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Pambazuka News 328: Special Issue: Africa's long road to rights

The authoritative electronic weekly newsletter and platform for social justice in Africa

Pambazuka News (English edition): ISSN 1753-6839

Pambazuka News is the authoritative pan African electronic weekly newsletter and platform for social justice in Africa providing cutting edge commentary and in-depth analysis on politics and current affairs, development, human rights, refugees, gender issues and culture in Africa.

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Highlights from this issue

Africa's Long Road to Rights: Refelctions on the 20th anniversary of the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights
Edited by Hakima Abbas
(in English and in French)

This year marks the 21st anniversary of the entry into force of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights and the establishment of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights. This is a moment for celebration, but also for reflection on the achievements and the limitations of the charter and its implementation. The purpose of this book, which accompanies a special issue of the award-winning electronic newsletter Pambazuka News, is not only to mark the 20th anniversary, but also to popularise understanding of the work of the commission.

The essays in this book review the achievements of the commission since its establishment, with contributions from Hakima Abbas, Korir Sing’Oei Abraham, Roselynn Musa , Mireille Affa’a Mindzie, Otto Saki, as well as interviews with Commissioner Bahame Tom Mukirya Nyanduga, Special Rapporteur on Refugees and Displaced Persons in Africa and Commissioner Faith Pansy Tlakula, Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression in Africa.

This issue of Pambazuka News contains extracts of this book.

Cette année marque le 21ème anniversaire de l'entrée en vigueur, en octobre 1986, de la Charte Africaine des Droits Humains et des Peuples et le 20ème anniversaire de l'établissement de la Commission Africaine des droits Humains et des Peuples. L’anniversaire devrait être un moment de célébration, mais également de réflexion sur les accomplissements aussi bien que les limitations de la charte et son execution. Le but de ce livre, qui accompagne une édition spéciale des nouvelles de Pambazuka sur la matière, est non seulement marquer le 20ème anniversaire, mais de populariser également la compréhension du travail de la Commission. Les essais dans ce livre font une revue des accomplissements de la Commission depuis son établissement par Hakima Abbas, Korir Sing’Oei Abraham, Roselynn Musa , Mireille Affa’a Mindzie, Otto Saki, Commissaire Bahame Tom Mukirya Nyanduga, Rapporteur Spécial sur des Réfugiés et des Personnes Déplacées en Afrique et Commissaire Faith Pansy Tlakula, Rapporteur Spécial sur la Liberté d’Expression en Afrique.

ISBN 978-1-906387-25-9, 188pp, 2008, Fahamu, £11.95/ $23.95ANNOUNCEMENTS: Angola is 23rd country to ratify women’s protocol
BLOGGING AFRICA: Review of African blog portals and aggregators
BOOKS AND ARTS: Black inventors, crafting over 200 years of success
ZIMBABWE UPDATE: Government targeting student leaderships ahead of elections
WOMEN AND GENDER: Online discussion on women in leadership roles
CONFLICT AND EMERGENCIES: Efforts to find common ground among Sudan’s rebels
HUMAN RIGHTS: Congo’s conflict leaves legacy of drug addiction
SOCIAL MOVEMENTS: World Social Forum 2008
REFUGEES AND FORCED MIGRATION: IDPs on the move again in North Kivu
ELECTIONS AND GOVERNANCE: The 2007 Kenya Presidential debate
CORRUPTION: New Sierra Leone leader promises ‘zero tolerance’ on graft
DEVELOPMENT: Triple threat looms over Africa’s poor
HEALTH AND HIV/Aids: Asylum seekers struggle to access ARVs
EDUCATION: Policy advice ‘poses challenge’ for Africa academies
LGBTI: Burundian gays battle HIV and STIs
ENVIRONMENT: Arrests over waste-dumping in DRC
LAND & LAND RIGHTS: Land reform ‘reproducing poverty’ in Namibia
MEDIA AND FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION: New federation condemns countries that ‘shame Africa’
INTERNET AND TECHNOLOGY: Partnership to grow Internet information
COURSES, SEMINARS AND WORKSHOPS:5th Pan-Commonwealth forum on open learning
PLUS: e-newsletters and mailings lists; fundraising and useful resources, and jobs

*Pambazuka News now has a page, where you can view the various websites that we visit to keep our fingers on the pulse of Africa! Visit


Africa's long road to rights

Hakima Abbas


While setting the scene with an account of how and why Africa has developed its own system for protecting human and peoples' rights, Hakima Abbas concludes that the success of the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights, in spite of 'the seeming lack of political will on the part of African states and governments to hold one another accountable for violations of fundamental freedoms', lies primarily in the distinctive engagement of civil society.

Since independence from colonialism, Africa has continued to bear witness to gross violations of human rights: from the genocide in Rwanda, leading to some 8000,000 deaths in as little as 100 days, to the continued violence in the DRC which has claimed more than 4 million lives, 1,000 people daily. The continent is home to some 120,000 child soldiers – more than a third of the global number. Africa has more internally displaced people than the rest of the world combined, with over 13 million people forced to flee from their homes and 3.5 million crossing international borders as refugees. The impact of HIV/AIDS has devastated whole communities, while access to health and information remains limited for some of the world’s poorest people.

While the Charter of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) recognised and upheld the principles enshrined in the Charter of the United Nations and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), the organisation was firmly rooted in the doctrine of non-interference between states established in the liberation era when unity and solidarity against colonialism were the primary driving force for the institutionalisation of pan-Africanism. The concepts of sovereignty and independence that made the OAU an effective anti-colonial body were later used to stifle human rights protection by implying political apathy toward the abuse by African states against their own people.

Following the 1963 adoption of the charter of the OAU, African leaders were invited to study the possibility of adopting an African convention on human rights. At that time, states and other perpetrators of human rights abuses on the continent often used a cultural relativist argument to dispel criticism and resist change in policy and practice. Accusing human rights defenders abroad and nationally of ‘neo-colonialism’ and labelling the very concept of human rights as ‘western values’, they failed to acknowledge or be held accountable to African human rights principles and norms that had yet to be formally enshrined into a charter system. This was soon to change due, primarily, to the efforts of the Association of African Jurists.[1] As early as 1961, African jurists convened under the auspices of the International Commission of Jurists and formulated the concept of an African human rights charter and court. Yet, only in 1979, after repeated calls from these jurists, did the OAU under the leadership of Togolese Edem Kodjo finally address the issue of human rights and make clear their relationship with African development. By the end of the same year, a committee of experts met in Dakar, under the direction of the OAU, to draft a charter on human rights. The African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights was finally adopted in Nairobi, Kenya, in July 1981.

The African system of human and peoples’ rights is both universal in character and distinctively African in its scope and principles. Now under the auspices of the African Union (AU),[2] Africa has a wealth of human rights mechanisms, laws and norms,[3] at the centre of which lies the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (the charter, hereafter). Unlike other human rights treaties, the charter uniquely recognises collective rights, individual duties and third generation rights, while also characteristically underscoring the interdependence between political and civil rights and economic, social and cultural rights. Following its adoption in 1981, the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights came into force only in 1986 but has since been ratified by all 53 states of the African Union and is widely recognised within Africa, at least rhetorically, as setting the standard for the protection of human rights.
While some in the international community question the necessity of regional protection mechanisms given the very precept of universality enshrined in the concept of human rights, it is generally accepted that the advantage of such mechanisms are the common interest of states within a regional bloc in upholding human rights, the ability of these states and civil society within them to influence one another, as well as the ability to define human rights norms based on shared values within a region.[4] Such regional human rights mechanisms also exist in the Americas and Europe.

The charter laid the groundwork for the establishment of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (the commission, hereafter), which was established in 1987. The commission has as its mission to promote and protect the rights enshrined in the charter by considering periodic state reports on national implementation and respect for the rights enshrined in the charter; contributing to the development and definition of human rights norms and principles on the continent; hearing complaints from states, civil society and individuals on human and peoples’ rights violations, issuing reports containing findings on whether abuses have occurred and making recommendations to the state and other perpetrators to remedy these violations; conducting fact-finding missions and establishing special procedures, such as appointing special rapporteurs and working groups, on salient issues on the continent.

While the principles of the charter have been widely adopted throughout Africa, as has the mandate of the commission, the principle of non-interference between states seems still entrenched. To this day, the African commission has heard only one inter-state complaint since its establishment. Despite the seeming lack of political will on the part of African states and governments to hold one another accountable for violations of fundamental freedoms, the success of the commission lies primarily in the engagement of civil society in its work. The Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights does not explicitly define who is able to seize (appeal to) the commission with individual complaints but the commission itself has interpreted the charter to broadly permit individuals and NGOs to submit complaints. Additionally, at every session of the commission, an NGO forum – currently organised by the African Centre for Human Rights and Democracy Studies in Africa (ACHRDS) – precedes the official opening and deliberations.

The NGO forum has established itself as an important part of the commission’s work by providing reports on thematic and regional situations as well as providing a platform for joint civil society advocacy and action. In recognition of the important contribution of civil society to the commission’s work, the final communiqué of the NGO forum is read out to representatives of states, commissioners, and civil society during the opening ceremony of each commission session. The NGO forum has been successful in putting issues of importance on the agenda of the commission and in providing alternative information for the commission to consider alongside state reports. Further, the NGO forum has proved invaluable in creating a network of steadfast African civil society organisations that effectively engage pan-African policy makers and institutions to create real change in Africa. Holding not only the states and governments to account, the NGO forum has effectively pushed for greater emphasis on the commission’s work at the African Union, thus contributing to the furtherance of a culture of respect for rights in Africa.

In November 2007, the commission will be celebrating its 20th year of operation at its 42nd ordinary session in Congo-Brazzaville. At this juncture in the evolution of the commission and with the imminent operation of the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights,[5] it is important to critically assess the successes, challenges and effectiveness of the human and peoples’ rights system in Africa. The only true measure for such an assessment is the changes in reality for individuals and communities across the continent.
With this yardstick, it is difficult to ignore the failures of the present system as we observe the tragedies in Darfur, the ongoing crisis in Northern Uganda, the widespread violations of women’s rights, the systematic use of torture and other cruel and degrading punishment by state actors, among other violations that continue to be widespread in Africa. Given that the state is primarily responsible for guaranteeing human and peoples’ rights, it requires no leap of logic to conclude that without the political will to respect these rights, violations will continue unabated. But even beyond the will of states to hold one another and themselves accountable, the African human rights system faces very fundamental challenges. Among these is simply the lack of knowledge of these rights and mechanisms across the continent.

It is indeed true that there is a gap between the decisions made in most pan-African institutions and the people of the continent directly affected by these decisions. However, this fact is particularly detrimental when dealing with the commission since its recommendations and decisions are not binding, thus, they rely heavily on political will for enforcement. Yet, the states’ determination to implement the recommendations of the commission will continue to be deficient as long as there is no internal pressure for realisation. In order for the people of Africa to hold their heads of states and governments accountable to their obligations under the charter and the decisions of the commission, there needs to be widespread popularisation and promotion of these rights and recommendations. The commission, states themselves and civil society should lead this national sensitisation and institutionalisation campaign, with the media playing an essential role.

Suggestions have further been made that the African human rights charter system needs to be integrated into the legal culture in Africa by making it an inherent part of the curriculum in universities and law schools throughout the continent. This legal institutionalisation at the national level would ensure that the charter system is cited in national jurisprudence and used by lawyers who would, in turn, make it accessible to their clients.[6]

The current impediment to widespread publicity of the charter and the decisions of the commission has largely been the lack of a concerted multi-stakeholder effort across the continent. However, the charter itself contains a provision, unheard of in other regional human rights systems, which requires the assembly of heads of states and governments to approve the commission’s reports before they become public.[7] As a matter of course, the assembly has approved the publication of the commission’s reports. Yet, in 2004, this procedure, which had previously been taken for granted, was subjected to scrutiny as the publication of the commission’s activity report on a fact-finding mission to Zimbabwe was postponed by the assembly on the basis of the claim by the government of Zimbabwe that it had not been given the opportunity to respond. This unique precedent underlines the danger, especially in situations as politically contentious as the crisis in Zimbabwe, that the decisions of the commission may be made obsolete if silenced by African heads of states and governments.

Additionally, for the mechanisms, institutions and avenues for advocacy in Africa to be effective, the system must be utilised to its fullest potential. The use of laws creates precedence, the use of advocacy forums generates accountability and the sustained use of mechanisms enhances their powers of enforceability. However, the potential impact of direct advocacy within Africa has been little tapped by international NGOs and resource-constrained national or local human rights defenders. The underuse of this system is detrimental, with most solutions to human rights violations in Africa sought from outside the continent. While a global strategy is necessary, what is needed, to complement to the current emphasis on international protection, is a new approach that originates from the continent, embraces the existing system of protection and promotion in Africa and provides a pro-active Pan-African response to violations.

While one of the strengths of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights is the distinctive engagement of civil society, it is a tireless select number of African human rights organisations that have created the space for their engagement in the system through the NGO Forum and other platforms. While at the African Union level, efforts have been made by states to undermine access and meaningful engagement by civil society by creating criteria for observer status that favour governmental NGOs (GONGOs) rather than independent civil society organisations,[8] criteria for observer status at the commission itself allow for a wide range of civil society organisations and individuals to bring complaints before it. However, access to and engagement with the commission, as with other pan-African institutions, favours international NGOs because of the lack of resources, understanding of potential impact, and access to information available to national and local human rights defenders. Yet it is these local and national civil society organisations and activists that are critical in ensuring national implementation of the rights enshrined in the charter and enforcement of the recommendations of the commission. Despite this, the NGO forum successfully and critically attempts to amplify the voice of African human rights defenders in the proceedings. Such endeavours must be supported and expanded for the commission to be strengthened.

As of 2005, the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights had issued an average of ten decisions per year, as compared to the Inter-American Human Rights Commission, which made decisions in approximately 100 cases per year. There are several reasons for the stark difference, but the budgetary contrast is striking: the African commission has a budget of $200,000 for each session, whereas the inter-American commission has an annual budget of $2.78 million and $1.28 million in external contributions and, as with the African commission, holds two sessions per year.[9]

Further to budgetary considerations to strengthen human rights system, complementary treaties to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights have the potential to strengthen respect for human and peoples’ rights in Africa. Currently, the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child, which came into force in 1999, has been ratified by 37 states and established the Committee on the Rights and Welfare of the Child to promote and protect child rights. However, if the commission remains obscure to many on the continent, the committee remains largely unheard of. Yet, other endeavours to complement the system have been more successful. In November 2005 the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa came into force. Having been adopted by the African Union in 2003, the protocol has been the fastest African treaty to come into force. This success is due primarily to the tireless efforts of women’s rights activists and human rights defenders across the continent, who formed coalitions, such as the Solidarity for Women’s Rights in Africa (SOAWR), to advocate regionally and nationally for the immediate ratification of the protocol without reservation. Proving that human rights protection and promotion is only as strong as the movement of defenders behind it, as suggested by Dr Issa Shivji,[10] the protocol lays the foundation for greater protection of women’s rights on the continent.

While the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, under Article 18 (3), addresses the rights of women, it has some shortcomings: its lack of a definition of discrimination, the scope of the rights it enumerates and its emphasis on tradition, which has been used, in some instances, to justify the violation of the rights of women. The protocol, however, is perceived to be groundbreaking in its breadth of rights. Though states seem to have readily adopted the protocol many have done so with reservations that are antithetical to the very principles of the protocol. It also remains to be seen how these states implement the rights enshrined in the treaty nationally. What seems certain, however, is that states will be held accountable to the commitments they have made under the protocol should the African women’s rights movement apply the same determination and coordination it used during the entry into force phase of the protocol to the domestication and enforcement phase.

In addition to the specialised treaty system that sits with the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, the African Union has finally established the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights to complement the protection of the commission. The protocol establishing the court came into force in 2004, after six years of waiting for the 15 state ratifications it needed, but the court has yet to become fully operational. While civil society hopes that the court can incorporate the lessons from the commission’s 20 years of experience, the political will so lacking to push the commission’s work to the fore of the African Union appears to still be missing in respect to the court. In a controversial step, the AU decided in July 2004 to merge the court with the African Court of Justice. What remains unclear is whether this merger, as yet still fully to be defined, will cause the adjudication of human rights cases to be delayed because of the differences in jurisdiction, rules and procedures of the two courts.

The establishment of the court is welcomed because it provides a legally binding recourse for survivors and victims of human rights violations as opposed to the recommendations of the commission, which rely so heavily on political will for enforcement. However, its potential to play a key role in providing remedy to victims is undermined by the fact that, unlike the commission, individuals and NGOs are unable to seize the court directly unless the state concerned has made a declaration under Article 34 (6) of the protocol establishing the court. Given the record of inter-state complaints at the commission,[11] this provision has the potential of rendering the court mute, except in cases that are referred from the commission. The complementarity between the court and the commission also remains unclear. For instance, Christof Heyns suggests that if in fact states made the declaration allowing access to the court by individuals and NGOs, the stipulation that such access be direct may undermine the commission as survivors and victims would be forced to chose, from the outset, between the potentially legally binding decision of the court and forfeiting the opportunity to seize the court by bringing a communication to the commission, where the best outcome would be a non-binding recommendation.[12] These and other similar issues certainly need to be resolved if the court is to strengthen the African human rights system.

Further to the additional protocols and protection mechanisms, other organs of the African Union dealing with good governance, development, rule of law and human rights, are complementary to the commission’s work. Notable among these is the New Partnership for African Development (NEPAD) and its associated African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM), which monitors states compliance with their obligations under regional treaties. It is vital that these processes are harmonised with the work of the commission so as to ensure the greatest protection for human and peoples’ rights. The objectives of the APRM are based on the four focus areas of the ‘Declaration on Democracy, Political, Economic and Corporate Governance’.[13] Less widely accepted than the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, the APRM has been acceded to by some 23 African states. Like the commission, the APRM has no enforcement mechanism but has been an important process in the few countries where the process has been carried out as it has included many stakeholders, including civil society, and has received regional attention. The commission’s decisions, recommendations and findings can and should provide reference for the APRM review. Further, the commission should participate in the preparation of the background report and review visits of the APRM in countries where communications have been heard and human and peoples’ rights violations found to have occurred, thus allowing for follow up and monitoring of implementation of commission decisions via consistent APRM reviews.[14] This state compliance with the findings and recommendations of the commission should be explicitly reviewed through the APRM as a means of strengthening enforcement and the protection of human and peoples’ rights.

In conclusion, as the ‘African renaissance’ of the new millennium is framed with the self-determined precept of African solutions to African problems, it is crucial that regional human and peoples’ rights protection are strengthened. Indeed, the African Charter and Commission on Human and People’s Rights provide a sound foundation, though not without inherent weaknesses, to guarantee the protection of these rights. As the commission advances towards its third decade, the challenges, failures and successes of its work must be critically assessed and the lessons drawn. In order to strengthen the protection the commission is charged with, African heads of states and government, through the African Union, must cease to de-legitimise the commission, be it through the lack of funding or the postponement of its reports; take all appropriate steps to facilitate a coordinated campaign to popularise the role and recommendations of the commission; ensure that the highest protection of human and peoples’ rights is guaranteed through complementary mechanisms and norms; and further strengthen civil society engagement with the commission.

The commission has proved itself to be the organ of the African Union that underscores the importance of African citizen and civil society engagement with pan-African institutions by illustrating that human rights protection is only as effective as the peoples’ movement spurring it on. Without the consistently active participation of African civil society, the ‘ghettoisation’ of the commission within the AU would have been absolute. Yet, through the efforts of the people of Africa demanding their rights, the commission has made waves in shifting the culture of denial and impunity among heads of states and other perpetrators of human rights violations, at least rhetorically, to one of recognition of the rights enshrined in the charter. It is high time these efforts were heeded so that the people of Africa can see real change in their lives and enjoy the rights and protection long overdue them. Only then will the man-made tragedies of Africa cease and the continent can, at long last, progress on the road to development.

* Hakima Abbas is the AU Policy analyst for Fahamu Networks for Social Justice

* Please send comments to [email protected] or comment online at

For references and notes, see link below.

Heyns, C., Padilla, D. and Zwaak, L., (2005) 'A Schematic Comparison of Regional Human Rights Systems: An Update', African Human Rights Law Journal, 5: 308-320

Ouguergouz, F., (2003) The African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights: A Comprehensive Agenda for Human Rights, Kluwer Law International

Umozurike, U., (nd) 'The African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights', American Journal of International Law, 77: 902-912

'The African Regional Human Rights System', International Service for Human Rights

1 Umozurike, U., (nd) 'The African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights', American Journal of International Law, 77: 902-912
2 The Organisation for African Unity was replaced in 2001 by the African Union.
3 The African human rights system is comprised of five treaties: the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights, the Convention on Specific Aspects of the Refugee Problem in Africa, the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child, the Protocol on the Establishment of an African Court on Human and Peoples' Rights, and the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa. There are also three implementation mechanisms: the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights, the African Court on Human and Peoples' Rights and the African Committee of Experts on the Rights and Welfare of the Child.
4 Heyns, C., Padilla, D. And Zwaak, L. (2005) 'A Schematic Comparison of Regional Human Rights Systems: An Update, African Human Rights Law Journal, 5: 308-320
5 The protocol establishing the African Court on Human and Peoples' Rights entered into force in January 2004.
6 Heyns, C. (2001) 'African Regional Human Rights System: In Need of Reform?' African Human Rights Law Journal 1(2).
7 Article 59 (1) of the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights states that 'all measures taken within the provisions of the present Charter shall remain confidential until such a time as the Assembly of Heads of States and Governments shall otherwise decide'.
8 The criteria for observer status at the African Union apply to NGOs registered in AU member states if the majority of the NGO's management is composed of African citizens and if the NGO is devoted to regional or continental activities. The 'basic resources of such NGOs shall substantially, at least two-thirds, be derived from contributions of its members', yet, the budgetary realities of most independent African NGOs, who often receive third-party funding from private foundations, the state or governmental institutions, contradict this provision.
9 Heyns, C., Padilla, D. and Zwaak, L. (2005) 'A Schematic Comparison of Regional Human Rights Systems: An Update, African Human Rights Law Journal, 5: 308-320.
10 Shivji, I. (nd) 'The Concept of Human Rights in Africa'.
11 To date, the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights has heard only one inter-state complaint.
12 Heyns, C. (2001) 'African Regional Human Rights System: In Need of Reform?' African Human Rights Law Journal 1(2).
13 These focus areas are: democracy and political governance, economic governance and management, corporate governance and socio-economic development.
14 International Federation for Human Rights (nd) 'A Human Rights Approach to the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD) and the African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM)'.


Angola is 23rd country to ratify Women's Protocol


News has just come through that Angola has also deposited its instrument of ratification bringing the total to 23 countries that have ratified the Protocol on the Rights of Women in Africa. Congratulations to all involved.

Comment & analysis

The rights of indigenous peoples in Africa

Korir Sing’Oei


Korir Sing'Oei Abraham argues that Africa’s opposition to the adoption of rights for indigenous peoples — who are often nomads or hunter gatherers — has largely been informed by misconceptions and myths. He points out that the right to self-determination sought by these marginalised groups has been recognised by the AU as being consistent with the principles of a country’s territorial integrity.

It is late July 2006. A study and information visit by the Working Group of Experts on Indigenous Populations – part of the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights (the commission, hereafter) – is under way in Uganda. Uganda is one of the few African countries whose constitution boasts an extensive human rights regime of civil and political as well as economic, social and cultural rights. The visit, designed to disseminate the findings of a report by the commission in 2004 on the status of indigenous peoples in Africa, and thereby to engage in constructive dialogue with government officials and civil society in Kampala, is confronted with an insurmountable obstacle. A leading member of the Ugandan delegation overseeing the visit – Rosette Nyirinkindi, the head of the African Union division in Uganda’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs – is of the view that the visit’s objectives are contrary to the spirit of the country’s constitution, which seeks to foster peaceful coexistence among Uganda’s communities. According to Nyirinkindi, a seasoned diplomat who had previously served in her country’s mission in New York, the Ugandan constitution identifies all 56 ethnic communities residing in the country as indigenous. Therefore to set apart and focus on some of these communities to the exclusion of others, as the commission report had done, was a flagrant breach of Uganda’s constitutional and policy commitment to equality and a short cut to ethnic strife.

This is the classic scenario that confronts advocacy of indigenous rights in Africa. To raise indigenous issues in the continent demands that one respond to the question of to whom precisely indigenous rights may be ascribed. This then invites myriad other inquiries, including the usefulness of this distinction in promoting human rights and the link with the question of national integrity. This article will address some of these issues, and I hope give voice to the millions of pastoralists and forest communities who self-identify as indigenous people in Africa.

The context

It is difficult to analyse the question of indigenous rights in Africa without engaging with the question of statehood, and it is impossible to address the latter without considering its dubious origins. The colonial enterprise in Africa, marked by domination and annexation of territory, was masterminded by Leopold, the Belgian monarch, and Bismarck, the German chancellor. It reached its peak in the Berlin conference of 1884, which was convened ostensibly to regulate trading relations between European powers but ended by legislating for the partition of Africa. The result was the dismemberment of the continent into 53 multi-ethnic and odd states with no basis in scientific or social rationality save that of resolving territorial disputes between the colonisers. This certainly lends credence to the fledgling movement for the unification of Africa.

Colonialism was based on the ethnocentric belief that the morals and values of the European coloniser were superior to those of the colonised African. It involved egregious racial discrimination linked to pseudo-scientific theories that were buttressed by the Christian religious zealotry of the 17th and 18th centuries. This form of social Darwinism, that placed white people at the top of the animal kingdom ‘naturally’ in charge of dominating non-European indigenous populations, found a strong philosophical justification in the works of the German philosopher Hegel, amongst others. He claimed that sub-Saharan Africa was an ancient utopia which had remained shut up within itself: ‘the land of childhood, which lying beyond the day of self-conscious history, is enveloped in the dark mantle of night’. Its isolated character, argued Hegel, originated not merely in its tropical nature but essentially in its geographical condition. Hegel claimed that upland negroes continued to exist in a state of consciousness which he termed ‘the infancy of humanity’, hence the juridical concept of discovery that informed colonial property relations with conquered people’s territories.

The post-colonial state in Africa, emerging from this colonial artifice, reluctant to remodel itself, and having solidified the colonial boundaries through the ancient international legal principle of uti possidetis,[1] is fraught with weaknesses which have manifested themselves in serious ethnic conflicts, poor governance, wanton inequalities and chronic poverty. Indigenous rights in Africa must be assessed and asserted from this context.

Indigenous rights and people in Africa

While it is undeniable that the West ravaged and looted the entire continent through slavery, colonialism and neo-colonialism, the disproportionate disadvantage dispensed by these forces upon some communities in Africa is vehemently denied. Why is it so hard to appreciate that the Maasai, who lost over one million acres of grazing land in Kenya’s vast Rift Valley to the British, today constitute one of the poorest communities in the country? Does it take rocket science to appreciate that the expulsion of the Batwa from the Bwindi and Mgahinga National Parks in Uganda to pave the way for the protection of the mountain gorilla, a key tourist attraction, has led to the near-decimation of this hunter-gatherer community? Does one need to ask what contributes to the penury of the Herero in Namibia, whom the Germans butchered en masse and used as guinea pigs at the turn of the 20th century?

The worst part of the nightmare is that rather than pave the way for the reconstruction of Africa’s political and economic order, the departure of the colonialists ushered in a new set of black dominators who, taking advantage of the instruments and institutions of the colonial state, proceeded to plunder and loot the continent of its resources and completely closed the door to restitutive justice.

Contemporary public policy makers in Africa ignore the shame of colonialism and make vigorous attempts to construct a reality based on the ‘national interest’ rather than communitarian pursuits, which they consider provincial and therefore sectarian. It is this subsuming of identities, and its conflation with equality for all, that is largely responsible for the denial of indigenous rights.

Indigenous rights are considered a domain of rights which seeks to dislocate national priorities for communitarian purposes and does not fit the logic of state-centred development. That some communities have refused to align their interests with national development priorities is seen as failing to take on the responsibility and demands of progress. This view is part of a classical contention that disputes the relevance of recognising diversity in divided societies, a move that hegemonises the state. A critical analysis of indigenous rights and their beneficiaries would demonstrate the fallacy of this objection.

First, indigenous rights are grounded in the general notion of the universality of rights within a multicultural context as endorsed by the Vienna Declaration of 1993. That declaration unequivocally reaffirmed the inherent dignity and unique contribution of indigenous people to the development and plurality of society, and called for their full inclusion in the life of the state. It is therefore anathema to question the place of indigenous rights in the national discourse, for the two can comfortably coexist and support each other; the substantive inclusion of marginalised groups in national processes gives the latter broader legitimacy. By reinforcing the state where it would otherwise be absent, the promotion of indigenous rights, such as self-determined local governance and development, can lead to peace.

Second, indigenous rights must be seen as enabling substantive equality, thus spreading light to a group of people previously not reached by the transformative premise of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. While non-discrimination is held up as a jus cogens,[3] the fact that it is still difficult to achieve equality for all means that marginalised groups, be they women, children, minorities or indigenous groups, have to pursue strategies that go beyond formal equality to attain the promise of dignity for all people. Some have questioned how effective non-discrimination provisions are as a bulwark against the human rights deficiencies experienced by indigenous groups. Professor Kingsbury of New York University has argued, for instance, that the existing mechanisms have completely failed to deal adequately with the concerns of indigenous groups, and have merely served a symbolic and didactic purpose, hence the demand for more specific mechanisms.

Third, the collective conception of rights has often seemed to be a child of a lesser god within a human rights system that has historically pitted civil and political rights against economic, social and cultural rights. Collective rights, which are central to the struggle of indigenous people the world over, have suffered from being poorly articulated, which has prevented them from being regarded as the norm. Thanks to Article 27 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the progressive jurisprudence that has flowed from the Human Rights Committee on this article, a lot of ground has been laid for the protection of group rights to land and development, among other things. The rich array of solidarity rights provided for under the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (the charter, hereafter), which lend themselves well to the cause of indigenous peoples, is thanks to Keba M’Baye, the Senegalese jurist. His appreciation of the dynamics of African society inspired the document. In his 1972 monograph on the rights to development – Le Droit du Developpement comme un Droit de l’Homme – borrowing significantly from Karel Vasak, UNESCO’s director, M’Baye articulates solidarity rights to include the right to development, the right to peace, the right to an environment, the right to ownership of the common heritage of humankind, and the right to communication.

Thus, the notion of indigenous people and rights in Africa must be understood not merely in terms of a dictionary definition that emphasises people’s origins. The modern understanding of the term ‘indigenous peoples’ focuses on the lived experience of systemic marginalisation, discrimination, cultural difference and self-identification, in line with the emerging practice of the commission. The International Work Group for Indigenous Affairs (IWGIA) and the Working Group on Indigenous Issues of the commission have argued that:…the issue of indigenous peoples revolves around the assertion that certain marginalized groups are discriminated against in particular ways because of their particular culture, mode of production and subordinate position within the state and that state legal and policy frameworks have been impotent at addressing these challenges. This is a form of discrimination which other groups within the state do not suffer from. It is legitimate for these marginalized groups to call for the protection of their rights in order to alleviate this particular form of discrimination.[4]

The notion of indigenous people in Africa also overlaps with the concept of minority rights, another problematic but less controversial term in the continent.

Africa’s opposition to the adoption of standard-setting mechanisms and norms for indigenous peoples has largely been informed by misconceptions and myths. In 2006 an assault on the Draft Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, led by Namibia and Botswana within the African group in the UN, caused the General Assembly to postpone its decision on the declaration, thereby holding in abeyance substantive recognition of indigenous rights under international law. When the African Union’s assembly of heads of state and government met in Addis Ababa a year later, they justified the position of the African group on the grounds that indigenous rights as elaborated in the declaration would affect territorial integrity. The question that baffles many is whether the Batwa in Uganda, the Endorois in Kenya or the Bushmen in Botswana have designs to create their own separate states. Is it not obvious that the right to self-determination sought by these groups is one that can empower them and lead to their recognition and enhanced participation in public affairs? The Katanga v Zaire communication of 1976, which established that a variant of self-determination that ensures the inclusion of marginalised groups within a state is consistent with the principle of territorial integrity, was reiterated nearly 20 years later in the Ogoni v Nigeria decision by the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights.

The term ‘indigenous people’ should therefore be used in a practical way, to draw attention to and alleviate the particular form of discrimination from which communities suffer. In the African context these communities are almost always nomadic or hunter gatherers. By identifying with the term, they feel that the particularities of their suffering can be better articulated and can lend themselves to the protection of international human rights law and moral standards. The adoption of a flexible bundle of rights attributable to indigenous groups, rather than a constant struggle to achieve unanimous agreement on terminology (which has been elusive over the last two decades of discussion within the UN on indigenous rights) seems to me to offer a real possibility for appreciating indigenous peoples’ rights in Africa.

A cry from the dark: living on the fringes

Groups that self-identify as indigenous live a peripheral existence. Most governments in Africa do not have disaggregated data or indicators to monitor the social, economic and political status of indigenous people. How then can they track progress towards achieving the Millennium Development Goals if the poorest of the poor are not even properly recognised? A major concern is that many states will focus on the bottom line of reaching the MDGs, rather than the matter of who reaches them or how. This risk was noted in the Human Development Report of 2003.[5]

Take the Twa in Burundi, Rwanda, DRC and Uganda, for instance. Their lifestyle and the rate of deforestation has kept them moving for decades and left them vulnerable – falling through the cracks of a modern social and legal system which would normally secure tenure on both their lands and livelihood assets. Growing pressure to preserve the few remaining rainforests in the most densely populated countries of the Great Lakes region means that they find themselves excluded from their traditional habitats. The Rwandan state has for decades been tightening its control over forest areas, driven by the need for more protective conservation policies, the growth of the tourism industry and security concerns along its borders with DRC, Burundi and Uganda. The Batwa have been the most affected by these measures, which have uprooted them from their traditional lifestyle and means of earning a living. They have been unable to make a successful transition to a sedentary life and a market economy.

Most indigenous communities, including the Twa, were never compensated when expelled from the ‘protected areas’ or ‘state reserves’ they used to live in, due to their traditional marginalisation and to flawed legal and policy frameworks. As a result, their living conditions have degenerated further. Today, most Batwa lead a shockingly impoverished existence. A recent report by a UK charity called the Forest Peoples Programme predicts that the Twa are in danger of extinction unless massive and concerted action is taken to reverse their decline.

Such is the state of many other groups of indigenous people, both pastoralists and hunter gatherers, from the Barabaig in Tanzania to the Tuareg in Mali.

The road less traveled

Indigenous rights, shunned by politicians across the continent, have found solace in an unlikely quarter: the judiciary. Reputed to be incorrigibly corrupt and inefficient, judiciaries across the continent have yet to be acknowledged as bastions of justice for the weak. It is here that the struggle for recognition and respect for indigenous rights has been most vociferously waged. From Botswana to Kenya, South Africa to Uganda, courts have become the theatre for dramatising the plight of indigenous people and the sheer scale of their destitution. In Kenya, a toothless goat was produced to persuade a court of allegations of environmental genocide perpetrated against the indigenous Il Chamus community. In Botswana, hundreds of members of the Basarwa community, clad in their colourful traditional attire, endured a 200-day hearing to demonstrate that they were indeed a recognisable group, contrary to the state’s assertion. Judicial proceedings have been used with mixed results to seek land restitution for an indigenous group in South Africa, halt state displacement of the Ogiek from the Tinet forest in the Rift Valley of Kenya, procure provision of social services for the Benet in Uganda, stop a multinational mining company from procuring a land concession in the Magadi area of Kenya for soda ash production, and secure language rights in Namibia.

Disappointingly, just as in the days of Brown v Board of Education at the height of the civil rights movement in the United States, when the Supreme Court issued judgments in favour of desegregation but racist and belligerent states refused to implement them, African governments have been reluctant to embrace with open arms the decisions of their own judiciaries. The government of Botswana, for instance, side-stepped the decision of its constitutional court and refused to allow the Basarwa to return to their hunting livelihood in the Central Kalahari Game Reserve. A year after the Kenyan constitutional court held that a constituency should be created for the Il Chamus in Baringo to ensure their participation in policy making, no action has been taken. A similar state of affairs prevails in Uganda, where two years after consent judgment was entered allowing the Benet rights to graze and farm the land they occupy, there has been no action by the administration to back up the court’s decision. In a continent that professes respect for the rule of law as a central tenet of its constitutional order, the failure to implement judicial decisions is a mocking indictment of Africa’s commitments to good governance and democratic ideals.

Undeterred, indigenous groups have seized on regional mechanisms to develop standard-setting precedents on indigenous rights, but their attempts have yet to bear fruit. In 2006 the Bakweri lands claim against the Cameroonian government was defeated when the commission declared the communication inadmissible. Indigenous people in Africa wait with bated breath for the commission’s decision with respect to the Endorois communication against the Kenyan government, which seeks the restitution of ancestral territory.

The media houses, belatedly, have taken their cue from these dramatic scenes and begun to highlight the folly of non-recognition of indigenous communities’ plight in Africa, enabling the African public and policy makers to consider their predicament. Mainstream civil society organisations such as ActionAid and CARE in Uganda have begun to demand state attention to indigenous rights as a means of attaining the Millennium Development Goals. The rise of organisations such as the Centre for Minority Rights Development in Kenya and the Indigenous Peoples of Africa Coordinating Committee (IPACC) in South Africa, dedicated solely to the struggle for indigenous rights in Africa, is also helping give visibility to these issues.

Good news, difficult to come by, is slowly emerging. Countries such as South Africa and Cameroon have taken the bold step of commencing processes to ratify ILO Convention 169, which extends a substantive regime of rights for indigenous people, including the right to free, prior and informed consent in relation to development processes on indigenous lands.

Not yet out of the woods…

Indigenous people’s struggles for recognition of their rights must be considered within the context of building multicultural societies in Africa, where diverse identities contribute towards the well-being of the whole. Without this paradigm shift, indigenous rights will continue to be perceived negatively, as instruments of parochialism and division. Yet to achieve this shift, Africa must rise up to the challenge of its own identity. Until then, it is ‘not yet uhuru’ for indigenous groups in Africa.

* Mr. Sing’Oei is the executive Director of the Centre for Minority Rights Development (Cemiride)

* Please send comments to [email protected] or comment online at

For notes, see link below.

1 Latin for ‘as you possess’, a legal principle which allows a belligerent to keep the territory it occupies at the end of a war.
2 Howitz, R. (2006) ‘Recognition, Respect and Reconciliation: Steps towards Decolonization?’ in Mander, J. and Tauli-Corpuz (eds) (2006) Paradigm Wars: Indigenous People’s Resistance to Globalization. Berkeley CA: University of California Press, p. 15.
3 Jus cogens: ‘compelling law’, or ‘higher law’, which may not be violated by any country.
4 IWGIA and ACHPR (2006) Indigenous Peoples in Africa: The Forgotten Peoples?, p.12.
5 UNDP (2003) Millennium Development Goals: A compact among nations to end human poverty. New York: UNDP.

Women, equality and the African human rights system

Roselynn Musa


Roselynn Musa writes that despite the promises and the mobilisations by women from all over the continent, African women still lack adequate protection of their human rights. She argues that the root of the problem is the persistent lack of political will by governments to implement commitments to gender equality.

The 21st century marks a critical juncture in the promotion and protection of a human rights culture in Africa. As the world becomes more interdependent, regional systems of cooperation are playing an increasingly important role in the promotion and establishment of a positive international human rights order.

African states have committed themselves to various international and regional policy documents. The most significant international gender mechanisms are the 1979 Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), and the Beijing Platform for Action (BPfA) of 1995, the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (the charter, hereafter), the International Conference on Population and Development’s Programme of Action (ICPD PoA), the African Union’s Solemn Declaration on Gender Equality in Africa, the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD), the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), and the constitutive act of the African Union. In signing up to the MDGs, 191 governments resolved to promote gender equality as a goal in its own right, but also the empowerment of women in order to combat poverty, hunger and disease and to stimulate sustainable development. NEPAD also stresses equality and enhances women’s rights through its African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM). All these conventions and policy frameworks commit governments to address gender equality, equity and women’s empowerment. They are subject to periodic reviews to measure the extent to which they have been delivered.

Over the past year these reviews have generally shown that Africa has made some progress at all levels. Most countries have developed national gender machineries and policies, but the majority of their strategies have not been implemented. Despite all these promises and first-class commitments, African women are no better off than when they started. The promises have moved a shoe size further on, if at all. The stagnation in some respects and deterioration in others are worrying, particularly given the level of mobilisation of women and advocacy by women’s rights activists from all over the continent. At the root of the problem lies the persistent lack of political will on the part of African governments to implement commitments to gender equality.

This paper explores the relationship between the international and regional policy framework on women’s human rights in Africa and its actual implementation. It discusses the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa (from here onwards referred to as the protocol), compares it with other instruments and highlights what makes it unique. It concludes with the challenges encountered in promoting women’s rights and recommends accelerated implementation of gender policy commitments in Africa.
The Protocol on the Rights of Women in Africa

The protocol seeks to address the shortcomings of the international instruments that preceded it in addressing African women’s rights. It has proven to be a much-needed improvement on the way in which the AChHPR addressed the position of women in Africa. It applies CEDAW and BPfA in an African context.

The protocol has three sections. The first sets out its rationale and refers to both regional and international commitments on women’s rights. The second outlines the rights to be upheld by the protocol, and the third covers its implementation and addresses the procedures for adopting, monitoring and amending it.

The protocol is the first instrument to be developed by Africans for women in Africa. It builds on and strengthens other regionally negotiated issues that have been detrimental to women’s human rights. It challenges cultural behaviour and traditions that often violate the fundamental rights of women in Africa. The inclusion of articles concerning widows and inheritance rights is regarded as a breakthrough, for these are issues particular to African women which are normally swept under the carpet. And it gives women a line of defence on which to base their appeals in cases where they have been unsuccessful in challenging national discriminatory laws or practices.

The entry into force of the protocol reflects a growing awareness that women are equal members of society, and that they are participants and not simply beneficiaries in the development process. Prosperity on the African continent requires the promotion and protection of the rights of all African peoples, as well as adherence to the principles of gender equality and non-discrimination.

From the above it can be seen that the African Union has plans and programmes to ensure that its member states are part of the global effort to advance the principle of gender equality in Africa.

Enforcement mechanisms

At the national level, the procedure for domestication of CEDAW and the protocol is a major challenge. While several countries have acceded to CEDAW, many have not taken the extra step to domesticate it and make it part of their national laws. What this means in effect is that its provisions cannot be directly applied in national courts. States parties do not always have the political will to implement commitments made at the international level.

The challenges faced in implementing CEDAW are a good indication of those the protocol will face, from which important lessons can be drawn. The mandate of the CEDAW Committee is to monitor its implementation by the states parties which have ratified it, and this is done through periodic reports. Unfortunately this is one area that has not been taken very seriously by states parties. Many have two or more reports outstanding, while some have submitted none. This is a major challenge to the committee’s work.

While the process of reporting is thorough, to a great extent it remains in the hands of governments; NGO participation is weak. The examination of states parties’ reports is not intended to be adversarial, but should be done in a manner that promotes constructive dialogue between the states parties and the committee.

The African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights is an approach of last resort when all other domestic remedies have failed to provide satisfactory results. Pending the full establishment of the African Court, the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights (the commission, hereafter) is seized with matters of interpretation arising from the application and interpretation of the protocol. The commission was established under Article 30 of the charter. Its primary responsibility is to promote and ensure the protection of human rights on the continent. Its four areas of mandate are: promotional activities, protective activities, the examination of state party reports and the interpretation of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights. It holds regular sessions twice a year in around April and November and can hold extraordinary sessions.

The commission has 11 part-time members. They are independent experts and act in their personal capacity rather than as representatives of their governments. The integration of the protocol into the implementation mechanism of the commission is consistent with the provisions of the charter itself. It will ensure that women whose rights under the protocol have been violated will have final recourse to the African Court to have their rights established and enforced. Furthermore, individuals other than the victims themselves, as well as human rights NGOs, can bring a complaint on behalf of the victims to the court.

One of the challenges facing domestication of the protocol is the multiplicity of legal systems in most African countries. While in a few countries international treaties, once ratified, automatically become part of national law, in most cases they have to be passed by an act of parliament to bring them into effect.

It is encouraging that the constitutive act of the reinvigorated African Union, which replaced the Organisation of African Unity, and the creation of the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights has emboldened women’s rights advocates to press for more vigorous enforcement of international and regional commitments.
Unique features of the protocol
The protocol was drawn up after many other treaties and therefore has the advantage of hindsight. It was able to draw on the best parts of earlier documents while also dealing with issues they omitted. The protocol is closely modelled on CEDAW; there are more similarities than differences between the two. The differences are mainly in those areas that concern African women and that CEDAW mentions in the abstract or not at all. The protocol names specific rights and defines violence against women. Its definition of a woman is comprehensive and includes the girl-child. It is culture-specific and therefore very valuable in challenging negative cultural practices. Unlike CEDAW, the protocol places explicit obligations on states to set aside resources to eliminate discrimination against women and to punish people or organisations that practise it.

There was initially stiff resistance to the protocol on the grounds that women in Africa do not need a separate provision, and that a clause on non-discrimination against women in the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights would suffice to take care of the women’s rights issues that were omitted from it. The charter is perhaps distinct from other regional systems of human rights protection in that it has specific provisions that address the rights of women. This is apart from the commonplace provisions on the rights to equality and freedom from discrimination characteristic of most international instruments of this kind. With regard to the rights of women, the charter provides that ‘The state shall ensure the elimination of every discrimination against women and also ensure the protection of the rights of the woman and the child as stipulated in international declarations and conventions’ (Article 18 (3)).

However, this provision has been regarded as too general, giving no substance to the rights of women, thereby placing these rights in a situation that has been described as a ‘legal coma’. Addressing the rights of women alongside those of children is also criticised. While recognising that both women and children have been victims of enduring violence, it raises the question of why the latter are equated with the former. Nevertheless, the charter is seen as creating the bedrock for the protection of women’s rights in Africa. It provides a basis from which states have to account for the status of women and the protection of their rights within national legal systems. And it enjoins African states to take positive steps to ensure that their national laws and policies seek or result in the attainment of these two primary goals. Since then there have been significant developments towards a more comprehensive legal regime for the protection of women’s rights in Africa, resulting in the drafting of the protocol to the charter.

The protocol can be a tool that forces states to prioritise legislative measures to eliminate harmful traditional practices. It provides a foundation on which human rights acquire legality in the African context, and a basis for assertions that African women’s rights to equality are no longer contested. What is critical at this point is to see greater dynamism from domestic courts, the charter and the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights in giving meaning and precedence to the protocol.

The protocol attempts to invigorate the charter’s commitment to women’s equality by adding rights that it omitted and by clarifying governments’ obligations. Only one of the charter’s more than 60 articles makes specific reference to women. These are some of its shortcomings:

• Its failure to define explicitly discrimination against women
• Its lack of guarantees concerning the rights of women to consent to marriage and equality in marriage
• Its emphasis on traditional values and practices that have long impeded the advancement of women’s rights in Africa.

Some of the most serious violations of women’s rights in Africa take place in the private sphere of the family and are reinforced by traditional norms and cultural values. Article 17 (2) and (3) of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ rights states that every individual ‘may freely take part in the cultural life of his community’, and that ‘the protection and promotion of morals and traditional values recognized by the community shall be the duty of the state’. The only specific reference to women’s rights is contained in a clause concerning the family and the upholding of tradition, thereby reproducing the tension that plagues the realisation of women’s rights in Africa. Indeed, the charter has been interpreted as protecting customary and religious laws that violate women’s rights, such as their rights to equality and non-discrimination, to life, liberty and the security of the person, and to protection from cruel and degrading treatment.

The protocol recognises women as individual human beings rather than members of communities or families. It deals with discrimination in both the public and private realms and targets both direct and indirect discrimination. It also moves equality from an abstract concept to something that states parties are expected to take concrete measures to address.

Most importantly, however, the protocol offers a real remedy for women at the regional level. It gives women victims of human rights violations somewhere to turn, providing them with practical access to bodies which will understand the implications of their experience. But this potential will only be realised if states parties ensure that they protect women’s rights in practice and work to implement the commitments they have made.

The campaign: Solidarity for African Women’s Rights (SOAWR)

While acknowledging the scale of the challenges, I also want to celebrate our achievements by recognising the efforts of Solidarity for African Women’s Rights (SOAWR), a coalition that has been working tirelessly to advance the cause of the protocol.

SOAWR is a regional network of 26 civil society organisations and development partners working towards the promotion and protection of women’s human rights in Africa.[1] Since its inauguration in 2004, SOAWR’s main focus has been to get those countries that have not yet ratified the protocol to do so urgently, while at the same time encouraging those that have ratified it to domesticate and implement it at the national level. SOAWR also works to persuade countries that have ratified the protocol with reservations to remove harmful reservations that would constitute a denial of some of the most important freedoms and rights of women recognised in the protocol.

SOAWR has been using all the instruments at its disposal and has capitalised on every opportunity to move the campaign forward: writing petitions, direct advocacy with national and regional leaders, mobile phone SMS service, publications in different languages, AU pre-summit civil society forums, public forums, press conferences, coloured rating cards, and so on. SOAWR is currently documenting the advocacy strategies it has used in its campaigning. This was an idea which came from a meeting of SOAWR members immediately after the pre-summit activities they organised in Accra, Ghana, in June 2007. They decided to document their efforts to provide a clearer understanding of what was being done to encourage ratification and domestication of the protocol, and to offer inspiration and a means of action to the Africa-wide movement for the endorsement and domestication of the protocol.

I hope that SOAWR will continue to create a platform for debate and dialogue on the disjuncture between international instruments and their national implementation in Africa and to identify strategies that researchers, activists, and government officials can apply to bridge that gap. Gender activists should also join their voices to civil society coalitions such as SOAWR to continue calling for the removal of the structural barriers that face women.

Obstacles and challenges

The domestication and further ratification of the protocol have been slowed by a lack of political will. Even though most countries have established national gender machineries, these are weak and lack adequate authority, capacity, human resources and funding. This is coupled with inadequate skills in gender analysis among planners and implementers, and limited gender awareness within communities.

The African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights, which is an important tool in interpreting the protocol, is not yet fully functional. Even when it is, access to it by civil society organisations, which have been the main champions of the protocol, will be limited to those countries that have signed a declaration to facilitate such action.

Women’s participation in politics and decision making remains low, and this slows down their influence on governments to carry out their obligations under the protocol. Women’s access to justice is further inhibited by illiteracy and ignorance of their rights and how to access them. Some cultural and traditional practices continue to hold back progress in realising the provisions of the protocol.

Most of the human rights instruments set a ceiling and a floor as frameworks that women can use to combat discrimination in its many forms. However, these tools in themselves are not perfect. For example, the language employed in some of them is either too complicated or too broad or both; this could create problems of interpretation, especially at the national level. They also fail to address the issue of recourse in cases of non-compliance. It has been said that they can only bark because they lack the teeth they need to bite. The consequences of non-compliance and non-enforcement need to be built into them.

Another problem is the strategy of placing reservations on some key provisions. This negates the principle of women’s rights as first and foremost being inalienable, integral and indivisible.

One other obstacle that has been identified at the national level is that few lawyers are aware of the protocol and are therefore unable to cite it in support of their arguments. Not many law students take up courses in gender and the law where these are part of the curriculum, hence their ignorance about the protocol and other women’s rights instruments.
Lessons learned

Effective implementation of international human rights standards for women has depended so far on the will of individual states. Cultural and religious practices are often used to undermine the implementation of provisions concerning women’s rights. Reliance on the good will of governments to implement international agreements has not yielded positive results. CEDAW was seen as foreign, but even though the protocol is home-grown, our governments have not treated it differently as far as implementation is concerned.

Women’s empowerment requires a higher level of involvement by women in governance and decision making. Systemic and structural barriers that prevent them from participating in decision making at all levels need to be removed.

The media can play an important role in promoting equality. Women’s press and communications initiatives and the use of technology to promote women’s activities should be supported.

The proliferation of instruments has also been cited as a possible factor hindering compliance because each one requires a different reporting and accounting procedure, thereby placing a huge burden on states. There is also inadequate dissemination of information about these instruments at the local level.

A number of African states have bound themselves to international human rights instruments, but only a few have actually taken steps to make them enforceable within their countries. It seems that our governments ratify such instruments not because of a political commitment to their content, but because of political expediency and in order to maintain a good image. The failure to domesticate these commitments remains a big problem.

The multiplicity of laws in different countries is such that most countries will have to enact new legislation to domesticate the protocol after ratification. A number of countries that have ratified the protocol, such as South Africa and Mauritius, did so with harmful reservations, signifying their unwillingness completely to abandon practices that discriminate against women. The legitimacy of entering reservations on the treaties may be questionable because of the substance of such reservations.

Mainstream international human rights standards are defined in relation to men’s experiences and are stated in terms of discrete violations of rights in the public realm, whereas most violations of women’s rights take place in the private realm. The public/private dichotomy that is so detrimental to women’s rights continues to exist.

The drafters of the protocol were very much influenced by the contents of CEDAW as well as the work of the CEDAW committee. It is therefore obvious that to ensure effective implementation of the protocol, Africa should draw on the experience of the CEDAW committee.


It is evident from the preceding paragraphs that the adoption of the protocol is a significant development that will ensure the full integration of women’s human rights within the overall human rights framework in Africa. The protocol will allow both the African Commission and the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights to elaborate how the rights recognised under it should be guaranteed in real-life situations.

The role of international instruments and other initiatives cannot be underestimated. Broad legitimacy beyond the nation state has created some leverage to pursue the gender agenda. However we are faced with growing failure to translate these instruments into reality in the domestic context. The gap between the commitments and their implementation is becoming ever larger, raising the question: what needs to be done? We should consider both individually and collectively what we can do to ensure that implementation takes place.

There is no denying that it is very important to have these commitments on paper as markers of progress. What is more important though is using them to ensure actual change in the lives of women. We have to be careful that the gains won in Beijing are not turned back.


There needs to be a specialist body similar to the CEDAW committee to monitor implementation of the protocol. The African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, in its work to monitor the charter, has not paid enough attention to the protocol. Even though it has appointed a Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Women, this office needs more human and financial resources to carry out its mandate effectively. States parties are bound by Article 26 of the protocol to report on progress in its implementation, but they are not likely to take this seriously if they are not required to report to a particular body specifically set up to monitor the protocol.

The teaching of women’s rights should be incorporated into the curriculum of law faculties as a core discipline, to ensure that lawyers leave school knowing not only national laws but also regional and international instruments that protect women’s rights.

Women’s rights organisations and coalitions such as SOAWR should be supported to monitor implementation of the protocol. They should be assisted financially to participate in commission meetings and to prepare shadow reports when country reports are being considered.

Steps should be taken to institute in full the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights without further delay.

Women should be encouraged to participate in political processes at all levels and in portfolios that have significant policy roles. Members of parliament also have an important role to play in passing legislation, initiating private members’ bills and demanding ministerial statements on obligations undertaken.

The media could also contribute by disseminating information on the progress of the protocol and its benefits to citizens so that they can demand implementation.

All the rights in the protocol are interrelated, interdependent and indivisible. Thus the violation of any one of them affects the enjoyment of all the others. Countries should be encouraged to ratify the protocol without registering reservations.

Our leaders and policy makers should resolve to change not only what is outside of them, but also what is inside them as far as attitudes to gender equality are concerned. With a redefined notion of power and equality we will be able to bring about change.

* Roselynn Musa is the Advocacy Officer at the African Women’s Development and Communications Network, (FEMNET) in Nairobi, Kenya

* Please send comments to [email protected] or comment online at

For references and notes, see link below.

1 African Women’s Development and Communication Network (FEMNET), Equality Now-Africa Regional Office, African Centre for Democracy and Human Rights Studies (ACDHRS), Women in Law and Development in Africa, Akina Mama wa Afrika, Inter-African Network for Women, Media Gender and Development (FAMDEV), Fahamu, Oxfam GB, Burkina Faso-Voix de Femmes, Djibouti-UNFD, Guinea Conakry-CPTAFE, Kenya-Coalition on Violence Against Women, FIDA-Kenya, Mali-AJM, Mozambique-Muhler Forum and FDC, Namibia-Sister Namibia, Nigeria-Women’s Rights Awareness and Protection Alternatives (WARPA) and HURILAW, South Africa-Centre for Human Rights, University of Pretoria, Sudan-Strategic Initiative for the Horn of Africa, Education Centre for Women in Development, and the Babikar Badri Scentific Association for Women, Inter-African Committee on Harmful Traditional Practices, Ethiopia.


Arusa, M.K. (1998) Human Rights Protection in the African Regional System. Pretoria

Benedek, W. et al, (2002) Human Rights of Women. New York: Zed Books
Inter-Parliamentary Union (2003) Handbook for Parliamentarians: The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women and its Optional Protocol. Geneva: UN Publications

UN (1995) ‘Platform for Action and the Beijing Declaration’. UN Department of Public Information, New York

Waldorf, L. (2004) Pathway to Gender Equality: CEDAW, Beijing and the MDGs. UNIFEM/German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development

Westhuizen, C. van der (ed) (2005) Gender Instruments in Africa: Critical Perspectives and Future Strategies. South Africa: Institute for Global Dialogue

World Bank Gender and Development Group (2003) ‘Gender Equality and the Millennium Development Goals’. Washington DC: World Bank <>

Refugees and displaced people in Africa

An interview with the special rapporteur on refugees and displaced persons in Africa


Bahame Tom Mukirya Nyanduga, commissioner responsible for upholding the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ rights talks to Hakima Abbas about Africa’s commitment to protecting refugees and his belief that democratic states that tolerate diversity do not experience the conflict that generates the displacement of their citizens.

Hakima Abbas (HA): Please would you give us a brief overview of the situation of refugees and displaced people in Africa?

Bahame Tom Mukirya Nyanduga (BTMN): The situation of refugees and displaced people in Africa by and large reflects the political, economic and historical landscape of the continent. Over the last five decades many African countries have experienced instability of one kind or the other.

There are those countries which attained independence through the armed struggle. Their citizens were displaced because of colonial and racist repression and in the wars of liberation that followed. Then there are those countries which experienced military and one-party rule, which invariably suppressed civil and political rights. Opposition politicians and sections of society which expressed opposition to undemocratic rule, such as student movements, trade unionists and the general population, were subject to gross human rights violations.

For a better part of the period from the early 1960s until today, the continent has experienced civil wars based on ideological, ethnic or religious differences. The 1994 genocide in Rwanda marked the worst form of violation of human rights, the intended purpose being the extermination of the Tutsi ethnic minority. We are currently experiencing conflicts in the Darfur region of Sudan, Somalia, Central Africa Republic, Chad, and the north-east part of the DRC, causing serious human rights violations. All these conflicts have created refugees and internally displaced people (IDPs).

We cannot lose sight of the factors responsible for these situations. In fact, they should be lessons on how best to avoid conflict and therefore reduce displacement. The refugee population in Africa has gone down drastically in recent years, because many conflicts have been resolved and the respective states have adopted democratic reforms and democratic constitutions and have held successful elections. I can mention Liberia, Sierra Leone, Burundi and the DRC as examples, although there are still pockets of conflict in the DRC. The displacement of people in Northern Uganda is less of a problem now because of the peace talks between the government of Uganda and the Lord’s Resistance Army rebels. The security situation in Northern Uganda has improved so much that the government is closing some of the camps that it had established and displaced people are going back to their villages.

The same cannot be said for those countries where conflicts continue and where the numbers of IDPs continue to rise. Africa, the poorest continent of all, has the distinction of hosting the largest number of IDPs in the world, estimated at about 13 million people, or more than half the global total of 25 million people.

I must stress that these figures represent the majority of people who are displaced by conflict. There are other causes of displacement in Africa which happen regularly, such as development projects and natural disasters. Those displaced by conflict or natural disasters invariably receive humanitarian assistance, whereas those displaced by development projects receive little compensation even though their livelihoods are destroyed for good. It is high time that our governments adopted positive measures to assist all victims of displacement in order to restore their dignity and sustain development and stability.

HA: What mechanisms are in place to guarantee the rights of refugees and displaced people in Africa? Why is there a need for a regional mechanism? Are the international systems not sufficient?

BTMN: The African regional mechanism for guaranteeing the rights of refugees and IDPs is found in basic regional legal instruments and institutions. The constitutive act of the African Union reiterates the need to promote and protect respect for human rights and condemns all forms of action likely to lead to violations of human rights, such as unconstitutional access to power. The African Union has established institutions such as the African Human Rights Commission [the commission, hereafter], the African Human Rights Court, and the Peace and Security Council, all of which have mandates to protect human rights in Africa.

Speaking of refugees, we must first of all recognise the 1969 OAU Convention Governing the Specific Aspects of Refugee Problems in Africa. This was the foremost instrument which localised international refugee law in African realities. The convention was adopted at a time when Africa was experiencing the fight against colonial and racist regimes and the first wave of ethnic conflict, the two major causes of refugee outflows at that time. It expanded the definition of a refugee in Africa to include a person fleeing from external and colonial occupation and domination. It included causes other than those defined by the 1951 Geneva Convention. In other words, and in answer to the question, the regional system was established in response to particular problems and characteristics of Africa.

But secondly, and more importantly, the regional instruments do not substitute for the international system. They operate in tandem. The 1969 convention states that it complements the 1951 convention and recognises the importance of international cooperation in dealing with African refugee problems. The African Charter on Human and People’s Rights [the charter, hereafter] states specifically that it draws inspiration from international instruments.

It is in this context that the UNHCR, the United Nations agency responsible for refugees worldwide, has worked closely with affected African states to respond to refugee situations. The African Union (and the OAU before it) also works closely with the UNHCR. Through its executive council and commission (formerly the OAU Secretariat), it has established an institutional and policy framework to ensure that refugee issues are given an appropriate response.

The African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights established the right to seek and receive asylum, which may be enjoyed by any individual who is persecuted. It also recognises the right to return to one’s own country. The charter established the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights, which receives complaints against states and makes determination on violations of the charter, including where refugee rights are concerned. The idea of establishing these mechanisms is to develop a culture of respect and protection for all human rights, including the rights of refugees and displaced people.

The commission established the special rapporteur mechanism for refugees and IDPs in order to highlight their plight on a continuous basis and sensitise governments about the need to find durable solutions to these problems. The rights of African refugees are also recognised in other regional instruments, such as the Protocol on the Rights of Women, and the Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child in Africa.

As far as IDPs are concerned, I must emphasise that the responsibility to protect them rests squarely on the state of which they are citizens. IDPs are citizens who remain on a state’s territory when they flee a part of the country which is affected by conflict, natural disaster or a development project. Every state has a responsibility under international law to protect its citizens. This responsibility does not cease when a person is displaced from their village or town. It is the duty of a state to continue to ensure the human dignity, physical security and integrity of IDPs. International humanitarian assistance, as and when it is necessary, will continue to be provided to ameliorate the living conditions of IDPs during their displacement. However, this does not relieve the state of its primary responsibility to protect and assist them, and to ensure that they are safe and can return to their habitual places of residence or are resettled once the conditions which forced them into displacement improve.

In order to entrench the rights of refugees and displaced people there must be wider dissemination of information about all these instruments, because at the root of the problem is a lack of respect for the rights of these people at the community or national level.

HA: Where is the intersection and divergence between refugee law and human rights law in Africa?

BTMN: Intersection and divergence between refugee law and human rights law is not a peculiarly African issue. The analysis I have set out above is not a distinction between refugee law and human rights law. Nor am I suggesting that Africa treats these cases differently. If anything, one must speak of intersection rather than divergence. Africa recognises that refugee law is part of human rights law. The African refugee experience introduced certain concepts which until 1969 were not known to international refugee law. This was a result of historical and political conditions peculiar to Africa, which I explained earlier, as well as the conditions in which African refugees lived. These were experiences unknown at the time the international 1951 convention was drawn up.

The restatement of a number of legal principles in the 1969 convention – such as that asylum is a humanitarian act and shall not be considered an unfriendly act, that refugee camps shall be located at a reasonable distance from the border of the home state, and that refugee involvement in subversive activities is expressly prohibited – reflected very particular African situations and concerns, where armed conflicts and civil wars were conducted by liberation movements and groups from territories in states neighbouring the home countries. The legal principles and practices which have evolved through the African refugee experience, such as the principles of voluntary repatriation and those mentioned earlier, now form part of the core principles of international refugee law.

HA: What are the challenges in guaranteeing the rights of refugees and displaced people in Africa?

BTMN: In my view, the first major challenge is intolerance of diversity and inattention to the plight of the victims. African states that recognise diversity of opinion, nationality and ethnicity do not experience the same problems as those that are preoccupied by ethnicity or eschew political pluralism. Without a proper sense of nationhood, these problems will continue to occur. African states which have embraced democratic reforms and accountable forms of political and economic governance, and recognised racial and ethnic diversity as well as plurality of political views, do not experience conflicts caused by political or economic mismanagement, nor the refugee and internally displaced situations that follow.

The second challenge is the level of poverty in all African states, and the inadequate social and economic provisions within society that this entails. This may lead to the marginalisation of some sections of the population which in desperation become involved in conflict, hence creating refugees and IDPs. Lack of resources can also lead to a failure to provide for refugees’ basic needs in the countries of asylum.

The third challenge is a lack of knowledge on the part of refugees, IDPs, and the general population about their basic legal rights, such that they cannot advocate or demand them when they become refugees and IDPs.

HA: What is your role and mandate as Special Rapporteur on Refugees and IDPs in Africa?

BTMN: My mandate is outlined in a resolution adopted by the commission in December 2004 during its 36th session held in Dakar, Senegal. It requires me to study and highlight the plight of refugees, asylum seekers, internally displaced people and migrants in Africa, to engage African states and governments, the African Union and the international community, and consider strategies to reduce these problems by making recommendations through the commission. It involves work with different stakeholders, as stated above, including civil society and national human rights institutions, to address and focus attention on these problems in order to try and find lasting solutions to them.

My role is therefore one of facilitator, helping bring the human rights issues and problems encountered by these specific groups of African people to the attention of their governments and the African Union. The role of special rapporteurs is very flexible. It enables them to respond to any of the aforesaid situations depending on the access they are accorded by the organisation and states responsible, with whom they must interact in order to promote awareness about the problems facing these groups and to protect their rights.

HA: How do you feel that your role as special rapporteur, and the work of the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights more broadly, has affected the situation of refugees and displaced people in Africa?

BTMN: It is not for me to assess my role as special rapporteur. This I will leave to other observers. In any case it was one of the later mechanisms established by the commission, in 2004, unlike others which had been established a number of years earlier. I am the first person to hold it, so there was no experience to learn from. However, let me say that I feel that I have contributed, to a certain extent, to bringing visibility to human rights and to the issues facing refugees, IDPs and migrants in particular. My role has made it possible for these issues to be discussed at every commission session, since my reports are a regular part of the agenda.

In terms of the role and impact of the commission, it has made a number of decisions concerning complaints submitted on behalf of refugees, one of them concerning the mass refugee expulsion from Rwanda in the early 1990s. The commission found that Rwanda had violated the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights in expelling Burundian refugees. More recently it found Guinea in violation of rights in a complaint brought on behalf of refugees from Sierra Leone. The commission recommended that the two states find a solution to these violations.

The commission’s reports of activities are submitted to the AU summit every six months, which means that all states parties to the charter closely follow the activities of the special rapporteur and of the commission in general. I am confident therefore that, through our work, all our stakeholders recognise that much still needs to be done in protecting the rights of all these people.

HA: The recent debate around continental unity at the African Union saw many advocating for a borderless Africa. How would African citizenship affect the plight of refugees and internally displaced people in Africa? Is this an effective solution to the issue?

BTMN: Let me state that any answer that I will give to this question reflects my personal views, and is not an answer in my capacity as special rapporteur. This is because the larger question, or the ‘grand debate’, has not been raised for discussion within the commission, and therefore I cannot assume to speak on behalf of it.

Theoretically speaking, the answer to your question would be that a borderless Africa would precipitate an African citizenship, which means freedom of movement for all Africans from Cape to Cairo, and Dar es Salaam to Dakar, and therefore the absence of refugees. In other words, an African unity government would mean the absence of inter-state and intra-state conflicts. There could still be internally displaced people, because people are likely to be displaced from causes other than internal conflict.

The problem, in my view, is that in several countries on the continent the intolerance to diversity which I explained earlier makes it difficult for democratic values to thrive. The repression of opposition groups illustrates this point. Many African states, including the leading proponents of this debate, lack the kind of political and economic liberalism which gives rise to a divergence of political views and a culture of freedom of expression and opinion. Very few general elections are held on the continent without allegations of vote rigging, intimidation and outright disdain for the opposition.

Therefore, much as I am a believer in continental unity, I am not a proponent of unity at the expense of stability and the need for shared social, economic and political values. A rushed union without basic shared values, such as unequivocal respect for fundamental human rights, will create a worse situation. For me, the ultimate test of continental unity will be when the objectives and principles enshrined in the constitutive act of the African Union and the NEPAD programmes, including the African Peer Review Mechanism, become a reality for all 53 AU member states, and when the processes of the regional economic communities are implemented in good faith. If these minimum standards are hard to achieve, then it is my gut feeling that African unity is still far ahead of our time. If these programmes succeed, then a foundation will have been laid for sustainable continental unity.

HA: Under President Nyerere, Tanzania had an open policy on refugees and displaced people in Africa that provided for broad assimilation into Tanzanian society. This policy seemed to maintain stability in the country despite the flares of conflict that spread throughout the region. Present-day South Africa, on the other hand, has a very closed policy toward refugees and migrant workers, which the government justifies as a means to maintain national stability. How do national policies toward refugees and displaced people affect political stability, and what are the ideal policies that governments must adopt?

BTMN: The refugee policy of any state is informed not only by the obligations it has assumed under international and regional instruments but also by the material conditions obtaining in the country at the time the policy is adopted and implemented. In comparing the refugee policies pursued by President Nyerere’s government with those adopted by the later South African government we must recognise that they were informed by different conditions and epochs. Many of the refugees during President Nyerere’s time came from Southern and Central Africa. Members of liberation movements trained and went to fight for the freedom of their countries. The refugees from Central Africa did not fight their home states until the 1990s, and they did not do so from Tanzanian soil.

It must be said as well that, as a result of hosting refugees for the last five decades, the open door policy pursued by the Tanzanian government has changed. A number of factors may have accounted for such a shift. Assistance to refugees in Africa decreased in the early 1990s when the international donor community shifted its support and assistance to Eastern Europe after the collapse of the communist regimes there. Secondly, security issues associated with the conflicts in the Great Lakes region became problematic in areas where refugee camps were located, which was not the case in the early 1960s to the mid-1980s. The conflicts of the 1960s and 1970s did not significantly affect the people living in the Tanzanian border regions. The exceptions were a few cases of the Portuguese colonial army bombing Southern Tanzania. But since the 1990s, acts of banditry associated with the flow of small arms in the Great Lakes region have affected many communities close to the refugee camps and beyond. This has had a negative impact on the local people, some of whom have become proponents of anti-refugee policies.

On the other hand, after the democratisation of South Africa, its government had to contend with an influx of refugees and economic migrants. The fact that the democratic government had to deal with the inequities of the apartheid era, and make provision for the majority of its people who had lived in conditions of poverty for a century, must not be overlooked. It is my hope that as she faces the challenge of dealing with refugee issues, in particular the dire political and economic situation across her northern border, and since she is the leading economy in Africa, South Africa’s refugee policy will distinguish genuine refugees from economic migrants, while addressing these very serious concerns. The government must also undertake sensitisation campaigns to encourage tolerance by its people towards foreign citizens, particularly those from African countries beset by conflicts, such as Somali asylum seekers who are said to be subject to victimisation by unknown assailants.

Persistent conflict in refugees’ home country cannot foster political stability in their host country. The instability experienced in Northern Uganda for about 20 years was linked to its support for the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement, which led Sudan to support the Lord’s Resistance Army. The resolution of one conflict has created conditions for the resolution of the other. The same is true of the Darfur conflict vis-à-vis those in Chad and the Central African Republic. Resolution of the Darfur conflict is likely to lead to resolution of the others, all of which have generated major refugee and IDP situations.

Tanzania and many other African states, such as Angola, Chad, Kenya, Uganda, Sudan, Guinea and Zambia, have borne the brunt of hosting refugees despite their poor economies and to the detriment of their land and environment. This has never been quantifiable in monetary terms, yet it has not discouraged them from fulfilling their responsibilities towards refugees.

States must respect the rights of their citizens and their obligations to protect them. Where a refugee or IDP situation arises as a result of conflict, the country’s political leadership must seek peaceful solutions rather than embark on military strategies. Experience in many conflicts in Africa, such as in Burundi, DRC, Liberia, Mozambique, Sierra Leone and Southern Sudan to mention but a few, shows that military solutions do not succeed. The peace and stability we have seen in these countries is because they have been underpinned by peace agreements rather than outright military victories.

HA: Some might say that given the continuing human rights violations that plague the continent, including for instance the situation in Darfur, the African human rights system is a failure. Would you agree?

BTMN: I don’t think that the answer to this question is as simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’. The situation in Africa is more complex than that. I outlined earlier the historical and political aspects of the human rights situation in Africa. We have to recognise that Africa has made positive gains in a number of areas. For instance, the number of democratically elected governments on the continent today, compared with 10 or 15 years ago when military or one-party regimes were the norm, is far larger. This does not mean that the level of democratic governance on the continent is perfect. But there is definitely progress in developing a culture of democracy and human rights.

I stated earlier that the African Union does not recognise undemocratic means of access to power. What does this mean? It means that Africa will not have another Idi Amin or Abacha, hence the kind of violations which were perpetrated then are not likely to recur. What happens now is that, even when there is a ‘progressive coup’ in an African state, the state is immediately sanctioned and suspended from AU activities. It has to conduct elections within a very short time to restore constitutionality. It is these kinds of measures that are restoring dignity to the system. With these developments, the remnants of undemocratic tendencies and the conflicts that we are seeing in places like Darfur or Somalia are the last kicks of dying horses. Some of them are sustained by ideology or the greed of foreign economic interests. None of them serves the interests of the people.

The human rights system in Africa reflects African realities. I mentioned one of the challenges to the guarantee of human rights in Africa being lack of resources. The institutions which have been established to protect human rights on the continent cannot be condemned as failures when we know the capacity and resource limitations. I may add another challenge: political will is necessary to make them effective. The establishment of the Peace and Security Council and its proactive involvement with the Darfur and Somali conflicts should not be underestimated. The contribution of peace monitoring troops by a number of African states to assist in the resolution of these conflicts must be recognised as part of the system for dealing with these conflicts.

My analysis does not paint a picture of a continent plagued by conflict, but of one where conflicts are on the decrease. For me, the system is in evolution, not a failure. If you look at it carefully you will see successes, however small. After all, Rome was not built in a day.

HA: In November the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights will celebrate its 20th year of existence. What do you feel has been the greatest accomplishment of the commission in this time?

BTMN: The greatest accomplishment in my view is the fact that the commission has continued to exist, increased its visibility, and carried out its mandate under very difficult circumstances. The lack of resources has not diminished the commitment of the members of the commission and its staff to continue working within the limitations imposed on them by political circumstances and budgetary constraints. Human rights issues in Africa, as is the case everywhere else, are very politically emotive. They touch on the sensitivities of states and governments.

By commenting on the various human rights concerns across Africa in the form of decisions rendered on communications, or by conducting investigations during missions and publishing resolutions on the human rights situation in a number of African states, the commission has been able to influence official policies in these countries as well as opinion throughout the continent and elsewhere about what is happening.

I believe that there is still great scope for enhancing the visibility of the commission and the accomplishment of its promotion and protection mandate, resources permitting.

HA: Moving forward, what do you think would strengthen the work and impact of the commission?

BTMN: The commission cannot carry out many of its plans because of lack of resources. More resources will ensure that it recruits the best staff for the secretariat. This also requires political will from member states and the African Union Commission, both of which are responsible for ensuring that adequate resources and competent staff are put at its disposal.

Finally, the states parties to the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights must cooperate with the commission. There is no point in having a commission if it cannot point out violations of the charter, but when it does so it is labelled a tool of external interests. The yardstick to any finding of violations is the facts on the ground and how they relate to the obligations assumed by member states under the charter.

HA: How can civil society and citizens in Africa help to guarantee the rights of refugees and displaced people on the continent?

BTMN: As I stated elsewhere, dissemination of the charter as well as all other regional and international human rights instruments will enable people to know their rights. I believe that dissemination is best done by civil society because they regularly interact with people at different levels. The citizenry has a corresponding duty to learn and understand their rights and respect the rights of others. An ignorant citizenry is not good for democracy or for human rights. The introduction of human rights education must be a priority pursued by civil society and the general population. This is a long- term process which needs to be started immediately. I hope that when the culture of human rights is entrenched we shall see less and less conflict and, as a consequence, no more refugees or internally displaced people.

* Hakima Abbas is the AU Policy analyst for Fahamu Networks for Social Justice

* Please send comments to [email protected] or comment online at

Regional protection of child rights in Africa

Mireille Affa’a Mindzie


The African Union has established institutions and laws for safeguarding the rights of children in Africa, but African governments have yet to prove their commitment to doing more than multiplying these legal mechanisms, writes Mireille Affa’a Mindzie.

Children have the right, without discrimination, to special care and protection from their family, society and the state.[1] While practices such as child labour have a long history in Africa, and particular cultural or traditional practices have a negative impact on the health and development of thousands of children, it is nonetheless true that African children have traditionally received care and protection from their parents and care-givers.

Modernisation has brought with it a wide range of abuses endured by African children, such as economic and sexual exploitation, gender discrimination in education and access to health, and their involvement in armed conflict. It is estimated that sub-Saharan Africa has the highest child labour rate in the world, with approximately 80 million children, or 41 per cent of those under the age of 14, working.[2] These figures are influenced by factors such as migration, early marriage, differences between urban and rural areas, child-headed households, street children and poverty. Furthermore, while child mortality on the continent declined between the 1970s and early 1990s, this trend has since reversed. Endemic diseases such as malaria and tuberculosis have undermined efforts to mitigate and stall the spread of HIV/AIDS.[3] It is estimated that 19,000 African children die daily from easily curable diseases, and that 80 per cent of the world’s HIV-positive children under the age of 15 live in Africa.[4] With regard to violent conflict, up to 100,000 children, some as young as nine, were thought to be involved in armed conflict in mid-2004.[5]

To address the issue of child abuse and ensure better protection of children, member states of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) have developed laws and institutions to monitor and advocate for child rights. In July 1990 African governments adopted the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child.[6] The African Committee of Experts on the Rights and Welfare of the Child (ACERWC), the supervising organ of the charter, is the main mechanism for promoting and protecting the rights of children in Africa. With the transformation of the OAU into the African Union (AU) and the new emphasis placed on human rights and popular participation, the continental protection of children has moved from political rhetoric to legal and judicial safeguards. This paper will look at how ACERWC can be strengthened so as to implement its mandate effectively. It will analyse the mechanisms that have been put in place to ensure better protection of children’s rights in Africa, and consider what remains to be done for this protection to be seen on the ground.
Towards effective protection of children’s rights in Africa
The African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child is the first regional and comprehensive binding instrument proclaiming the human rights of children. The adoption of the charter closely followed that of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC). The charter was justified on several grounds, including the multiple compromises that were necessary to achieve adoption of the UN convention, the limited participation of African countries in its drafting, and the consequent lack of consideration given to situations particular to Africa. The charter proclaims a series of rights encompassing civil rights and fundamental freedoms, economic, social and cultural rights, and specific rights for the protection of children in the African context.

Some of the specific features of the charter include a stronger definition of the child than in the UN convention, strict prohibition of the participation of children in armed conflicts, protection of internally displaced and refugee children, protection of imprisoned expectant mothers and mothers of infants and young children, and protection of girls who become pregnant before the end of their education. The charter reiterates the call to eliminate social and cultural practices affecting the welfare, dignity and development of children, including the use of child beggars, child marriage and the betrothal of boys and girls. Like the UNCRC, fundamental principles guiding implementation of these rights include non-discrimination, the best interests of the child, the life, survival and development of the child and child participation. Besides the rights of the child, the charter provides for the responsibilities that every child has, subject to their age and ability, towards family and society, the state and the international community.

The African Committee of Experts on the Rights and Welfare of the Child, established under the charter, is mandated to ensure the promotion and protection of the rights enshrined in the charter, to monitor their implementation, to interpret the provisions of the charter when requested to do so by AU member states, by an institution of the AU, or by any other person or institution recognised by the AU or any state party, and to undertake any other task as may be entrusted to it by the assembly of heads of state and government, the chairperson of the commission or any other organ of the AU or the UN. The ACERWC has 11 members elected by the AU Executive Council for a five-year non-renewable term; the first were elected in July 2001. The committee held its first meeting in 2002 in Addis Ababa, and has so far held nine meetings. Its current members represent Botswana, Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire, Egypt, Ethiopia, Kenya, Lesotho, Mali, Nigeria, Senegal and Togo.

The committee is competent to examine periodic reports from states parties on the measures they would have adopted to give effect to the provisions of the charter, to consider individual communications or complaints on any matter covered by the charter, and to investigate any matter falling within the ambit of the charter. The committee has so far received five state reports, from Egypt, Kenya, Mauritius, Nigeria and Rwanda.[7] It is to consider two individual communications alleging the violation of child rights in Uganda and Kenya. Promotional visits and missions have been undertaken in countries such as Madagascar, Namibia, Sudan and Northern Uganda, and future missions are planned to the DRC, Liberia, São Tomé and Príncipe, Tunisia and Zambia.

Criticisms have surrounded the creation of the committee as a specific institution charged with the promotion and protection of children’s rights, alongside the existing African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights.[8] Inadequate funding and resources for the committee since it was established have raised further questions about the need for a separate child rights mechanism in Africa. For instance, no permanent secretary for the committee has so far been appointed according to Article 40 of the charter.[9] Since its first members were elected it has been deprived of the staff needed to implement and co-ordinate its activities. The body relies for the most part on an overloaded AU Department for Social Affairs. During its ninth meeting, the AU commissioner for social affairs suggested that the committee reduce its meetings from two to one a year until it is provided with a fully functional secretariat.[10] It also lacks sufficient funding to support its programmes and activities. For the past five years the committee has survived thanks to the generosity of international agencies such as UNICEF and international NGOs including Save the Children Sweden and Plan International. Other civil society partners, such as the Banjul-based Institute for Human Rights and Development in Africa, have been instrumental in developing legal documents necessary for the committee to implement its mandate.

For the committee to grow as an independent and effective mechanism for advocating and monitoring children’s rights in Africa, it should be taken more seriously by the AU. In other words, the committee should be provided with all the resources needed to discharge its mandate. It should also be linked to other AU human rights organs, namely the African Commission and the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights, as well as to the overall continental political framework.

The ACERWC within the African Union architecture

Effective protection of child rights in Africa requires harmonised interaction between different elements of the continent’s overall human rights framework. More specifically, for the committee to succeed in the short to medium-term, closer links should be forged with existing mechanisms for promoting and protecting human and child rights. The committee has started collaborating over state reporting procedure with similar organs, such as the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, and at the regional level with the African commission and the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights.[11] Given the similarity of most of their functions and procedures, this collaboration should be taken further.

For instance, the committee could benefit from the court’s years of experience. The commission could inspire the committee with regard to implementing its promotional and protective mandate. The committee could further benefit from the long-standing relationship developed between the commission and civil society organisations, namely human rights NGOs. In this regard it is important to note that at its 9th meeting, the committee decided that from its 11th meeting the participation of NGOs would be linked to their preliminary application for, and granting of, observer status.[12] The committee has adopted criteria for granting observer status to civil society organisations and is encouraging the formalisation of its partnership with NGOs. However, since it relies significantly on the engagement of civil society to disseminate the charter and publicise its mandate and work, thus supporting and strengthening its overall structure, restricting participation of NGOs to those granted observer status has the potential to weaken its meetings, both in terms of their frequency and content.

Beyond the collaboration initiated and encouraged between the committee and the commission, it is proposed that the two should work towards establishing an integrated human rights body, mandated to promote and protect both general and specific human rights in Africa, including children’s rights.[13] Membership of such a combined body could be increased from 11 to 18 people. Besides rationalising the promotion and protection of human rights within the African Union, the proposed merger would help to centralise funding. It would also clarify the collaboration of both the Child Rights Committee and the commission with the court and, in future, the African Court of Justice.

The African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights was created under the 1998 Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, with the aim of strengthening the protective mandate of the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights. Although the protocol establishing the court was adopted before the children’s charter entered into force, the document set out the competence of the court over relevant international and regional human rights instruments ratified by African governments,[14] including the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child. However, the protocol did not specify the modalities of collaboration between the court and the committee. In July 2004, the decision of AU member states to merge the court with the proposed African Court of Justice provided an opportunity expressly to envisage the relationship of the committee (and the commission) with the court. In that sense, the draft Merger Protocol on the African Court of Justice and Human Rights expressly recognises the African Committee of Experts on the Rights and Welfare of the Child.

As with the commission, the committee will play a key role in the court’s seizing.[15] This is confirmed by Article 29 of the draft merger protocol, which specifies that the court shall have jurisdiction over all cases and legal disputes submitted with regard to the interpretation of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, the Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child, the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa, and any other legal instrument relating to human rights that is ratified by AU member states.[16] As well as states parties to the merger protocol, African inter-governmental organisations, national human rights institutions, and individuals or relevant NGOs accredited to the AU or to its organs, the African commission and the African Committee of Experts shall be entitled to submit cases to the court on any violation of a right guaranteed by the African Charter, by the Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child, the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa, or any other legal instrument relevant to human rights ratified by the states parties concerned. The statute also indicates that the court shall bear in mind complementarity with the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights and the committee when drafting its rules of procedure.[17] The first session of the African Court of Justice, held in Banjul in July 2006, started with briefing sessions on the commission and the committee.[18] The court has since started drafting and has adopted part of its rules of procedure. Collaboration between the main regional human rights mechanisms should thus be further encouraged.

As the central judicial organ of the AU, the court will help reinforce the legal value of the recommendations adopted by the committee in relation to cases of violations of children’s rights in Africa. The court’s decisions shall be final and have a binding effect. Unlike the commission and the committee, the court may, after establishing that violations of rights have occurred, order appropriate measures to be taken to remedy the situation; this can include the granting of fair compensation.[19] Moreover, although the committee was established as part of the AU framework, the constitutive act of the AU makes no direct reference to it. By expressly stating that the AU executive council shall be notified of the court’s judgments and monitor their execution on behalf of the assembly, Article 44 of the merger protocol will help to reinforce the legal protection of human and child rights on the continent.
Political support for child protection
Beyond the collaboration of the committee with other AU human rights mechanisms, effective protection of children in Africa calls for stronger interaction of the committee with the continent’s administrative and political institutions. For instance, the AU Commission, through specific departments and commissioners’ offices, namely the Office of the Commissioner for Social Affairs, Political Affairs and Peace and Security, has a crucial role in publicising the AU’s concern for children in Africa, as well as putting the issue on the agenda of the AU’s political institutions. Moreover, the permanent representatives’ committee, the executive council, and the AU Assembly should strengthen their involvement in issues affecting children in Africa. Unambiguous support should be given to the committee when adopting its budget, electing its members, and adopting and following up its activity report. As the supreme organ of the AU,[20] and the primary enforcer of reports and recommendations from its other organs,[21] the AU Assembly of Heads of State and Government further has the power to monitor the implementation of the AU’s policies and decisions concerning children,[22] as well as ensuring compliance of all member states through peer pressure.[23]

The new AU peace and security architecture provides another opportunity to strengthen the protection of African children, specifically those affected by war. The objectives of the Peace and Security Council include the anticipation and pre-empting of armed conflicts, as well as the prevention of massive violations of human rights.[24] The council also aims to promote and encourage democratic practices, good governance, the rule of law, human rights, respect for the sanctity of human life, and international humanitarian law.[25] These objectives could support advocacy for children’s rights within the overall prevention of conflict, monitoring of the rights of children caught up in armed conflict, and supervision of child reintegration processes and promotion of child rights within regional peace-building and post-conflict reconstruction processes.[26]

Finally, monitoring institutions and mechanisms such as the Pan-African Parliament,[27] the Conference on Security, Stability, Development and Cooperation in Africa (CSSDCA),[28] and the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) and its related African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM),[29] can play a key role in harmonised protection of human and child rights in Africa. The CSSDCA process aims to consolidate the work of the AU in the areas of peace, security, stability, development and cooperation. It provides a forum for the elaboration and advancement of common values within the AU’s main policy organs. Through the CSSDCA’s ‘stability calabash’, which focuses on the need for democratisation, good governance and popular participation within member states, and mainly through its ‘development calabash’ that addresses the improvement of general standards of living,[30] the committee could inform the CSSDCA process and contribute to monitoring and facilitating implementation of the AU strategy in terms of these themes. Under the NEPAD initiative and its Peer Review Mechanism, the promotion and protection of the rights of the child and young people is one of the nine key objectives of the ‘Democracy and Good Political Governance’ thematic area. This aims to ensure that African constitutions reflect democratic principles and provide for demonstrably accountable governance and political participation. The African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child, the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and, in principle, the new African Youth Charter, provide standards to monitor these objectives. At the end of the APRM process, reports on countries reviewed should be tabled and publicly considered by the committee, as is intended for the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights and other key regional and sub-regional structures.

In conclusion, there are clear efforts under way to protect child rights in Africa. However, much more needs to be done for children to participate effectively in the continent’s efforts to achieve sustainable peace and development. African governments are yet to prove their commitment to child rights beyond the mere multiplication of instruments and mechanisms.

* Mireille Affa'a Mindzie is a Senior Project Officer in CCR Conflict Intervention and Peacebuilding Support (CIPS) Project.

* Please send comments to [email protected] or comment online at

For references and notes, see link below.

1 Article 24 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, adopted and opened for signature, ratification and accession by General Assembly resolution 2200A (XXI) of 16 December 1966 <> accessed 27 August 2007.
2 Andvig, J., Canagarajah, S. and Kielland, A. (2001). ‘Issues in Child Labor in Africa’’, Africa Region Human Development Working Paper Series, World Bank <> accessed 27 August 2007.
3 UAPS Fifth African Population Conference, 10-14 December 2007, Arusha, Tanzania. Theme: Emerging Issues in Population and Development in Africa <> accessed 27 August 2007.
4 <> accessed 27 August 2007.
5 Coalition to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers <> accessed on 5 September 2007.
6 OAU Doc. CAB/LEG/24.9/49 (1990), entered into force in November 29, 1999. By June 2007 the charter had been ratified by 41 countries <> accessed 6 September 2007.
7 African Union, 9th Meeting of the African Committee of Experts on the Rights and Welfare of the Child, 29-31 May 2007, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, draft report.
8 Gutto, S. (2001) ‘The reform and renewal of the African regional human and peoples’ rights system’, African Human Rights Law Journal 2, 175-184.
9 The committee was provided with a temporary Secretary for six months in 2004.
10 Report on the Ninth Meeting of the ACERWC.
11 Members of the committee of Experts have regularly been invited to ordinary sessions of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, and the Chairperson of the commission attended a meeting of the Child Rights Committee. Seventh Meeting of the African Committee of Experts on the Rights and Welfare of the Child: Interim Report of the Institute for Human Rights and Development in Africa, Addis Ababa, 19-21 December 2005, unpublished.
12 African Union, 9th Meeting of the African Committee of Experts on the Rights and Welfare of the Child, 29-31 May 2007.
13 Report of the Brainstorming Meeting on the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, 9-10 May 2006, Corinthia Atlantic Hotel, Banjul, The Gambia, African Union Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights. Also see Mireille Affa’a Mindzie, ‘Les conséquences de la fusion de la Cour africaine sur les droits de l’homme et des peuples et la Cour de Justice de l’Union africaine sur la procédure de communications individuelles devant le Comité africain d’experts sur les droits et le bien-être de l’enfant’, Banjul, July 2005, unpublished.
14 See Articles 3 and 4 of the 1998 Protocol.
15 See Article 5 of the 1998 Protocol.
16 Draft Protocol on the Statute of the African Court of Justice and Human Rights, Meeting of the Permanent Representatives Council and Legal Experts on Legal Matters, 16-19 May 2006, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, EX.CL/211 (VIII) Rev. 1.
17 Also see article 8 of the 1998 Protocol which requires that there should be ‘complementarity between the Commission and the Court’ when determining their Rules of Procedure.
18 Activity Report of the Court for 2006, Assembly of the African Union, Eighth Ordinary Session, 29 and 30 January 2007, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, Assembly/AU/8 (VIII).
19 Article 46 of the Merger Protocol.
20 Art. 6 (1) and (2), Constitutive Act of the African Union <> accessed 7 August 2007.
21 Art. 9 (1) (b) of the AU Constitutive Act.
22 Article 45 (2) ACRWC.
23 Art. 9 (1) (e) of the AU Constitutive Act.
24 Protocol relating to the Establishment of the Peace and Security Council of the African Union <> accessed 7 August 2007.
25 Article 3 (f) of the PSC Protocol.
26 Article 14 of the PSC Protocol.
27 Articles 5 (c) and 17 of the AU Constitutive Act.
28 Solemn Declaration AHG/Decl.4 (XXXVI) on the Conference on Security, Stability, Development and Cooperation in Africa (CSSDCA), adopted by the 36th Ordinary Session of the Assembly of Heads of State and Government of the OAU, held in Lomé, Togo, from 10 to 12 July 2000.
29 Declaration AHG/Decl.1 (XXXVII) on the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD), adopted by the 37th Ordinary Session of the Assembly of Heads of State and Government of the OAU, held in Lusaka, Zambia, from 9-11 July 2001.
30 See Background on the Conference on Security, Stability, Development and Cooperation in Africa (CSSDCA), Department of Foreign Affairs, Republic of South Africa, June 2002

Freedom of expression in Africa

Interview with special rapporteur on freedom of expression in Africa


Commissioner Faith Pansy Tlakula, member of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights with special responsibility for freedom of expression talks to Hakima Abbas about how the African rights system works and the challenges it faces.

Hakima Abbas (HA): Please could you provide us with a brief overview of the situation of freedom of expression in Africa.

Faith Pansy Tlakula (FPT): It’s difficult to give an overview of the situation in Africa as a whole. As I have pointed out several times since my appointment, the standards exist in principle and freedom of expression is indeed protected in Africa by different instruments. So, as far as the adoption of instruments is concerned, there doesn’t seem to be an issue. However, in practice, freedom of expression is not yet a reality for many people on the continent so the issue is implementing the existing principles. While the media in Africa has begun to act as a cornerstone of democracy and source of balanced information in some states, there is clearly still place for improvement in the right to freedom of expression.

In my reports to the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (the commission, hereafter), I have repeatedly expressed my concerns over reports of alleged violations of the right to freedom of expression in a number of African states and I am constantly receiving a considerable number of such reports.

These allegations included, but were not limited to:

• Harassment, threats and intimidation of journalists and media practitioners, undue political interference with the media, victimisation of media houses deemed critical of government policies, seizure of publications and destruction of equipment, and closure of private media establishments
• The adoption of repressive laws or amendments to existing legislation that limit freedom of expression and the free flow of information
• Reports of disappearances, arbitrary arrests and detention of journalists and media practitioners, who in some cases are held incommunicado and for extended periods of time without charges or due process of law
• The murder of journalists with impunity, torture and other forms of ill-treatment and death in custody of journalists and media practitioners.

HA: What mechanisms are in place in Africa to guarantee freedom of expression?

FPT: The African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights was established in 1987 by virtue of Article 30 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (the charter, hereafter) with the specific mandate to promote human and peoples’ rights and ensure their protection in Africa. The promotional mandate of the commission involves education and sensitisation with a view to creating a culture of respect for human rights on the continent. The protective mandate of the commission entails essentially the receipt and consideration of complaints alleging human rights violations. In addition to these two main mandates, the commission is also empowered to interpret the charter at the request of a state party, the African Union (AU), or an institution recognised by the AU.

Under Article 9, the charter guarantees every individual the right to receive information and express and disseminate their opinions within the law. Although this right is considered as a cornerstone of development, its protection under the charter could be said to have been severely watered down by the clawback clause inserted within the same article. Indeed, while the first paragraph provides for an unlimited right for every individual to receive information, the right of every individual to express and disseminate their opinions within the law, as provided for in paragraph 2, may be interpreted by some states in a manner that unreasonably limits it.

Aware of the importance of upholding respect for the right to freedom of expression to the nurturing of democracy, human rights and sustainable development, and faced with many violations of the right to freedom of expression, the commission has, throughout the years, adopted various measures to strengthen the promotion and protection of this right.

One of the first initiatives taken by the commission was through pronouncements and recommendations made in the context of individual communications. Indeed, the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights has, through its communication procedure and the broad interpretation powers it enjoys under the charter, developed jurisprudence on human and peoples’ rights in general, and the right to freedom of expression in particular.

The commission has also dealt with issues of freedom of expression in Africa through resolutions and declarations and by promoting dialogue with member states when states’ reports are being considered, or when commissioners make promotional and fact-finding missions to member states.

Moreover, at its 32nd ordinary session held in Banjul, Gambia in October 2002, the commission adopted, by resolution, the Declaration on Principles of Freedom of Expression in Africa. The declaration sets out important benchmarks and elaborates on the precise meaning and scope of the guarantees of freedom of expression laid down under Article 9 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights.

In view of the situation of the right to freedom of expression in Africa, the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights initially appointed a Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression in Africa in December 2004. I was appointed as mandate-holder in December 2005.

The state of freedom of expression on the African continent prompted the commission to adopt a resolution in November 2006. Expressing its concerns over the current situation, the commission called on member states to:

take all necessary measures in order to uphold their obligations under the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights and other international instruments, including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights providing for the right to freedom of expression

but also to:

extend their full collaboration with the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression in Africa, in order to strengthen the right to freedom of expression on the African continent and work towards the effective implementation of the principles enshrined in the Declaration of Principles on Freedom of Expression in Africa and other applicable human rights standards in the region in order to achieve this goal.

Finally, in order to ensure effective implementation of the charter, the AU established the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights (the court) under the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights establishing an African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights (the protocol). The protocol was adopted in June 1998 and entered into force in January 2004. Twenty-three states have ratified the protocol so far and the court is now operational. The court will act in an adjudicatory and advisory capacity. According to the preamble and Articles 2 and 8 of the protocol, the court complements the protection mandate of the commission under Article 45 (2) of the charter. Unlike the commission, the court’s decisions are binding and final and not subject to appeal.
Under Article 3 of the protocol:

1. The jurisdiction of the Court shall extend to all cases and disputes submitted to it concerning the interpretation and application of the Charter, this Protocol and any other relevant Human Rights instrument ratified by the States concerned.
2. In the event of a dispute as to whether the Court has jurisdiction, the Court shall decide.
The court can therefore enforce other human rights treaties ratified by African states.
The protocol also allows the court to issue advisory opinions, in accordance with Article 4, which provides that:

1. At the request of a Member State of the OAU, the OAU, any of its organs, or any African organisation recognised by the OAU, the Court may provide an opinion on any legal matter relating to the Charter or any other relevant human rights instruments, provided that the subject matter of the opinion is not related to a matter being examined by the Commission.
2. The Court shall give reasons for its advisory opinions provided that every judge shall be entitled to deliver a separate or dissenting decision.

Besides, the court may also ‘try to reach an amicable settlement in a case pending before it in accordance with the provisions of the Charter’.

HA: What are the challenges of guaranteeing respect for freedom of expression in Africa?

FPT: Obviously, there are many challenges but they also differ from country to country. In some cases, it could be lack of understanding of the principles, and in others, a total disregard for them, which shows the importance of adopting a country-specific approach to this issue.

As I mentioned earlier, African states are obliged to uphold the existing principles of freedom of expression. They have to ensure respect for the rights recognised by the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights and to support the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights in its work to guarantee the implementation of the charter. Moreover, Principle XVI of the Declaration of Principles on Freedom of Expression in Africa clearly provides that: ‘States Parties to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights should make every effort to give practical effect to these principles’.

One should not be too pessimistic, however, as the progress and achievements made over the last few decades deserve neither to be underestimated nor forgotten. These achievements, which include the adoption of the Declaration of Principles on Freedom of Expression in Africa and the appointment of a Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression, simply need to be seen as the ground on which we now have to build an African continent characterised by free media and the free flow of information.

HA: What is your role and mandate as Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression?

FPT: In a nutshell, my role as special rapporteur is to monitor freedom of expression in Africa and report to the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights accordingly. My role includes monitoring violations of the right to freedom of expression on the continent, recommending to the commission measures to address the violations and assisting AU member states to review their national media laws and policies to comply with the principles set out in the declaration. Part of my mandate is also to take action on behalf of alleged victims of violations of the right to freedom of expression, including by sending appeals to member states, asking them for clarifications on reports forwarded to me by different reliable sources.

In addition to, and in conformity with, the relevant resolutions of the commission, my work reflects the provisions of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, the Declaration of Principles on Freedom of Expression in Africa as well as other relevant international and regional human rights instruments including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (especially Article 19), the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (especially Article 19), as well as other treaties, resolutions, conventions and declarations relating to the right to freedom of opinion and expression.

According to the resolution on the mandate and the appointment of a special rapporteur on freedom of expression in Africa, my mandate includes:
• Analysing national media legislation, policies and practice within member states, monitoring their compliance with freedom of expression standards in general and the Declaration of Principles on Freedom of Expression in particular, and advising member states accordingly
• Undertaking investigative missions to member states where reports of massive violations of the right to freedom of expression are made and making appropriate recommendations to the commission
• Undertaking country missions and any other promotional activity that would strengthen the full enjoyment of the right to freedom of expression in Africa
• Making public interventions where violations of the right to freedom of expression have been brought to the rapporteur’s attention. This could be in the form of issuing public statements, press releases, or urgent appeals;
• Keeping a proper record of violations of the right to freedom of expression and publishing this in reports submitted to the commission
• Submitting reports at each ordinary session of the commission on the status of the enjoyment of the right to freedom of expression in Africa.

In the conduct of this mandate, it is possible and, I believe, highly desirable for me to hold meetings with government officials to make recommendations about applying accepted standards of freedom of expression. This advisory role is crucial to the success of this mandate; I hope member states will gradually come to see it as a useful tool in helping them to comply with their obligations under international human rights law.

HA: What is the relationship between the special rapporteur and the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights?

FPT: It is a very close relationship. Indeed, unlike United Nations special rapporteurs, for instance, who are independent experts, the special rapporteurs are members of the commission, actual commissioners, who are appointed to a specific mandate. This means that I am not only the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression in Africa but I am also one of the 11 members who form the commission.

Besides, in view of the fact that we work part-time as commissioners, the bulk of the work is entrusted to the secretariat of the commission. The secretariat, for instance, will assist in the preparation of missions, drafting of mission reports and speeches, undertake research, hold organising workshops and seminars, raise funds for activities, etc. At the moment, there is one legal officer at the secretariat who is specifically assigned to my mandate.

HA: What impact have your role as special rapporteur, and the work of the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights more broadly, had on human rights for the people of Africa?

FPT: The work of the commission has had an impact in several ways as you can see from my responses to the previous questions. For instance, under its promotional mandate, the commission raises awareness about the existing human rights standards and can assist in elaborating on these standards. For instance, as far as the right to freedom of expression is concerned, I could mention the adoption of the Declaration of Principles of Freedom of Expression, which elaborates on Article 9 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights. The declaration is indeed a good example of the impact of the work of the commission in general and of the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression in Africa in particular, which has been key in the elaboration of the declaration.

HA: Some might say that, given the continued human rights violations that plague the continent, the African human rights system including the commission is a failure. Would you agree?

FPT: Of course, I would disagree that the system is a failure. Obviously, huge challenges remain, but we also have to look at the achievements, even if these sometimes appear very limited compared to the challenges. Realistically, the situation on the continent will not change overnight but we have to be optimistic and use our strengths and build on our achievements to move forward instead of thinking about our past mistakes – some might say failures – unless we are looking back only to learn from these past experiences.
HA: What do you see as the challenges and strengths of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights?

FPT: I think that we all know about the challenges, including limited resources (financial and personnel), which create a lot of other difficulties. However, since we are celebrating the 20th anniversary, I would like to focus on the strengths of the commission, which include its ‘accessibility’. The commission is the forum where NGOs, individuals and other alleged victims of human rights violations can have their voices heard. It is also the place where a true dialogue can be initiated between member states and alleged victims or organisations that want to bring a situation to the attention of the public at large. It is noteworthy that since the last ordinary session, the number of NGOs enjoying observer status with the commission has reached 367 and that the number of national human rights institutions with affiliate status has also grown over the years.

HA: In November 2007, the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights will be celebrating its 20th year of existence. What do you feel has been the greatest accomplishment of the commission?

FPT: Increased sensitisation and recognition of the work done by the commission by different stakeholders. To have existed for 20 years is an achievement indeed, but at the same time, 20 years is a rather short period for an institution with a mandate as wide and far-reaching as that of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, given all the challenges it has to face. We must look at what has been achieved so far, take stock and fix ourselves realistic objectives for the future.

HA: Moving forward what do you think would strengthen the work and impact of the ACHPR?

FPT: I have mentioned the increased recognition of the work done by the commission, but there is a need for the commission to reach a wider, grassroots audience. I believe that the better the mandate and work of the commission are understood by everyone on the continent, and abroad, the greater the legitimacy of the commission and consequently the more collaboration it will receive from AU member states. We need to build more bridges.

HA: How can civil society and citizens in Africa help to ensure freedom of expression on the continent?

FPT: There is an obvious need for civil society, NGOs and other actors including me as Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression in Africa, to keep raising awareness of the principles of freedom of expression in Africa, to campaign for the implementation of the relevant instruments and to call on governments to respect their obligations under international human rights law by bringing their laws in line with international standards. Civil society and the citizens of Africa can also help in collaborating with my mandate by, for instance, continuing to send in information on alleged violations of the rights.

Only collaboration between all the actors involved, including, obviously, the full participation of the states, can ultimately lead to full respect of the right to freedom of expression on the African continent, and so the real co-existence of nations based on the principles of democracy. Indeed, together we can help states implement these principles by adopting a culturally sensitive approach, taking into account the different situations prevailing in each country and region of the continent. That is where the importance of raising awareness becomes truly relevant and where the work of a mandate such as mine draws all its significance.

* Hakima Abbas is the AU Policy analyst for Fahamu Networks for Social Justice

* Please send comments to [email protected] or comment online at

Celebrating minor victories? Zimbabwe at the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights

Otto Saki


Otto Saki asserts that the case of Zimbabwe has provided an excellent example of the flaws and the achievements of Africa’s own system for defending its citizens’ human rights against attacks from their own governments.

The situation in Zimbabwe has continued to degenerate and attract widespread attention.[1] The African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (the commission, hereafter) is an intergovernmental organisation which has been seized with several appeals about violations of human rights over freedom of expression, torture, politically motivated violence, undermining of the judiciary and independent national mechanisms and forced evictions under the guise of clean-up campaigns. There have been interventions over breaches and affronts against the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (the charter, hereafter) to which Zimbabwe is a party.[2] The level, nature and extent of intervention by the commission have been argued over, particularly its mandate, how it is carried out and nature of its recommendations. States parties, including Zimbabwe, have abused or utilised what would be ordinarily institutional formulation of the commission and charter at the expense of the progressive development of African jurisprudence and institutions.

While Africa is perceived to have the worst human rights abuses, its human rights mechanisms either remain heavily inadequate or, as in most cases, are deliberately and overtly undermined by state actions. This undoubtedly makes a mockery of the efforts of those who provide their services as commissioners and as judges before the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights (the court, herafter). The commission has gone through a remarkable phase of growth and has experienced its fair share of challenges, but it is safe to say its value as an African institution is second to none. For some states it has become a ‘source of marvel’ and for others a ‘source of pain’, but one cannot at this juncture wish the commission away.

Sessions of the commission

The work of regional and sub-regional intergovernmental human rights institutions remain very closely knitted with the work of human rights organisations, and Zimbabwe is no exception. Through the granting of observer status, organisations are recognised not only by the commission but effectively by the African Union. Currently, more than seven[3] organisations with observer status before the commission have been involved in the implementation of the charter in Zimbabwe.[4] The commission’s work on Zimbabwe gained significant momentum during its 31st session, when Zimbabwe topped the agenda during the NGO forum. As a result the government of Zimbabwe agreed to accept a fact-finding mission into its human rights record.[5] The African NGO Forum met ahead of the commission and adopted the first statement on Zimbabwe. The commission was further seized of the communication from the Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum, making it the first substantial communication on Zimbabwe.[6]

With the commission’s decision to send a fact-finding mission, Harare became more and more aggressive in its public stance on human rights organisations and the commission itself. This marked the beginning of increased verbal attacks on the commission and the commissioners, sadly with the African Union providing little or no defence, at least publicly, of the work of the commission.[7] This made it possible for some to assume that the attacks on the commission were justified whereas in fact they were uncalled for and completely inappropriate.
Fact-finding mission to Zimbabwe
The commission conducted its first fact-finding mission to Zimbabwe from 24 to 28 June 2002.[8] Several meetings were held with government ministries, notably home affairs and justice, members of the judiciary, human rights advocates and lawyers, as well various civil society organisations.

When the report was presented to the government of Zimbabwe, unparalleled attacks and criticisms of the commission were published: The Herald, a state-controlled newspaper, wrote on 6 July 2004: ‘According to the sources, the [African Commission] report was similar to reports produced by the British-funded Amani Trust, which is well-known for its anti-Zimbabwe stance and falsifying the situation in the country.’ An editorial in The Sunday Mail on 11 July stated: ‘Reading through the [African Commission’s] report one detects the hand of a known Zimbabwean lawyer and the Amani racists.’[9]

In another related diatribe the papers bemoaned:

Pan-Africanists who want to take seriously the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) and its successor, the AU, find the debate over the fraudulent report quite confusing and demoralising because of the failure of the African journalists, especially, to go beyond the shallow events in the story: that is, that the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights held some hearings and produced a fraudulent report with the assistance of the British, other donors and some racist (non-governmental organisations) NGOs. What is missing from the story is the fact that this report is the latest in a series of lies, especially about and against Zimbabwe.[10]

Several other statements were later made by government spin doctors, attacking the work of the commission.

The report of the fact-finding mission was adopted by the commission in its 17th Activity Report. The government of Zimbabwe created unprecedented havoc when the report was being adopted by the Executive Council of Ministers, and effectively the African Union.[11] Zimbabwe was allowed to provide additional responses to the report, which was eventually adopted by the African Union, along with Zimbabwe’s response, almost three years later.[12] The findings of the commission remain largely unimplemented and rights are being further undermined.[13]

Following the forced evictions of May 2005, the United Nations dispatched a special envoy on human settlement, while the African Union hurriedly sent in its Special Rapporteur on Internally Displaced Persons, Refugees and Asylum Seekers. The government of Zimbabwe would not allow the special rapporteur to carry out any field visits, arguing that proper procedures of the African Union had not been followed.[14] The African Union envoy spent a week in ‘solitary confinement’ in his hotel, an unfortunate development given the importance of regional institutions.

Communications and special mechanisms

The various mechanisms under the commission, including the special rapporteurs on human rights defenders[15] and on freedom of expression,[16] have responded to the apparent increase in attacks on human rights defenders, women activists and journalists. However, the problem with these mechanisms, as in similar systems, is the failure to provide adequate human and financial resources to follow through most of the appeals. Governments have to a large extent taken the urgent appeals seriously, and the Zimbabwe government seems to have responded to most of the appeals, though it is arguable whether the responses addressed the issues raised or merely created excuses for continued violations under the guise of maintaining law and order.

The commission conducted a hearing on Zimbabwe under Article 46 of the charter,[17] which allows the commission to use any mechanism to investigate human rights in a state party. In its usual display of disdain for any practical and critical work of the commission, the delegation from Zimbabwe refused to participate in the meeting, citing unfair practices and procedural irregularities. It is interesting to note that during the same session the delegation from Zimbabwe was distributing print editions of New African magazine and two reports produced by the Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP).[18] The credibility of the national police and in particular its intelligence gathering have been challenged.[19]

It is arguable that, after the communications submitted on Nigeria during the military regime, Zimbabwe currently has the largest number of communications before the commission. The subjects of the petitions range from freedom of expression, to forced evictions, the independence of national institutions such as the judiciary, extra judicial and summary killings, torture, and inadequate legislative and constitutional mechanisms.[20]

Victories before the commission

Working with the commission has been simultaneously challenging and rewarding. Of the communications submitted, at least one has been concluded in which the government of Zimbabwe was found to have violated provisions of the charter. In April 2006, the commission issued provisional measures in respect of the forced evictions, directing the government to take urgent and appropriate measures to obviate the general deterioration of the health of terminally ill individuals who due to forced evictions carried out under Operation Murambatsvina had no access to anti-retroviral treatment.[21] The government was also asked to ensure that school-age children were able to sit their final exams, and to provide shelter and medical treatment for the elderly and the sick.[22]

While the procedures of the commission badly need reform, it is critical to note the importance of its decisions on the admissibility of a communication. In no fewer than four separate incidents, the commission has ruled communications submitted from Zimbabwe as admissible. These decisions provide irrefutable evidence of the inadequacies of human rights protection in Zimbabwe; they also imply the absence of effective domestic remedies for the rights violations alleged in the communications. Such decisions are an indictment of the judiciary as well as an unequivocal indicator that the judiciary and the justice delivery system in Zimbabwe no longer guarantee enjoyment of universally recognised human rights and fundamental freedoms.[23]

In Communication 245/02, Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum/Republic of Zimbabwe, the commission made recommendations about the election- related violence of 2000 and 2002 as well as the violence orchestrated during the chaotic land reform. In a statement the NGO Forum noted that the:

Commission found the Government of Zimbabwe in violation of articles 1 and 7 of the African Charter. This means that the Government of Zimbabwe had violated the right to protection of the law and that it failed to put in place measures to ensure the enjoyment of these rights by Zimbabweans. The endorsement of the decision by the African Union is recognition by African Heads of States that there are human rights violations in Zimbabwe.

Political interference and undermining the work of the commission

With civil society and human rights organisations recording such public success, the government of Zimbabwe has begun to pay more attention to the commission. With like-minded countries that have equally poor human rights records, it attacks, undermines and ridicules the work of the commission, through subterfuge and unfounded interpretation of the rules of procedure of the African Union and the commission. Such procedural theatrics caused the delays in the publication of the report of the fact-finding mission of 2002, as well as the decision of Communication 245/05. With the latter, the government of Zimbabwe made submissions to the commission well after the completion of all inquiries and hearings. Of concern are the African Union leadership’s acquiescence and conspicuous silence;[24] to a large extent the African Union has failed to support the commission from government attacks. The non-implementation of the commission’s recommendations remains a paramount concern.

Lessons for Africa

The commission is a creation of the African Union, with a mandate to monitor, promote and protect the rights enshrined in the charter, the same charter which makes it mandatory to implement legislative and administrative mechanisms to deliver the rights in the charter. Because signing up to the charter and similar instruments are voluntary acts, limiting a nation’s sovereignty, the commission has a unique status and neither seeks to undermine national institutions such as courts, nor replace them. Zimbabwe has regressed from a country that was hailed as the symbol of progress and development to the antithesis of every principle of development, human rights adherence, promotion and protection.

The importance of supra-national institutions in enforcing universal and regional human rights standards remains critical. The weakness inherent in these institutions is an indictment of leadership in Zimbabwe – and in Africa. It remains the prerogative of every progressive citizen of Africa to safeguard these institutions from individuals who have bestowed upon themselves powers to govern, misgovern, build and destroy. Such powers, if unchecked and curtailed by invoking celebrated universal human rights standards, will lead us to bondage and slavery under our kith and kin. That day will indeed be a sad day for humanity and Africa.

* Otto Saki is a lawyer with Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights

* Please send comments to [email protected] or comment online at

For references and notes, see link below.

1 Other regional bodies which have attempted or are in the process of taking up the situation in Zimbabwe include the Southern African Development Community (SADC), through their organ on politics, security and defence. The SADC Tribunal is yet to be seized of matters from Zimbabwe.
2 30 May 1986.
3 Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR), Human Rights Trust of Southern Africa (SAHRIT), Media Monitoring Project of Zimbabwe (MMPZ), Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) Zimbabwe, Zimbabwe Human Rights Association (ZimRights), Zimbabwe Association of Doctors for Human Rights (ZADHR), and Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum (NGO Forum).
4 Regard is had to the work of other regional and international NGOs which have been advocating for reforms and protection of rights in Zimbabwe and in some instances providing platforms within their own ‘spheres’ to air and give space to the work of Zimbabwe-based organisations.
5 31st ordinary session of the commission, 2-16 May 2002, Pretoria, South Africa.
6 Currently there are more than 13 communications on Zimbabwe before the commission, some of which will be dealt with below. However, no substantive discussion of the communications will be made since most of them are still pending.
7 See statement by the Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum: <>, last accessed 21 August 2007.
8 The delegation was headed by Commissioner Barney Pityana and Commissioner Jainab Johm with Ms Fiona Adolu, legal officer.
9 Arnold Tsunga, Tafadzwa R Mugabe ZLHR, ‘Zim NGO Bill: dangerous for human rights defenders - Betrays High Degree of Gvt Paranoia and Contempt for the Regional and International Community’, 28 July 2004. Senior government and ruling party officials have made statements which have incited violence, condoned torture, and encouraged hatred. See report by the Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum: ‘Their words condemn them: the language of violence, intolerance and despotism in Zimbabwe’ <>. See also The Herald on 6 July 2004: ‘AU Rejects Damning Report on Zimbabwe’, Minister of Foreign Affairs said to have ‘objected to the presentation of the report saying Zimbabwe had not been afforded the right of reply to the damning allegations as per requirement on such matters’, adding that ‘The Council of Ministers of the AU comprising the Foreign Ministers of the 53 AU member states, had decided that the commission had not solicited the response of the member state concerned whose response should have been included. The Minister asserts that the commission did not observe protocol as it allegedly sent the report to the Ministry of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs and not the Ministry of Foreign Affairs’.
10 Dr Tafataona Mahoso wrote in The Sunday Mail of 18 July 2004.
11 The summary of the report is available at <>, last accessed 21 August 2007. The 17th activity report covers the 34th and the 35th ordinary sessions of the commission held from 6-20 November 2003 and from 21 May to 4 June 2004 respectively in Banjul, The Gambia.
12 The report was adopted at the sixth ordinary session 24-28 January 2005 in Abuja Nigeria with Zimbabwe’s response annexed.
13 Rule 33 of the Rules of Procedure of the African Union categorises the various types of decisions the African Union can issue and this definition is very relevant to decisions or findings of the commission, Categorisation of Decisions. Rule 33, 1, The decisions of the assembly shall be issued in the following forms: a) regulations: these are applicable in all member states which shall take all necessary measures to implement them; b) directives: these are addressed to any or all member states, to undertakings or to individuals. they bind member states to the objectives to be achieved while leaving national authorities with power to determine the form and the means to be used for their implementation; c) recommendations, declarations, resolutions, opinions etc: these are not binding and are intended to guide and harmonise the viewpoints of member states. 2. The non-implementation of regulations and directives shall attract appropriate sanctions in accordance with Article 23 of the Constitutive Act. However a counter argument can be advanced that the Article 1 of the charter provides ‘that states shall take necessary legal and administrative…’ indicating the peremptory nature of the provisions of the charter.
14 Several reasons which have not been substantiated were given including the procedural irregularities and miscommunication between Harare and Addis Ababa. However this mission came in the wake of the government of Zimbabwe having been heavily reprimanded for its human rights practices by the commission. See for instance: <>.
15 See <>, last accessed 19 August 2007, < last>, accessed 19 August 2007.
16 During the session of the commission, the human rights situation has been highlighted extensively including reports from special rapporteurs. See ‘The Work of Special Rapporteurs at the African Commission on Human and Peoples Rights’ by Otto Saki (unpublished article written for Open Space, OSISA).
17 See the commission’s 22nd activity report, item 90, available at: <>. Article 46 states that ‘the commission may resort to any appropriate method of investigation; it may hear from the secretary general of the Organisation of African Unity or any other person capable of enlightening it.
18 The web edition is still accessible from: <>, last accessed 2 September 2007. The ZRP authored ‘detailed’ reports of acts of violence carried out by ‘Civil Society Opposition Forces in Zimbabwe A Trail of Violence Volume 1’ <>. The first volume mentioned ZLHR, but did not make any specific reference to the work of the lawyers group. Ms Petras, the executive director of ZLHR, requested that the government retract the obviously malicious statements. In response the government through ZRP produced another report focusing on ZLHR called ‘Opposition Forces in Zimbabwe The Naked Truth Volume 2’ <>. The Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum has produced a report in response to state reports: ‘At Best Falsehood at Worst a Lie’, <>, last accessed 2 September 2007.
19 Fact-finding mission report recommended that institutions such as the police are ideally supposed to be professional. It is worth recalling that some of the units of the police used to gather intelligence were condemned by the commission and recommendations stating that ‘Every effort must be made to avoid any further politicisation of the police service.... Activities of units within the ZRP like the law and order unit which seems to operate under political instructions and without accountability to the ZRP command structures should be disbanded.’ It is important to extract a recent opinion in The Herald: ‘Nothing wrong with police, army being partisan’, by Godwills Masimirembwa <>.
20 ZLHR has submitted at least eight cases, with several other national and international organisations having submitted at least either other communications. Since most of them are still pending before the commission, details of the communications will not be reproduced. For a brief analysis and summary of the cases see also ‘Litigating before the African Commission on Human and Peoples Rights’, by Arnold Tsunga and Otto Saki.
21 Operation Murambatsvina/ Drive Out the Filth/ Restore Order was described in the report by the UN Special Envoy on human settlements issues in Zimbabwe that it ‘was carried out in an indiscriminate and unjustified manner, with indifference to human suffering, and, in repeated cases, with disregard to several provisions of national and international legal frameworks. Immediate measures need to be taken to bring those responsible to account, and for reparations to be made to those who have lost property and livelihoods.’ The report was equally attacked by the government of Zimbabwe <> last accessed August 2007.
22 ZLHR, SAHRIT/ Republic of Zimbabwe Request for Provisional Measures under Rule 111 of the Rules of Procedure of the Commission.
23 See the full statement by ZLHR, ‘African Commission Adopts Key Resolution on the Human Rights Situation and Hands Down Decisions in Several Cases against the Government of Zimbabwe’ <>, last accessed August 2007.
24 On 16 March 2007, the African Union issued a statement on Zimbabwe: ‘The Chairperson of the commission, Alpha Oumar Konare, has followed with great concern the recent developments in Zimbabwe. The Chairperson of the commission recalls the need for the scrupulous respect for human rights and democratic principles in Zimbabwe, in accordance with the AU Constitutive Act. He urges all concerned parties to commence a sincere and constructive dialogue in order to resolve the problems facing Zimbabwe.’

Books & arts

Black Inventors, Crafting over 200 years of success

Keith C. Holmes


Black Inventors, Crafting Over 200 Years of Success From the beginning of the oldest and greatest civilization - the ancestral link from the Blacks in Kamit (Ancient Egypt) to their descendents who are now scattered to the four corners of the world - the world of creating, inventing and designing has always been a part of the Black experience.
Black Inventors, Crafting Over 200 Years of Success From the beginning of the oldest and greatest civilization - the ancestral link from the Blacks in Kamit (Ancient Egypt) to their descendents who are now scattered to the four corners of the world - the world of creating, inventing and designing has always been a part of the Black experience.

Over the last 500 years Black people from Africa, and their descendents have fully participated in the development of the world's agricultural, business, medical and scientific innovations and inventions.

When citing inventors few books mention the accomplishments of Black inventors outside the United States. That list often excludes Black inventors from Africa, Australia, Canada, Caribbean, Central & South America, Europe, Russia and the United Kingdom. That's about to change, with the internet, access to library resources, and good communications being the key to unlocking the past. The work of uncovering Black inventors has begun.

I have to acknowledge the work of Henry E. Baker an African American patent examiner who in 1913 published The Colored Inventor, a Record of Fifty years. This book laid the foundation on the inventions by Black Inventors. It was the first book to explore and cite the various inventions by people of color.

Following in Mr Baker's The Colored Inventor, footsteps is the booklet Black Inventors, Crafting Over 200 Years of Success covers Black innovators and inventors from a Global prospective. It identifies Black inventors from Africa, Australia, Canada, Caribbean, Central and South America, Europe, Russia, United Kingdom and the United States.

This book gives the librarian, reader, researcher, student and teacher the opportunity to discover inventors from your country or state. It is an invaluable booklet that reveals information on inventors who until now have remained obscure and unknown. This book will be published in the Fall, 2007.

Mr. Holmes specializes in research on black and indigenous inventors.

For more information contact:
The Global Black Inventors Research Projects, Inc.
President & Founder Keith C. Holmes
1023 Beverley Road Brooklyn, NY. 11218.
Kcholmes50 at gmail dot com

Africa: Maisha film lab accepting applications for 2008 labs


Maisha is seeking applications from Screenwriters, Directors, Editors, Sound Recordist and Cinematographers for our 2008 Annual Lab that will be held in Kampala, Uganda. Maisha trains in the short film format and requires a maximum of a 10 page scripts from the screenwriters/Directors using natural light. The technical crews must send in samples of there previous work. The 25-day Lab begins with 12 selected screenwriter/directors who have been selected by a 35-person international reading committee based on their submitted short film scripts.
Maisha film lab accepting applications for 2008 labs

Maisha was founded in 2004 by filmmaker Mira Nair (The Namesake, Monsoon Wedding). Inspired by the rich theatrical and literary traditions she experienced in East Africa, Nair intended Maisha to create a bridge into the cinematic language. Maisha is an annual training lab for filmmaking professionals from East Africa (Uganda, Rwanda, Kenya, and Tanzania) and South Asia (India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh). We bring internationally renowned mentors to Kampala to impart their knowledge on our participants. Past mentors have included: Mira Nair, Josh Marston (Writer/Director, Maria Full of Grace), Abderrahmane Sissako (Director, Bamako), Barry Alexander Brown (Editor, Inside Man, and Malcolm X), Jason Filardi (Writer, Bringing Down The House), Drew Kunin (Production Sound Recordist, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon) and Kerwin DeVonish (2nd Unit DP, Inside Man)

Maisha is seeking applications from Screenwriters, Directors, Editors, Sound Recordist and Cinematographers for our 2008 Annual Lab that will be held in Kampala, Uganda. Maisha trains in the short film format and requires a maximum of a 10 page scripts from the Screenwriters/Directors using natural light. The technical crews must send in samples of there previous work. The 25-day Lab begins with 12 selected screenwriter/directors who have been selected by a 35-person international reading committee based on their submitted short film scripts. For 7 days, they participate in intensive screenwriting workshops and one-on-one mentor meetings, also having time allotted to revise their work and discuss films. Simultaneously, 9 trainees in cinematography, sound recording, and editing work with mentors in their own specialties. At the end of this first week, the mentors discuss the projects with Maisha’s administrative teams, and three filmmakers are selected to shoot their projects. The remaining filmmakers become production managers and first assistant directors, and 3 production teams are assembled to start production.


This past year, the three short films produced at the Maisha lab were screened during the Kenya International Film Festival, they will also be screened at the People’s Forum in Uganda in mid-November and have been submitted to various film festivals. The 3 shorts are: Must Be A God-Fearing Christian Girl, written and directed by Wanjiru Kairu from Kenya. The Trip , written and directed by James Gayo from Tanzania, and What Happened in Room 13 , written and directed by Dilman Dila from Uganda . Maisha will also be hosting a mini 7 day Lab during the People’s Forum with the support of the Commonwealth Foundation with the theme of “Realizing People’s Potential.” The mini-labs will become a allow Maisha to hold many more labs during the year.

For more information on our 2008 applications process and about our programs, please contact us at [email protected] or visit our website at <>.

Blogging Africa

Review of African blog portals and aggregators

Sokari Ekine


This weeks roundup will focus on some of the new African blog portals, aggregators, social bookmarking and technology blogs.


The two main blog portals are African Path and African Loft. Both portals have a list of regular authors some of whom are bloggers and both syndicate content from select blogs.

African Path includes a news feed of African news, a blog written by selected authors, an Directory section with a list of African related businesses many in the Diaspora.

“African Path is the premier online channel for reaching affluent Africans in America, Africa, Europe, China, and elsewhere in the world, providing daily breaking news and discussions on issues affecting Africans and Africa.

With an engaging mix of breaking news in Africa, blogs, biographical profiles, thoughtful discussion and an international community calendar, African Path connects Africans across the world with informed dialogue that leads to progress and growth on the African continent and its contribution to world culture.

To fill the void left by big media in covering information on Africa, African Path provides a forum for Africans anywhere in the world to discuss important issues affecting Africans within and outside the African continent.”

African Loft similar to African Path except it also includes a social networking community feature with a growing community. The “chatterbox” feature acts as an aggregator of the “top 50” African blogs though it is not clear how these are selected and for some reason also includes mainstream media sites such as Bua and the BBC. The “discussion forum” seems to be just an extension of the blog area and again the purpose of this section is not clear. One useful addition is the Job Board with a list of both non-profit and corporate jobs.

Both African Path (created by Joshua Wanyama) and African Loft created by blogger Grandiose Parlor provide excellent up to date content on Africa and the Diaspora. Technorati rates African Path with an authority of 236 (22,775) and African Loft an authority of 103 (63,934)


Aggregators are sites that auto collect posts from registered blogs which can by region, country or content.

Afrigator aggregates blogs from across the continent and the Diaspora and divides them into channels, best rated posts and new members as well as the real time updates of all registered blogs. Afrigator is described as

“Afrigator is a social media aggregator and directory built especially for African digital citizens who publish and consume content on the Web......You can use Afrigator to index your blog, podcast, videocast or news site (i.e. any site that publishes an RSS feed) and market it to the rest of Africa and the world. You can also use it to discover new sites in the Afrosphere.”

Kenya Unlimited incorporates an aggregator and a webring of Kenyan bloggers. KU also includes an annual set of blog awards to it’s members who must be Kenyan or invited by a Kenyan.

Nigerian Blog Aggreator is as the name suggests an aggregator of blogs by Nigerian bloggers at home and in the Diaspora. Unlike Kenya Unlimited, the NBA only provides feeds from Nigerian blogs in real time and is undated hourly.

Amatomu is an aggregator of South African blogs started by SA newspaper the Mail and Guardian. Unlike Kenya Unlimited and Nigerian Blogs Aggregator, Amatomu is more of a social media aggregator similar to Afrigator.

African Women’s Blogs is an aggregator of blogs by African women on the continent and in the Diaspora

Social Bookmarks

Muti is a social bookmarking site similar to Digg but with African content. Muti enables users to submit links to posts and media stories and then these can be voted on by other users. There are also “hot”, “new” “most viewed” and “stats” features.

Technology Blogs and Websites

White African writes about technology and how it impacts and can change, Africa. Erik is also a web developer and is presently working on a number of African related projects including Zangu News “ a new way to handle news in Africa” and “List’d Express” an easy eBay listing tool. He is also a contributing author to with the tag line “Where technology meets anthropology, conservation and development” is a blog by Frontline SMS (software to manage sms) creator, Ken Banks and is largely dedicated to the opportunities provided by mobile phone technology in Africa and other parts of the global South.

Open Cafe is a non-profit internet café specialising in the usage, distribution, training and technical support for open source software and open content materials. It is based in Potchefstroom, South Africa.

* Sokari Ekine is online editor of Pambazuka News and author of Blacklooks [] and African Women's Blogs []

* Please send comments to [email protected] or comment online at

Zimbabwe update

Government targeting student leadership ahead of elections


Student organizations have said they believe university officials are under government instruction to target influential student leaders and remove them from campuses around the country, ahead of the elections scheduled for next year. They referred to the escalating assaults, arrests and evictions of student leaders at major universities as evidence of this campaign.

Mbeki hints at political reforms before 2008 elections


South African President Thabo Mbeki on Wednesday gave a hint there could be political and electoral reforms in line with the SADC election guidelines, before next year’s general elections in Zimbabwe. He was responding to a question raised in parliament in South Africa.

Chipinge MDC activists charged under Law and Order Act


Police in Chipinge on Wednesday charged six MDC activists under the Law and Order Act for allegedly holding illegal political meetings “under the cover of darkness.” The six were part of a group of 15 activists who were abducted from a house belonging to an MDC member in Chipinge South on Monday. The group was force-marched from the house by militias loyal to the Zanu-PF MP for the area, Enock Porusingazi. Nine of the activists were released on Tuesday.

New forex policy 'paralyses' NGOs


Zimbabwean non-governmental organisations (NGOs) claim their operations have been paralysed since the Reserve Bank raided their foreign currency accounts (FCAs). In his mid-year Monetary Policy Statement at the beginning of October, Gideon Gono, governor of the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ), said NGOs would now maintain 'mirror accounts' that would reflect how much money they had in the bank while the actual money would be kept by the RBZ.

Women & gender

Global: Online discussion on women in leadership roles


This is an to participate in an online discussion on “Women in Leadership Roles” hosted by WomenWatch – the UN Internet Gateway on Gender Equality and Empowerment of Women. The discussion, which will take place from 19 November to 15 December 2007, is organized by the United Nations Division for the Advancement of Women, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, in its capacity as Task Manager of WomenWatch, with support from the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees.

Botswana: Women refute 'sex for favours' stigma


Women politicians who gathered for a workshop organised by the Botswana Media Women's Association (BOMWA) and the Gender and Media in Southern Africa (GEMSA) complained that women were accused of earning political office by providing sexual favours. The workshop on "Gender is not about women; it's about development" attracted the women's wings of the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP), Botswana Congress Party (BCP), the Botswana National Front (BNF) and the Botswana Alliance Movement (BAM).

Zimbabwe: Zimbabwean selected as a 2007 TOYP honoree


Chosen by a distinguished jury in the category “Humanitarian and voluntary leadership“ Betty Hazviperi Makoni will be honored at The Outstanding Young Persons of the World (TOYP) Ceremony during the JCI World Congress in Antalya, Turkey, on 6th November 2007.

Zimbabwe: MDC women crisis deepening


The battle for the control of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) Women's Assembly has exposed several issues which key stakeholders have to note. Key issues that require a critical analysis include the role of the women in the MDC, the election process, the use of women by men, the use of financial resources, the 50/50 campaign, Morgan Tsvangirai' s propensity to reward those with financial muscle, lack of constitutional respect and the unfair distribution of party resources to the structures.

West Africa: Fight against FGM transposed on the Internet


Sylvie Niombo, APC-Africa-Women Co-Coordinator, examines a role of information and communication technologies in the fight against female circumcision, a harmful practice carried out on over a hundred million girls and women in West African countries. She explores 'shadow areas' through a closer look at thus launched a research programme “Contribution of information and communications technologies (ICTs) towards the discontinuation of female genital mutilation in Francophone Africa: civic role of the youth” by Enda Third World of Senegal, a member organisation of the Association for Progressive Communications network.

DRC: 'Rape happens. We are human beings'


"This thing of rape," said Colonel Edmond Ngarambe, shifting uneasily on his wooden bench high in the mountains of the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, "I can't deny that happens. We are human beings. But it's not just us. The Mai Mai, the government soldiers who are not paid, the Rastas do the same thing. And some people sent by our enemies do it to cause anger against us.

Human rights

Congo: Conflict leaves legacy of widespread addiction


Many of the atrocities committed during the armed conflicts that have plagued the Republic of Congo in recent years were fuelled by illicit narcotics. Warlords and militia leaders gave drugs to young fighters to eliminate fear and scruple. Now, although the civil war is officially over, the scourge of drug addition lingers on, hampering recovery and development. One regular cocaine user is 20-year-old Junior "The Colonel" Mbio. He was first given drugs by the leader of an armed group when full-scale civil war broke out in 1997.

East Africa: Action research for the realisation of ESCR


Equalinrights is engaged in the initial phase of a long term action research project for the realisation of economic, social and cultural rights in East Africa. This project will centre on how the most impoverished and marginalised groups in communities can demand greater accountability and responsiveness of governance structures and mechanisms for their fundamental human rights. Men and women involved will gain greater sense of their human rights and how they can use them to meet their critical needs, their capacity to claim them, and negotiation space to do so.

Kenya: KNCHR report on extra -judicial killings, November 2007


The Kenya National Commission on Human Rights is investigating a large number of alleged executions and disappearances. Preliminary investigations suggest that between June and October 2007 close to 500 bodies of young men have been deposited in various mortuaries in the country by the police and the KNCHR has evidence suggesting that other bodies were dumped in the wild for hyenas and other wild animals to eat

DRC: Warlord in the dock


The trial of the first Congolese warlord to be tried for war crimes charges at the International Criminal Court in The Hague has been set for 31 March 2008. Thomas Lubanga, 46, who founded and led a militia group in DRC's Ituri district, was arrested in 2006. He was accused of enlisting and conscripting children below 15 to kill members Lendu ethnic group during the country's war between 1998 and 2003.

Niger: Government launches slavery probe


The government of Niger has launched a probe into the extent of slavery in the impoverished West African country, an official said on Friday. Unofficial estimates put the number of slaves at about 800 000. "The government wants to really know if there are people living in these conditions [of slavery] or whether these are just baseless allegations," said Garba Lompo, head of the National Commission of Basic Rights.

Refugees & forced migration

DRC: Tens of thousands of IDPs on the move again in North Kivu


Up to 40,000 people poured out of two camps for displaced civilians near the main town in Democratic Republic of Congo’s North Kivu province after fierce fighting broke out nearby, according to the UN. “Shooting, some from heavy weapons, could be heard this [13 November] morning near the camps. Between 30,000 and 40,000 people who were living there are on the road to Goma,” said Louis Igneault, spokesman for the UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).

DRC: UN refugee agency helps hundreds of displaced return to Ituri


The United Nations refugee agency has this week begun an operation to return hundreds of internally displaced persons (IDPs) in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) to their homes in the troubled north-eastern province of Ituri by the end of the year.

Somalia: IDP influx from Mogadishu overwhelms southern town


Hungry, exhausted and traumatised, thousands of civilians have been pouring into Afmadow, a Somalian town near the Kenyan border, having fled the “hell on earth” of their embattled capital, some 630 kilometres to the north. Among them was Hawo Ali, who arrived in Afmadow on 15 November, five days after escaping Mogadishu with 20 of her relatives and neighbours, including a 10-month-old baby. Ali said she saw troops in the city killing 21 people, including women and children.

Central Africa: New pact on armed groups in the Kivus hailed


Analysts have welcomed the latest in a series of agreements between the governments of Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) aimed at resolving the perennial threat to regional stability posed by the armed groups in eastern DRC.

West Africa: Twenty feared dead as migrant boat capsizes


Twenty African migrants were feared dead after the boat in which they were trying to reach Spain capsized in bad weather off the coast of The Gambia at the weekend, Gambian state television said on Monday. It quoted a police officer as saying seven bodies had been recovered from the capsized boat, the third such tragedy involving would-be migrants headed for Europe from West Africa in the last three weeks.

Social movements

World Social Forum 2008


In 2008, the World Social Forum (WSF) will be a week of action culminating in a Global Day of Mobilisation and Action on 26 January 2008. For the first time, the WSF will be fully decentralised, meaning that every organisation and movement will carry out their own activities where they wish. The overlap with celebration the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) provides an extra opportunity for linkage to draw out central human rights struggles of today and the need for action!

Elections & governance

Kenya: The 2007 Kenya presidential debate


The Kenyan Community Abroad (KCA) has set the stage for the first Presidential Debate in Kenya's history. The debate will be held in November 22nd at the United States International University, Nairobi. There are currently four candidates vying for the position of the President of the Republic of Kenya and we, Kenyans abroad and the people of Kenya at large, look forward to their participation in this historic event that will set forth a new chapter in the advancement of an African democracy.

November 5, 2007

The 2007 Kenya presidential debate

The Kenyan Community Abroad (KCA) has set the stage for the first Presidential Debate in Kenya's history. The debate will be held in November 22nd at the United States International University, Nairobi.

There are currently four candidates vying for the position of the President of the Republic of Kenya: Mr. Pius Muiru, with the Kenya People's Party (KPP), Mr. Kalonzo Musyoka, with the Orange Democratic Movement Party of Kenya (ODM-K), Mr. Raila Odinga, with the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM), and the incumbent Mr. Mwai Kibaki, with the Party of National Unity (PNU). We, Kenyans abroad and the people of Kenya at large, look forward to their participation in this historic event that will set forth a new chapter in the advancement of an African democracy.

KCA's goal has been to establish a culture of elevated political discourse that hinges on national development and the forging of a united citizenry. Our common interest is also to overcome the crippling barriers of tribalism and economic imbalances that often impede progress.

Our calculated effort as people capable of influencing domestic policy and shaping a national conscience is to shift paradigms so that issues of national interest become the common subject of discourse, as opposed to attacks on personalities, the peddling of propaganda, and the manipulation of exclusive ethnic interests.

The issues we need to see articulated by the candidates will include Education, Health, Economy, Gender Representation, and Foreign policy. Our country needs the systematic transformation of campaign agenda to policy and eventually to implemented projects that affect the people and grow the nation.

The Presidential Debate must become an entrenched institution in our democracy. Any person with the necessary hubris to think they can lead a nation, and the humility to actually lead a nation, incumbent or hopeful aspirant, must present themselves to the people without fear, ready to articulate their agenda and defend their strategy for nation-building. We believe that this exercise will set a firmer foundation for accountable and visionary leadership.

KCA will continue to rise up to its responsibility to ensure accountable governance and economic development, this being its founding mission. We believe that this historic exercise will continue to elevate Kenyan towards international competence and self-
determination. Any effort from any political camp to sabotage the debate will be an effort to sabotage the forward march of the nation.

We wish all the civic, parliamentary and presidential candidates a safe and successful campaign period.

Ms. Mkawasi Mcharo Hall President, KCA Washington, D.C.

The KCA Executive
The KCA Presidential Debate Committee
Dr. Frank Mwaniki
Dr. Wambui Githiora-Updike
Mr. David Otwoma
Dr. Matunda Nyanchama
Dr. Angaluki Muaka

South Africa: Foreign minister available for ANC leadership


South African Foreign Affairs Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma said she would not refuse a nomination to head the ruling African National Congress, which is due to choose a new leader next month. The ANC's dominance of South African politics means whoever wins is almost certain to become the next president in 2009.

Burundi: VP replaced


Yves Sahinguvu, 58, has been voted by the lawmakers as the 1st Vice President of Burundi. Sahinguvu replaced Martin Nduwimana who had resigned from the post. Like his predecessor, the new Vice President is also a key member of the Tutsi-dominated UPRONA political party.

Togo: Prime minister resigns


Togo's Prime Minister, Yawovi Agboyibo, on Tuesday said he had tendered his resignation to President Faure Gnassingbe ahead of the formation of a new, post-elections government. "I came to hand in my resignation to the president of the republic," Agboyibo, leader of the opposition Action Committee for Renewal (CAR) party, told national television.


Sierra Leone: Leader promises 'zero tolerance' on graft


Sierra Leone President Ernest Bai Koroma promised "zero tolerance" on Thursday for corruption in his country after a leaked government report said rampant official graft had swallowed up donor funds. Speaking at his formal inauguration in Freetown, the 54-year-old former insurance executive called for a change of attitude in the West African state to leave behind nearly two decades of poverty and conflict.

Nigeria: Anti-corruption drive welcomed


The head of the United Nations anti-crime agency today praised the efforts of Nigeria to bring about what he called a “climate change” in attitudes and actions about corruption in a country that has long suffered from the ruinous effects of the practice. Antonio Maria Costa, Executive Director of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) welcomed a series of recent initiatives by Nigerian authorities to combat corruption, but urged them to do more to crack down, particularly on cyber-crime.

South Africa: Bank officials fired for siphoning funds


South Africa's agriculture and land affairs minister, Lulu Xingwana on Thursday fired five of the embattled Land Bank's senior board members. The five including board chairperson Lungile Mazwai, and Directors Litha Nyhonyha, Charles Davies, Raisibe Morathi and Moira Tlhagale were fired amid claims that they mismanaged over R1 billion of bank fund.

South Africa: Legal setback for Zuma


A South African court has upheld an appeal by prosecutors against a lower court ruling that prevented them from using documents seized in a raid against Jacob Zuma, a former deputy president accused of bribery and fraud. The ruling by the supreme court of appeal on Thursday could allow the revival of corruption charges against him.


Africa: Triple threat looms over Africa’s rural poor


Africa’s rural poor are facing a “perfect storm” of rising food prices, climate change and population growth, the head of the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) has warned, urging the international community to take more concerted action to help the continent’s most vulnerable people.

Global: The MDG dashboard


The MDG Dashboard presents the Millennium Development Goals indicators in a highly communicative format aimed at decision-makers and citizens interested in the Millennium Development Goals and Sustainable Development. This free database provides 60 MDG indicators for about 200 countries and 15 years (1990-2005) based on original United Nations statistics (updated in July 2007). The developers of this tool, IISD and the European Commission's Joint Research Centre, JRC, hope that these indicators will contribute to an informed debate following the MDG+5 High Level Event, the so-called Millennium Review Summit.

Africa: External review of Economic Report for Africa 2008


The External Peer Review of the Economic Report on Africa for 2008 (ERA 2008) will take place in Addis Ababa on 18 November 2007. ERA is one of the Commission's annual flagship publications prepared by the Trade Finance and Economic Development Division (TFED) in collaboration with the African Union.

Liberia: IMF cancels Liberia's debt


The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has announced that it will write off Liberia's debt by securing $842 million from its own institutional reserves and donor country pledges. The move comes after the Fund endured heavy criticism in the international media last month for not following through on its commitment to Liberia, eighteen months after the country had met the IMF's stringent policy conditions.

Burundi: Nurses, teachers strike over IMF-mandated constraints


Thousands of teachers and hundreds of nurses in Burundi went on strike last month to protest the government’s inability to meet its commitments to increase wages and improve working conditions. In an attempt to end the strike, the government reiterated its promises to grant civil servants the 34 percent pay raise that it announced in May 2007. It remains unclear, however, whether the government will be able to keep up its end of the bargain.

Africa: Africom: The poisonous fruit of the mercy industrial complex


The real danger in the US militarization of Africa, otherwise known as Africom, is not so much in the escalation of the tension, conflict and political dependency of the continent reminiscent of the cold war years, but in the likelihood that the opposition to it may not be significant until it is too late, says Wandia Njoya.

Health & HIV/AIDS

Global: A long paper trail to accessing ARVs


France's tighter immigration policies are making it even harder for HIV-positive undocumented migrants to survive, despite laws allowing foreigners who are ill the right to stay in the country to seek treatment. In theory, France treats its HIV-positive immigrants well - they are entitled to free healthcare, and even those whose residence status is still being determined get free treatment after three months if they cannot afford to pay.

Global: Study shows how some AIDS vaccines may harm


Some viruses being used in experimental AIDS vaccine may damage the immune system by exhausting key cells, researchers reported on Thursday in a finding that may further cloud the field of HIV vaccines. They said vaccines using the viruses should not be tested on people until more studies are done. But other vaccine experts said the findings, while scientifically interesting, were not a cause for immediate alarm.

Zimbabwe: TB 'out of control in Zimbabwe'


Tuberculosis (TB) and its drug resistant strain is out of control in Zimbabwe, advocacy organisations in the country have warned. With years of health system neglect, one of the most severe HIV epidemics in the world, and the stark social and economic conditions many of its people have to contend with, prevention and control of TB is increasingly desperate in the country, the groups said in a media statement released at the 38th Union World Conference on Lung Health being held in Cape Town.

Global: Asylum seekers struggle to access ARVs


Zimbabwean Lazarus Moyo is a 'failed' asylum seeker to the UK who got lucky. Diagnosed HIV positive a few years ago, he has been receiving free antiretroviral (ARV) treatment at a London clinic thanks to his involvement in a drug study programme. But his luck could be about to turn: the two-year study has come to an end, and with it the money from the pharmaceutical firm that had been funding his treatment.

Southern Africa: HIV-induced famine's impact on agriculture


Hunger and HIV/AIDS are reinforcing each other in Southern Africa, "leading to a potentially tragic new level of famine", says a book published by a regional agricultural think-tank. The World Bank's annual report, released last week, also raises concerns over the pandemic's impact, pointing out that most people affected by HIV and AIDS depend on agriculture.


Africa: Policy advice 'poses challenge' for Africa academies


Africa's science academies are engaging more with policymakers, but this entails further challenges, heard delegates at the third African Science Academy Development Initiative (ASADI) conference in Dakar, Senegal, this week (November 12–15). There is a risk that policymakers could expect more than small academies, struggling with poor Internet access and staff shortages, have the capacity to provide, warned David Mbah of the Cameroon Academy of Sciences.


Burundi: Burundian gays fight HIV and STIs


Even though Burundian laws are silent on homosexuality, organisations in that country such as Association pour le Respect et les Droits des Homosexuels’ (ARDHO) – a gay rights organisation formed in 2003 – have organised themselves in order to create awareness about, to advocate for and to protect gay rights. ARDHO has been working since 2003 for the recognition of the rights and the respect of sexual minorities in that country. As a pressure group, it works mainly with NGOs fighting against HIV/ Aids.

Global: Netherlands to promote gay rights in third world


The Netherlands has told its ambassadors in countries receiving foreign aid they must lobby those nations to decriminalize homosexuality and provide LGBT civil rights. The announcement was made in the Netherlands' Parliament by Development Minister Bert Koenders. The Netherlands is a major donor to developing nations giving almost $6-billion annually - mostly in Africa, Latin America and Asia.


DRC: Arrests over waste dumping


Police have arrested seven people, including a number of law enforcement officers, after radioactive mineral waste was poured into a river in the southeast Democratic Republic of Congo. "Seven people suspected of involvement in dumping ore are currently being questioned by police," Didace Pembe, environment minister, said.

Global: Biofuels bonanza facing 'crash'


The biofuels bonanza will crash unless producers can guarantee their crops have been produced responsibly, the UN's environment agency chief has said. Achim Steiner of the UN Environment Programme (Unep) said there was an urgent need for standards to make sure rainforests weren't being destroyed.

Land & land rights

Namibia: Land reform reproducing poverty


Namibia's land reform programme is a "zero sum game" that merely swaps one form of poverty for another in its current resettlement programme, according to an independent report on attempts to find a equitable solution to racially skewed land ownership.

West Africa: Niger's threatened nomads


For thousands of years, the Tuareg nomads of Niger in West Africa have roamed the Sahara desert, surviving a harsh but relatively unchanging environment. But now profits flowing from mining uranium and other natural deposits are transforming small towns into booming cities, and the Tuaregs are beginning to demand their share of the land's mineral weath.

Media & freedom of expression

Rwanda: Woman journalist is cleared of genocide charges


Reporters Without Borders has learned with great relief that Tatiana Mukakibibi, a former presenter and producer with state-owned Radio Rwanda, was finally acquitted of genocide charges by a “gacaca” popular tribunal in the southern district of Ruhango on 6 November after 11 years in pretrial detention. Aged 42, Mukakibibi was reunited with her family on 10 November.

Africa: New federation of journalists condemns 'countries that shame Africa'


Journalists from all corners of Africa yesterday launched a new continental federation to provide a unified voice for newsroom staff campaigning for better working conditions and professional rights. The Federation’s first public statement was to issue a strong protest over African governments that jail journalists and encourage a culture of impunity by failing to investigate violent attacks on media staff.

Somalia: IFJ calls on government to reopen three radio stations


The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) has called on the Somali Transitional Federal Government to reopen three private radio stations it closed in the last two days without any explanation. “Our Somali colleagues already work in a very difficult situation and it’s appalling that the government is making their daily struggle even more difficult,” said Gabriel Baglo, Director of the IFJ Africa office.

Algeria: Journalist held


Reporters Without Borders condemns the arrest of Noureddine Boukraa, the national daily "Ennahar"'s bureau chief in the city of Annaba (600 km east of Algiers), who was detained on 12 November 2007 in connection with an article about alleged corruption within the local security services and was held overnight. "Algeria's journalists are not able to work freely, despite the deceptive calm they seem to have enjoyed since the start of the year," the press freedom organisation said.

News from the diaspora

Global: Registration to the IOM African women diaspora database


Given the specificities of women in migration, particularly their potential to contribute to gender equality and the empowerment of women both at home and abroad, IOM is creating an adjunct database for African women diaspora members. This women database is a crucial component of the database initiative, and we are excited to involve women of various talent and leadership capacities. For this reason, we would like to encourage you to check out our website and take just five minutes to register in the women database here:

Conflict & emergencies

Sudan: Efforts to find common ground among rebels


The United Nations and African Union Special Envoys tasked with spearheading the peace process in Darfur say they are stepping up efforts to press some of the larger groups of the war-torn region’s splintering rebel movements to find common ground ahead of scheduled direct peace talks with the Sudanese Government next month.

Sudan: U.S. must prioritize peace in comprehensive approach to conflict


Africa Action has called on President Bush to publicly re-affirm a U.S. commitment to the implementation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) between North and South Sudan at his meeting with South Sudan leader, Salva Kiir. The meeting will address both the shaky implementation of the CPA and the Darfur crisis.

Sudan: Darfur force could fail if problems not settled-UN


A planned U.N.-African Union peace force for Darfur could fail unless disputes with Sudan over its make-up are resolved and key specialized units found, the top U.N. peacekeeping official has said. The 26,000-member force aims to bring security to the western Sudanese region after 4-1/2 years of conflict between government forces, allied militias and rebels. Even before its full deployment, it is meant to take over from an overwhelmed AU force of 7,000 at the end of this year.

Sudan: Ceasefire fails to quell Darfur violence


A unilateral ceasefire announced by Khartoum in late October has failed to improve security in Darfur, where armed groups continue to do battle, according to humanitarian and civil society officials. "Conditions on the ground remain the same; there is a lot of insecurity," an aid worker, who requested anonymity, told IRIN. "Reports of attacks continue, even carjacking has occurred, although there has been no drastic deterioration."

Internet & technology

Africa: Partnership to grow Internet information


Increasing awareness about Internet Governance issues and working together on the development and growth of the Internet in Africa are part of the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signed by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers and the African Telecommunications Union (ATU).
Highway Africa News Agency

Increasing awareness about Internet Governance issues and working together on the development and growth of the Internet in Africa are part of the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signed by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers and the African Telecommunications Union (ATU).

"It is clear there are issues where we can accomplish so much more by working together - even is as simple a step as sharing information can have a large benefit or both sides in this MoU," said Dr Paul Twomey, ICANN's President and CEO. "The Internet is all about sharing ideas and information - and this MoU is signed in that spirit." The MoU is based on a number of common goals, including: -That there is a need for increased awareness of African policy makers and regulators on issues related to Internet governance; - That there is a need to increase understanding and to build the capacity of African policy makers and regulators on Internet technical and policy issues; - That there is a need to strengthen the communication channel with African policy makers and regulators in order to disseminate information on issues related to Internet Governance; - That African governments should play an appropriate role in Internet governance at national, regional and international levels; - That African governments should set appropriate frameworks for public policy issues related to Internet governance with the objective to promote the development and the growth of the Internet in the African region.

"ATU is the leading continental organization fostering the development of information and communication technologies infrastructure and services, and as such we are looking for partnerships that help us advance the interests of our members at global decision-making fora like ICANN," said Akossi Akossi, Secretary General of the African Telecommunications Union. ICANN and at ATU have agreed to: - Regularly exchange information and material related to Internet governance issues. - To organize, as often as possible, joint workshops and seminars for the purpose of disseminating information and increasing the understanding of African policy makers and regulators on issues related to Internet governance.

To co-operate as far as reasonably possible in matters relating to the development and the growth of the Internet in the African region with a view to fostering evolvement of appropriate polices and regulations by exchanging experience and relevant material.

A copy of the signed MOU will be posted soon at:

Africa: First Linux Professional Institute certification in Africa


In a development that confirms the increasing importance of Open Source Software in Africa, the Linux Professional Institute (LPI) has just announced news of two affiliate deals in East and Central Africa. Representation in Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania will come from the East African Centre for Open Source Software (EACOSS) - a joint venture, initiated by IICD, the Martyrs University and Linux Solutions Ltd, which began in 2004.

Tanzania: Mobile phones help fishing community


Tanzanian fishermen have benefited a great deal from the use of mobile phones in doing business with local communities. A study conducted by two students from Upsalla University, Sweden, in collaboration with the Dar es Salaam Institute of Technology (DIT), has concluded that the use of mobile phones has improved the livelihood of the fishermen who had hitherto no reliable means of communication.
Highway Africa News Agency

Tanzanian fishermen have benefited a great deal from the use of mobile phones in doing business with local communities.

A study conducted by two students from Upsalla University, Sweden, in collaboration with the Dar es Salaam Institute of Technology (DIT), has concluded that the use of mobile phones has improved the livelihood of the fishermen who had hitherto no reliable means of communication.

The two students, Jonas Myhr and Lars Nordstrom, presented their findings at the ongoing 5th International Conference in Open Access, being held in the Tanzanian town of Bagamoyo.

According to the study, the fishermen, used to spending long hours away from family and friends now find it easier to stay in touch as they venture into the sea.

Those still at home can now call colleagues already in the sea to find out about the weather and the tidal movements. The researchers say that the fishermen no longer rely on the weather forecast by the Meteorological Department which in most cases is inaccurate.

The fisherfolk also communicate with one another, giving tips on where to get the best catch.

Mobile phones also come in handy during cases of emergency.

Fishermen caught in the middle of a storm will no longer scream to call for help, which does not help in most cases. But now fishermen can simply dial the emergency numbers on their cell phones or simply call their friends.

Most of all, fishermen are now using mobile phones to gather market information and co-ordinate pickup for their catch, known to be a highly perishable commodity.

Customers willing to buy fish simply call the fishermen to place their orders. With this empowerment, the supply chain has now improved.

But it has not been smooth sailing either. Loss of a phone consequently means loss of business.

The researchers also suggest that number portability, which allows subscribers to retain their phone numbers across the networks, could alleviate this problem.

Most of the fisherfolk are also still unbanked, and hence the need for more affordable banking services to protect them against unfavourable conditions.

Africa: Cisco to invest $10mn on Africa


Cisco Systems is to invest $10 million to develop its network infrastructure on the continent. According to the report, five African countries who stand to benefit from the initiative are Nigeria, Cameroon, Ethiopia, Rwanda and Kenya. Cisco, a global leader in networking is known to have transformed the way people connect, communicate and collaborate using Internet Protocol (IP)-based technologies.
Highway Africa News Agency

Cisco Systems is to invest $10 million to develop its network infrastructure on the continent.

According to the report, five African countries who stand to benefit from the initiative are Nigeria, Cameroon, Ethiopia, Rwanda and Kenya.

Cisco, a global leader in networking is known to have transformed the way people connect, communicate and collaborate using Internet Protocol (IP)-based technologies.

Announcing the investment, Cisco's area academy manager for West and Central Africa, Mr. Julius Ayuk Tabe, the opportunity would afford the organisation to expand its zeal in empowering Africans and especially the youth by deploying Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) for development via the networking academies.

Tabe also noted that the academies are currently available in 168 countries globally, and Nigeria has 65 such academies scattered in various locations nationwide. According to Tabe, Cisco has plans to engaged over 50 Unity Schools in the country with this initiative as well.

According to Tabe, the academies focus on Information Technology (IT) essentials and wireless network, including relevant certification for both teachers and students to prepare them for the future.

Two core system academies in the country are resident at the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) Abuja and University of Jos (UNIJOS) in Plateau State.

He explained that the Cisco Networking Academy is an innovative global education initiative that delivers ICT skills to help meet the growing demand of ICTs, while improving career and educational opportunities for students around the world.

Cisco Systems founded in 1984 had in April 2006 officially opened its Nigerian office, thus bringing its avalanche of services and opportunities closer to the Nigerian populace.

Africa: NEPAD and 5-P Holdings to construct UHURUNET


The NEPAD e-Africa Commission and 5-P Holdings LLC, have signed an MOU to begin the construction of the NEPAD ICT Broadband Infrastructure Network (IBIN), known as the UHURUNET on 24 October 2007 in Pretoria, South Africa. With a capacity of 3.84 Terabits/sec, the undersea submarine cable is intended to link the entire continent of Africa, with the outside world including Europe, Brazil, India and the Middle East.
Highway Africa News Agency

The NEPAD e-Africa Commission and 5-P Holdings LLC, have signed an MOU to begin the construction of the NEPAD ICT Broadband Infrastructure Network (IBIN), known as the UHURUNET on 24 October 2007 in Pretoria, South Africa. With a capacity of 3.84 Terabits/sec, the undersea submarine cable is intended to link the entire continent of Africa, with the outside world including Europe, Brazil, India and the Middle East.

Mr Mool Singhi signed on behalf of 5-P Holdings while Dr Henry Chasia, Executive Deputy Chairperson of NEPAD e-Africa Commission signed on behalf of the Commission.

Others present included Mr Robert Henderson from Phelp Stokes Fund and Mr Bright Amisi from the NEPAD e-Africa Commission.

The memorandum provides a framework for collaboration between NEPAD and the company in financing, design and the speedy implementation of the submarine fiber optic network.

It also provides the raising of investment for the network so that it will have a shareholding structure whose majority shares will be owned by Africans.

According to a statement issued by the NEPAD manager for public communications Samuel Mikenga, the pact provides for the parties to cooperate in order to contribute to the development and promotion of the economic, social, cultural development and integration of the African continent consistent with the NEPAD objectives and principles.

The cable would also facilitate the provision of ICT broadband infrastructure that supports high-quality, high-speed, reliable electronic communications in Africa and with the rest of the world at competitive market-based prices for wholesale capacity, which will be sold on an open access, non-discriminatory basis in order to make ICT available to end users at affordable prices.

The signing follows a meeting of government ministers responsible for Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) from eastern and southern African countries in Johannesburg on 15 October 2007 that endorsed a $2bn submarine cable project to connect Africa. The Ministers have called for its speedy implementation.

The cable will provide for immediate or eventual landing points to every coastal and Island country in Africa. The completion of the 50,000 km cable is expected to greatly contribute to the reduction of telecommunications costs that have been a hindrance to doing business in Africa.

The ministers named the submarine segment of the NEPAD network UHURUNET, and its terrestrial segment, UMOJANET; and recommended that the Holding Company of the Submarine cable be named, BAHARICOM.

These words are in the Swahili language, an indigenous African language of the African Union.

UHURU means freedom or independence, which in this case signifies economic independence, an appropriate celebration statement of the 50th anniversary of Ghana's independence from colonial rule which was celebrated in Accra by Heads of States in July 2007.

UMOJA means unity. UMOJANET which links all the African countries with ICT broadband signifies the importance of unity of African countries. BAHARI means ocean. This indicates the location of the network and BAHARICO is the company that brings together the investment of Africans across the oceans.

Under the arrangement, the NEPAD SPV, established under the Kigali protocol will own 30 percent (the single largest investor in the company), the African investors and African ICT Companies 45 percent and the international philanthropic and other investors, including 5-P Holdings, 25 percent.

The various activities and undertakings will be completed in time for the cable to be available to provide communications for the 2010 FIFA World Cup that will take place in South Africa.

The NEPAD e-Africa Commission is NEPAD?s task team for the development and implementation of the NEPAD Information and Communication Technology (ICT) programme. 5-P Holdings, LLC is a Delaware, US, registered company formed in 2006 to develop, finance, construct and operate submarine fiber optic networks.

Fundraising & useful resources

Global: Georgetown University MA in conflict resolution


The Georgetown M.A. Program in Conflict Resolution seeks to equip its graduates with the theoretical and practical tools necessary to better understand the nature of, and solutions to, many types and degrees of conflict. Applications will be accepted through February 15, 2008 for the fall 2008.

How to apply for the European Commission’s budget lines


This is a publication from the German Foundation for World Population (DSW) that provides tips and tricks on how to apply successfully for development grants from donor governments and organisations.

Courses, seminars, & workshops

Global: Fifth Pan-Commonwealth Forum on Open Learning


Applications are invited for participation in the Pan-Commonwealth Forum on Open Learning to be held 13-17 July 2008 at the University of London. This forum has grown to become one of the world’s leading conferences on learning and global development. PCF5 in London will explore how open and distance learning can help achieve international development goals and education for all. The conference theme is "Access to Learning for Development" with a focus on children and young people, health, livelihoods, social justice, conflict and governance. The deadline for applications is 30 November 2007.

Global: LOVA - international conference, 3 - 4 July 2008


LOVA invites social science scholars to participate in this international conference by presenting their research in an individual paper or panel. We particularly encourage participants to submit audio-visuals and other alternative ways of presenting their research. Participants may register through sending individual paper or panel proposals to [email protected] before February 1, 2008.

Africa: African Women’s Leadership Institute (AWLI)


Akina Mama wa Afrika (AMwA) is pleased to announce the 5th Eastern Africa Sub-Regional African Women's Leadership Institute (AWLI) to be held from 3rd to 17th February 2008, in Mombasa, Kenya. Please also note that the deadline for receiving applications is Thursday 20th December 2007. Interested participants should contact Akina Mama wa Afrika; Head Office - [email protected] or UK/Europe Regional Office - [email protected] for more information on the application procedure.
The Eastern Africa Sub-Regional African Women's Leadership Institute (AWLI) - 3rd to 17th February 2008, Mombasa, Kenya

Akina Mama wa Afrika (AMwA) is pleased to announce the 5th Eastern Africa Sub-Regional African Women's Leadership Institute (AWLI) to be held from 3rd to 17th February 2008, in Mombasa, Kenya. The AWLI aims to strengthen the personal and organizational capacities of young African women to influence policy and decision-making through training and networking. It serves as a networking, training and information dissemination forum for young women aged between 25-45 working on women and gender issues. Since it was established in 1997, the AWLI and its related programmes, has a network of over 3000 Alumni from all over Africa, UK and Europe. The countries from which young women will be selected to participate in the 2008 Eastern Africa AWLI are: Burundi, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Somalia, Somaliland, Sudan, Uganda and Tanzania.

Please also note that the deadline for receiving applications is Thursday 20th December 2007. Interested participants should contact Akina Mama wa Afrika; Head Office - [email protected] <mailto:[email protected]> or UK/Europe Regional Office - [email protected] <mailto:[email protected]> for more information on the application procedure. AKINA MAMA WA AFRIKA A non-governmental development organisation for African women.



BACKGROUND: Akina Mama wa Afrika (AMwA) is an international, pan-African, non-governmental development organisation for African women with its Head Office in Kampala, Uganda and a UK regional office. AMwA was set up in 1985 by women from different parts of Africa resident in the United Kingdom. Translated from Swahili, the name means `solidarity among African women', signifying African sisterhood. AMwA was founded to create space for African women to organise, and build links with African women active in the areas of their own development. Mission Statement AMwA is an African women's international non-governmental development organisation based in the UK and Africa, which coordinates local, regional and international initiatives. AMwA serves as a networking, information, advocacy and training forum for African women, and builds their leadership capacities to influence policy and decision-making. AMwA does this by:

Building the leadership capacities of African women and their organisations Networking and consulting on local, regional and international levels Marketing the skills, expertise and creativity of African women Mobilising and empowering African women Challenging sexist and racist stereotypes by emphasizing positive images of African women.


The Regional African Women's Leadership Institute The African Women's Leadership Institute (AWLI) is a regional networking, information and training forum, which trains women, aged 25-45 in critical thinking on gender issues, organisational and resource development and strategic planning. The AWLI was established as a program of AMwA in 1996, as a contribution towards the post-Beijing initiatives in the Africa region. The AWLI has two main features: first, it serves as a network of young African women (25-45) for professional support, advice and information, and sharing of expertise and second, the AWLI convenes an intensive three-week residential leadership-training institute every year. The Sub Regional African Women's Leadership Institute The sub regional leadership AWLIs were developed to address context specific issues in each of the African sub regions. There have been important political and economic developments at these levels over the past few years, which require the active participation of women. The sub regional institutes take place over two weeks, and aim to bring closer ties and working partnerships amongst young women activists in the various sub regional contexts. The objectives of the AWLI are to:

Develop the leadership potential of young African women who would like to commit themselves to a progressive women's movement in Africa.

Provide leadership training for young African women who are in leadership positions in women's NGOs, mixed NGOs, government institutions or corporate bodies.

Empower African women living in fundamentally patriarchal communities with self-development and life skills training.

Initiate a forum for young women to meet and build alliances for individual and professional support.

Develop a mentoring and role modelling system in order to benefit from the knowledge, skills and expertise of older women.

Strengthen existing regional and sub regional networks through networking and solidarity and to build and sustain links with the international women's movement.

Improve the quality of gender analysis and research coming out of Africa, and give African women more access to international publishing. Activities of the African Women's Leadership Institute: Organising an annual residential leadership training institute, sub-regional institutes and specialist leadership workshops.

Supporting institute graduates to run training in organisational skills and development for organisations in their own communities. Organising panels and workshops at regional and international conferences.

Publishing a journal twice a year to link institute participants and other women's organisations on the continent.

Publication of policy briefing papers and occasional research documents on gender, development and analysis in Africa. The ultimate goal of the AWLI is to encourage and train significant numbers of women for informed leadership positions that will ultimately promote a progressive African women's development agenda. The development of a feminist constituency among the next generation of African women leaders is essential to the future of the African women's movement. The Institute Programs: The main Institute activities include formal training sessions, Institute lectures, an inter-generational dialogue, simultaneous workshops, and group work. Participants come from a variety of professional and academic backgrounds, with a keen interest and understanding of gender issues and a desire for leadership skills to strengthen their work. During the selection process, the participants are asked to identify their training needs, and the AWLI training programs are designed accordingly. The training sessions are facilitated by a group of African women trainers based within and outside Africa, and all the training sessions are conducted in a lively and participatory manner.


The Leadership Framework, which is used to develop training modules and programs, is an analytical framework, which AMwA has conceptualised, and which is called the P.O.T Framework. This framework specifically addresses concerns of African women activists interested in the next generation of leadership. The POT signifies an inter-disciplinary and multi-faceted approach to activism, and the various personal, political and contextual issues individual activists face within their communities. The resource persons and trainers for the AWLI design their training programs bearing this framework in mind. POT Implies:
P Personal Empowerment
O Organisational Development
T Transfer of Skills and Knowledge


This is crucial for African women activists to be able to commit themselves to challenging deeply oppressive systems, most of which are rooted in years of culture and tradition, and which makes it impossible to advocate for change. Self-empowerment, self-esteem and the ability to balance personal and professional issues have been a major concern of African women activists. Specific areas, which our training programs address, include self-development, balancing personal issues, leadership dynamics, etc.


The ability to make effective use of organisations or institutions to promote a progressive agenda for women and advocate for fundamental change. This also includes the need to mobilise and manage resources needed to develop institutions. Organisational in this context might be autonomous and non-governmental, or might be governmental machinery set up to address gender concerns. Training topics in this area include strategic planning, managing change, NGO governance and structure in Africa, resource mobilisation and management, communications and information.


AMwA's leadership programs aim to develop inter-generational systems of knowledge and skills transfer. Through this process, younger women learn from older women and older women learn from younger ones. The ability to effectively transfer knowledge on an inter-generational basis is also crucial to the sustainability of a progressive development agenda. It is also important to affirm women as knowers and creators of knowledge within their communities, a fact which patriarchy never admits.


“The trainers are experienced, professional and first-rate'' “The AWLI was a great learning experience for me and an excellent opportunity to network and focus on things crucial to the African women's movement”. Participant at 3rd AWLI, 1999 “There is such a high level of professionalism about you; I will get our organisation to use Akina Mama as a role model”.

“AMwA should start a university for African women”!

All the three years I spent in the University cannot compare to the three weeks I have spent here” Justine Nkurunziza, AWLI Alumni, Burundi 1997 “The Institute was excellent. Please keep up the good work, your efforts go a long way to improve the lives of African women”.

“We received a brilliant collection of materials and books that we can use over and over again”.

'The AWLI has not only changed my life, it has revolutionised it', Angie Dawa, participant, 1st African Women's Leadership Institute, February/March 1997.

“AMwA's training programs for African women are brilliant…there are lots of other women out there who are desperately in need of the valuable information we have been privileged to get”, Participant at the 2nd African Women's Leadership Institute, February 1998.

“The hard work, the fun, the fatigue, the laughter, and the tears that marked the end when we had to part -the AWLI was really something. You had to be a part of it to appreciate the wonderful experience we had”. Betty Byanyima, AWLI Alumni, Uganda 1998.

“This initiative to develop the capacity and skills of young African women is long overdue and has come at a critical period of Africa's development”. Mme Josephine Ouedraogo, Chief, Africa Centre for Women, United Nations Economic Commission for Africa.

“In this critical period after Beijing, we are looking towards the young women in Africa and other parts of the world to carry on the work. The future is in their hands. If they are not brought on board, we might lose all we have gained over the past twenty-five years”. Hon. Gertrude Mongella, Secretary General, Fourth UN World Conference on Women, 1995.

“Through my involvement with AMWA, I was able to participate in the first ever feminist forum in Africa in Accra Ghana where "herstory" was made by great feminists in Africa. The process enabled me to link up with feminists of various generations from various African countries” Leah Nyambura AWLI Alumni, Kenya, 2006 “The training was powerful. “When I applied for it, I didn't know it would be this helpful. It has helped me understand who I am; a gender feminist…the training has helped the participants develop a sense of one and working together”. Toni Shechambo Mbilinyi, AWLI ALUMNI, Tanzania, 2007 “The training was an exciting opportunity for me. In Sudan, the issues discussed at the training are never tackled in detailed as the training has done. I have got a lot of information and networks from my fellow women with whom we share the same cause.” Nehal Mohammed Ibn Idris AWLI Alumni, Sudan 2007 “It was very empowering for me as it has been an eye opener…. I have been able to re-position myself as a feminist…Its an opportunity for young women to acquire transformation skills because the young women are the future leaders of our nations,” Rissi Assani-Alabi AWLI Alumni, Benin/Ghana 2007 “Before my participation in the AWLI, I had heard a lot about the training from two of the association's members that have participated in it. “We have learnt a variety of issues like team building, sexual reproductive health, women's rights. The trainers have talked about the real issues that happen in our country. But for us there are issues we can not talk about in public because of the strong cultures. For instance talking about our sexual organs publicly is out of order”. Rahel Zewdu Ehiopia AWLI Alumni, Ethiopia 2007 “The training was very detailed and that the facilitators are strong women who knew their areas very well… My expectations of the training were met and also commit to train other women in the same skills but most importantly to use the skills to improve myself as a leader” Brenda Nabatanzi Mpanga AWLI Alumni, Uganda 2007


The following criterion applies to all AMwA leadership development programs:

Candidates must be African Women from the following African countries: Burundi, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Somalia, Somaliland, Sudan, Uganda and Tanzania aged between 25-45.

Participants are expected to be resident in the above countries. Participants in the sub regional Institutes are expected to be residents in the relevant countries of the sub region in which the institute will take place.

Must be from local, national, sub regional or regional women's organisations, civil society organisations, government departments, or commerce and industry.

Applications from eligible organisations should be from a minimum level of Program Officer or the equivalent. Applicants must have a minimum of two years experience (voluntary or professional) in gender issues.

Participants should be able to demonstrate how they will carry forward what they learn at the institute. We will therefore select only those who will be in a position to report back to their organisations or establishment, and not those applying as individuals.

Participants will be required to stay throughout the duration of the program, i.e. three-weeks for the annual AWLI and two weeks for sub-regional AWLI. Participants will be asked to prepare a discussion paper (minimum 2,500 words) on current issues concerning their area of work prior to the institute, for discussion at the institute plenaries or working groups. These discussion papers will be developed for publication afterwards.

AWLI participants should be prepared to engage in critical discussions and analysis of feminist theory and practice. Ability of participants to share costs.


The total cost for individual participants at the AWLI is as follows:

a) The two-week sub-regional AWLI: $5000 per participant. The costs cover travel, accommodation, all meals and refreshments, site visits, local events, and excellent training materials. AMwA usually raises funding to sponsor participants to attend the AWLI programs. However, due to the increasing demand for the AWLI programs, and for sustainability purposes, we are encouraging future participants to approach local donors for full or partial sponsorship to meet their costs.

The following donors have so far made the AWLI programs possible:

The African Women's Development Fund Comic Relief (UK)
Carnegie Corporation of New York (USA)
Christian Aid (UK)
Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA-Kenya)
COOPERAID (Switzerland)
Commonwealth Foundation Danish International Development Agency (DANIDA-Uganda)
German Development Service (Uganda Country Office)
Global Fund for Women (USA)
Ford Foundation Hivos Shaler Adams Foundation (USA)
Staples Trust (UK)
Caritas Fund of the Tides Foundation (USA)
United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM).
United Nations Development Program (UNDP)
UNICEF (Uganda Country office)
UK Department for International Development UK National Lottery Charities Board, International Programs OXFAM (UK/I)
K.U.L.U. Women in Development (Denmark)
Mama Cash (The Netherlands)
Match International (Canada)

Akina Mama wa Afrika (AMwA)

Head Office Akina Mama wa Afrika Plot 30 Bukoto Street, Kamwokya Kampala, Uganda East Africa P. O. Box 24130 Kampala Tel: +256 41 543681 Fax: +256 414 543683 Email: [email protected] <mailto:[email protected]> UK/Europe Regional Office Akina Mama wa Afrika (AMwA)
Unit 1B Leroy House,
436 Essex Road, London, N1 3QP United Kingdom Tel: + 44 207 359 8252 Fax: +44 207 354 9015 Email: [email protected] <mailto:[email protected]> <> AMwA is an international NGO in Special Consultative Status with the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations.

The African Women's Leadership Institute is a program of Akina Mama wa Afrika, a non governmental development organisation for African women based in Kampala, Uganda with a UK/Europe Regional Office based in London, UK.

AMwA is registered as an International NGO in Uganda by the NGO Registration Board; UK Registered Charity Number 1041431; Company Limited by Guarantee Number: 295812


A regional networking, information and training forum for African women


1. Surname………………………………………………………
2. Other Names………………………………………………….

3. Date of Birth………………………………………………….

4. Nationality……………………………………………………
5. Home Address……………………………………………….
6. Telephone……………………………………………………
7. Office Address……………………………………………….

8. Telephone/Fax……………………………………………….

9. Email…………………………………………………………
10. Organisation………………………………………………..

11. Address…………………………………………………….

12. Name of Chief Executive of your Department ……………………………………………………


1. What organisation are you from and what role do you play in it?

2. How long have you been involved in gender issues?

3. Why would you like to attend the African Women's Leadership Institute?

4. What have been the key leadership challenges in your work?

5. What specific skills and training would you like to learn at the institute?

6. What skills/issues would you like to share with other participants?

7. Have you attended other national, regional or international events?

8. You will be required to write a thematic discussion paper for the institute? What topic would you like to write on?

9. How will you share the things you learn at the AWLI with your community?

10. Please give details of any training programs you have been on:

11. Please give details of any training you have given (if applicable)

12. How did you hear about the AWLI?

13. If you are from French speaking or Portuguese speaking parts of Africa, can you read, write and speak English fluently?

14: If you are selected, will you be able to share the costs of your participation with AMwA? Yes/No SECTION C Please indicate which of the following thematic areas are of interest to you. You can tick up to two from each section.

Personal Empowerment Leadership strategies Self development Balancing personal and professional issues Assertiveness Other…………………… Organisational Development Conceptualizing gender in Africa Fundraising Influencing policy Monitoring and evaluation Strategic thinking and planning Other………………………….

Transfer of skills and knowledge Training of trainers Feminist theory and practice Mentoring Testimonies Other…………………………….


Which of the following themes from the 1995 Beijing Platform for Action are of interest to you?

1. Human rights 2. Violence against women
3. Health 4. Poverty
5. Access to decision-making 6. Conflict
7. The Girl-Child 8. Environment
9. Education 10. Media
11. Equality 12. Institutional mechanisms Please send the completed application form, together with the following:

A brief CV (not more than four pages)

A one-page statement summarizing your goals and aspirations as an emerging leader.

One passport size photograph Information (brochures, leaflets) about your organisation A covering letter One photo copy each of the application form, covering letter and one statement.

The deadline for application is Thursday 20th December 2007. Any applications received after this date will not be considered. Successful participants will be notified two weeks prior to the training program. This form can be photocopied and passed on to others. Remember to include all the information we asked for when you are returning the form, including the duplicate copies. Failure to do this will prevent us from being able to reach a decision on your application.


The total cost for individual participants at the two weeks sub-regional AWLI is $5000 per participant. The costs cover travel, accommodation, all meals and refreshments, site visits, local events, and excellent training materials. AMwA usually raises funding to sponsor participants to attend the AWLI programs. However due to the increasing demand for the AWLI programs and sustainability purposes, only a limited number of applicants are supported so, we encourage participants to approach local donors for full or partial sponsorship to meet their costs.


Completed forms should be sent to:

Head Office Akina Mama wa Afrika Plot 30 Bukoto Street, Kamwokya Kampala, Uganda East Africa P. O. Box 24130 Kampala Tel: +256 41 543681 Fax: +256 414 543683 Email: [email protected] <mailto:[email protected]> UK/Europe Regional Office Akina Mama wa Afrika (AMwA)
Unit 1B Leroy House,
436 Essex Road, London, N1 3QP United Kingdom Tel: + 44 207 359 8252 Fax: +44 207 354 9015 Email: [email protected] <mailto:[email protected]> <> For further information and assistance, please contact the offices above.

AMwA is an international NGO in Special Consultative Status with the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations.

The African Women's Leadership Institute is a program of Akina Mama wa Afrika, a non governmental development organisation for African women based in Kampala, Uganda with a UK/Europe Regional Office based in London, UK.

AMwA is registered as an International NGO in Uganda by the NGO Registration Board; UK Registered Charity Number 1041431; Company Limited by Guarantee Number: 295812

Global: Scholarships to CSW 2008


Eight (8) Yvonne Hibbard scholarships will be awarded by the Division for the Advancement of Women (DAW) to attend the UN Commission on the Status of Women in 2008 - CSW 52. Deadline for submission is 19 November. Contact: [email protected]
Call for Applications for Scholarships for UN
Commission on the Status of Women 2008

Deadline for submission is 19 November
Contact: [email protected]

Eight (8) Yvonne Hibbard scholarships will be awarded by the Division for the Advancement of Women (DAW) to attend the UN Commission on the Status of Women in 2008 - CSW 52. The following criteria apply:

1) The applicant's organization must be ECOSOC affiliated - UN ECOSOC NGO.
2) The applicant should be one who has never had a chance to attend the CSW
3) No previous recipient can apply.
4) The applicant should have experience and knowledge of the topics of CSW 52.
5) The applicant should submit detailed personal contact information and a brief biography.
6) Regional representation will be sought.
7) Deadline for submission is 19 November
8) The final decision will be made by the Division for the Advancement of Women (DAW).
9) Apply to [email protected] .

Time is very short. The final decision will be made by the end of November.

Eva Richter
Executive Committee
NGO Committee on the Status of Women, NY

Fahamu - Networks For Social Justice

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