significant cultural, socio-economic and political implications, not only for the migrants but also for their respective countries of birth and settlements. According to him, conflicts and wars brought about asylum seekers, and various socio-economic factors closely linked with underdevelopment with serious implications.

Mr. Fawundu said Ghana and other African countries should find ways of striking a balance between the benefits of migration as a survival strategy for people and imperatives of national development. Mr. Arie van der Wiel, the Netherlands Ambassador to Ghana, said governments of migrants and recipient countries must be responsible for addressing the problems of illegal migration together. The Okyenhene, Nana Amoatia Ofori Panyin, who chaired the function, called for greater efforts in addressing the problems of underdevelopment to stem the tide of migration.


South Africa/UK: SA's Expatriates Want Piece of Home

2004-09-30

http://allafrica.com/stories/200409290307.html

South Africans living abroad and at home are more confident about the country's future, and many South African expatriates are showing increasing interest in owning properties back home. A South African real estate group says this reflects a growing trend among those either wishing to invest in residential property back home or planning to return home in the future.


USA: Afro-Descendant Women: Fighting for Social Justice and Development

2004-09-30

http://www.transafricaforum.org/calendarmain.html

On Monday, October 4, from 5:00 to 7:00 p.m in Washington, DC, an important discussion will be held with a delegation of Afro-Descendant women leaders from Central and South America. Women of African descent face compounded gender and race barriers and are among the most vulnerable groups in the region. This meeting will be an opportunity for Afro-Descendant Latin community leaders and activists to share experiences in promoting human rights and socioeconomic development for their communities.


USA: Power & Press Freedom in Liberia, 1830-1970 by Carl Patrick Burrowes

2004-09-30

http://www.transafricaforum.org/calendarmain.html

On Friday, October 8, 2004, Power & Press Freedom in Liberia, 1830-1970: The Impact of Globalization and Civil Society on Media-Government Relations by Carl Patrick Burrowes (2004) will be presented and discussed in Washington, DC. The Writers' Corner provides a forum for prominent authors to debut their most current works on issues pertaining to Africa and the Diaspora.




Conflict & emergencies

DRC: UN council agrees on more peacekeepers for Congo

2004-09-30

http://www.alertnet.org/thenews/newsdesk/N29594415.htm

Key Security Council members reached broad agreement on Wednesday on a resolution authorizing an additional 5,900 peacekeeping troops to help Democratic Republic of Congo keep a shaky peace on track. The infusion of fresh troops, which diplomats said had been tentatively endorsed by the United States, Britain and France, would be well below Secretary-General Kofi Annan's call for an extra 13,100 soldiers for the vast central African nation.


Mauritania: Government says foils third coup plot in 15 months

2004-09-30

http://www.irinnews.org/report.asp?ReportID=43426&SelectRegion=West_Africa&SelectCountry=MAURITANIA

The Mauritanian government has announced that it has foiled a fresh coup plot and has once more accused Burkina Faso and Libya of supporting disaffected soldiers seeking to overthrow President Maaouiya Ould Taya. This is the third time in 15 months that the authorities claim to have foiled an attempted coup against Ould Taya. The former army colonel himself seized power in this desert nation of 2.8 million people through a coup in 1984.


Nigeria: Nigerian oil ceasefire 'agreed'

2004-09-30

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/africa/3699616.stm

Only a few days after Nigeria's military warned Mr. Asari's Niger Delta People's Volunteer Force that it would take off the "kid gloves" unless the militia stops threatening oil workers, an agreement has been made. Mr. Asari and five other colleagues met President Olusegun Obasanjo on Wednesday where both parties agreed to cease their attacks on each other.


Nigeria: Security forces kill 27 "Taliban" militants, says police

2004-09-30

http://www.irinnews.org/report.asp?ReportID=43355&SelectRegion=West_Africa&SelectCountry=NIGERIA

The Nigerian security forces have killed 27 Islamic militants of the Al Sunna wal Jamma sect during a raid on their hideout in Borno State in the northeast of the country following attacks on two police stations on September 20th. It was the first attack by the Islamic fundamentalist group, which models itself on Afghanistan's Taliban movement, since it briefly occupied two towns in Yobe state in northeastern Nigeria in December last year.


Sudan: Renewed fighting reported in South Darfur

2004-09-30

http://www.reliefweb.int/w/rwb.nsf/UNID/54DE8B75E56FE1DEC1256F1E003E19E2

Renewed fighting in South Darfur State has reportedly driven at least 5,000 people from their homes in the last three days, non-governmental organisations operating in the area said on Tuesday. The displaced, they added, were now seeking shelter under trees and waiting without food, water or shelter.


Zimbabwe: Zimbabwe political violence report July 2004

2004-09-30

http://www.swradioafrica.com/Documents/ViolenceReportJuly04.htm

The Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum has recently published a report which covers human rights violations for the month of July 2004. It emphasizes continuing high levels of violations, particularly assault of political opponents and general infringement on the right to association and assembly. The report also highlights attacks on teachers, which in the past has been associated with elections in Zimbabwe.




Internet & technology

Africa/Global: African Govts warned on signing MOU with Microsoft

2004-09-30

http://africa.rights.apc.org/news-content.shtml?x=25942

African Govts have been warned on signing MOUs with Microsoft which would actually be illegal in US and Europe. The African governments were also asked not to rush in ratifying patent laws on software at the first day of a UNCTAD’s Intergovernmental meeting held in Geneva.


Africa: Free software, internet gives a voice to African lobbyists

2004-09-30

http://balancingact-africa.com/news/current1.html#internet

African lobby groups, as well as community and independent media, are using free software and the internet to fight a lack of money and skills. The internet had also helped overcome the problems associated with widely dispersed audiences and, in some countries, government crackdowns on freedom of expression, speakers told the Highway Africa 2004 conference in Grahamstown last week.


Kenya: Google-Kenya now available

2004-09-30

http://pambazuka.org/en/category/internet/24907

Google search engine already supports more than 104 languages or dialects while offering a personalized version of its engine for over 90 countries and it has just added one more country to that list. Google-Kenya available in English and Kiswahili with a Kenya-specific search function is now available at www.google.co.ke


Nigeria: Cybercafe fraudsters arrested in Lagos and USD3.5M recovered

2004-09-30

http://balancingact-africa.com/news/current1.html#internet

Twenty-eight Internet fraudsters have been arrested in Lagos, in joint operations between the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), and the FBI.Also, USD3.5 million (N490 million) was recovered in fraudulent cashier cheques and goods bought over the Internet and shipped to Nigeria by credit card scammers.


South Africa: Cellphones Join Battle Against HIV/Aids

2004-09-30

http://allafrica.com/stories/200409290290.html

A Cape-based project called Cell-Life has developed software and data management systems that enable the health workers at the Hannan Crusaid treatment centre in Cape Town's Guguletu township to monitor patients who are on AIDS drugs and pick up problems before they become life-threatening. Now, thanks to an innovative application of cellphone technology, is on the verge of becoming a paperless operation.




eNewsletters & mailing lists

Global: United Nations Job Vacancies

2004-09-30

https://jobs.un.org/release1/vacancy/vacancy.asp.

If you would like to receive the UN senior vacancy job lists attachment for
Fall 2004, send your request directly to [email protected] For requirements, eligibility and application deadlines, please visit the United Nations website at UN Human Resources e-Staffing System at: https://jobs.un.org/release1/vacancy/vacancy.asp




Fundraising & useful resources

Africa/Global: Lorenzo Natali prize for journalism

2004-09-30

http://www.prixnatali.info/nataliprize/index.php

Deadline: 31 October 20004. Journalists from any country are invited to apply for the 2004 Lorenzo Natali Prize for Journalism, which recognizes outstanding reporting on human rights and democracy in the developing world. Applications can be submitted online http://www.nataliprize.info/inscription.php


Africa: UNESCO/Keizo Obuchi Research Fellowship Programme

2004-09-30

http://www.thusanang.org.za/index.php?option=news&task=viewarticle&sid=753

Deadline: 14 January 2005

The United-Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation, (UNESCO) is calling on young researchers with advanced degrees (M.A., M.Sc. or equivalent) in developing countries to apply to the UNESCO/Keizo Obuchi Research Fellowship Programme for fellowships ranging from US$ 6,000 to US$ 10,000. The amount varies according to duration and place of study. The Programme is financed by Japan through its funds in trust programme for capacity-building of human resources.


Global: National Endowment for Democracy

2004-09-30

http://www.ned.org

Deadline: November 1, 2004. The National Endowment for Democracy (NED) invites applications to its Reagan-Fascell Democracy Fellows Program to enable activists, scholars, and journalists from around the world to deepen their understanding of democracy and enhance their ability to promote democratic change. More information: Please download the "Information and Application Forms" booklet available online at www.ned.org/forum/R-FApplication.pdf or visit www.ned.org and follow the link to Fellowship Programs.


South Africa: Call for Proposals - Support Programme for Social Housing

2004-09-30

http://www.thusanang.org.za/index.php?option=news&task=viewarticle&sid=747

Deadline: 8 October 2004

The Support Programme for Social Housing Institutional Development and Capacity Building (SPSH) is funded under the Financing Agreement between the European Community and the Government of South Africa. The SPSH is co-funded and implemented by the Department of Housing. Applications are invited from established network organisations representing Social Housing Institutions (SHIs) for support by the Programme Management Unit of the SPSH.


South Africa: Donation of PCs to Shuttleworth Foundation programme

2004-09-30

http://www.thusanang.org.za/index.php?option=news&task=viewarticle&sid=752

Pick 'n Pay, the food retailer has donated over 800 computer workstations to the Shuttleworth Foundation's tuXlab programme to assist them in their drive to increase the usage of open source software in 40 South African schools.




Courses, seminars, & workshops

Ghana: Gender Perspectives in ECOWAS PSO Experience, 8-12 November

2004-09-30

http://www.kaiptc.org/kaiptc/

A one week workshop is to be held from 8-12 November, 2004 for practitioners and researchers to evaluate the ECOWAS peacekeeping experience from a gender (women, peace and security) perspective, is to be held at The Kofi Annan International Peacekeeping Training Centre, Ghana. The workshop aims to ensure that gender mainstreaming is sufficiently incorporated into regional planning training and preparation for peace operations in the future.


South Africa: The second global inter-agency consultation on education in emergencies

2004-09-30

http://www.ineesite.org/about/global_consult04.asp

From 2-4 December 2004, the Inter-Agency Network for Education in Emergencies (INEE) and its UN and NGO partners will host this consulation to advocate for the right to education in emergency situations, share good practices and programme strategies and review INEE's purpose and direction.


South Africa:SANGONeT Event: World Development Information Day

2004-09-30

http://www.thusanang.org.za/index.php?option=news&task=viewarticle&sid=751

Date: 21 October 2004

To celebrate World Development Information Day this year, SANGONeT is hosting a special one-day event on Thursday, 21 October 2004, at its Braamfontein office. A programme of the day’s events can be found below.


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