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The Role Of The African Union In Promoting Human Rights – Kim Lamont Mbawuli

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African Union Building (Source: Quartz)

Amid the global Covid-19 pandemic, 2020 has been a turbulent year for Africa. During this time of crisis and uncertainty there has been over a dozen countries that have held general elections, many of which have been married with violence. The toll of the crisis has had a ripple effect on the human rights crises across the continent, including the ongoing conflict in Ethiopia’s Tigray region. According to Human Rights Watch, areas such as Burkina Faso, Cameroon, the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Mali, Mozambique, Niger, Nigeria,
Somalia, and South Sudan armed conflicts persists.

Unfortunately, non-state armed groups and government forces were implicated in massacres, targeted killings, rapes, the burning and looting of villages. As well as kidnappings, forced recruitment, attacks on students and teachers, and the illegal occupation of schools. If regard is given for the sort of Human rights violations exhibited it’s time to place the African Union into a spotlight to determine whether the correct framework is in place to protect the plight the African people.

The Transition From OAU To AU

The transformation of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) into the African Union (AU) in 2001 was placed in to central focus. The need to endow continental structures with the powers to make binding rules and regulations for the enhancement of Africa’s integrative efforts. The AU has 53 member states of which this supranational aspiration is espoused through the legal and institutional framework of the organisation. Of which two important developments extended and deepened Africa’s commitment to human rights, democracy, governance and development as cited in the Claiming Human Rights website.

The first was the adoption of the African Union’s Constitutive Act, which endows the AU with the powers to coordinate the activities of the regional economic communities, intervene in member states, and determine and monitor the implementation of common policies, it reaffirms Africa’s commitment to promote and protect human rights. It solemnises a promise made by African leaders to uphold unity, solidarity, cohesion and co-operation among the people of Africa. The second was the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD), which also places human rights at the centre of development of which both frameworks are to provide an opportunity to put human rights firmly on the African agenda.

Notwithstanding, the strong central drive towards the promulgation of human rights, African countries still lack a degree of transparency which is easily demonstrated through the response to the Covid-19 pandemic, many African
governments introduced severe restrictions on movement and the freedom of assembly. In some cases, implementing full lockdowns. On the one hand these measures helped curb the spread of the virus in some contexts. On the other hand people were disproportionately impacted, particularly those that live in poverty. Many governments did not provide adequate assistance to cushion the impact of the economic downturn, which has exacerbated existing poverty and inequality across Africa. Furthermore there was little transparency around how government funds were being spent, to support the Covid-19 responses, triggering allegations of corruption. The pandemic has also exposed serious systemic gaps in health care services and social safety nets, thereby drawing attention to the need for African governments to make meaningful investments to improve access to quality healthcare, water, and sanitation. Bearing this in mind it brings to question how basic human needs have not been catered and how this has had an effect on the right to human dignity.

Co-Ordinating Common Purpose

The AU offers a broad dynamism through the use of non-indifference which includes the right of the AU to intervene in any member state’s affairs particularly around the recognition of human rights and the Promotion of social, economic and cultural development through the use of human rights instruments such as the; African Charter on Human and People’s Rights (ACHPR), the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child (ACRWC), the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa, the Protocol on the Establishment of the African Court on Human and People’s Rights, and the Charter on Democracy, Governance and Election. To enforce these instruments, bodies were established and were provided with an express human rights mandate such as the African Commission on the Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (the African Commission), the African Committee of Experts on the Rights and Welfare of the Child (ACERWC), and the African Court.

Bience Gawanas cites the AU as utilising a more interventionist approach to end war crimes and crimes against humanity, human rights violations, and unconstitutional changes of government, through the mechanism of employing sanctions. It represents a higher form of unity and integration for the African continent. It has also continued to develop legal frameworks and establish relevant institutions and in so doing, it has paved the way towards creating a culture of non-indifference towards war crimes and crimes against humanity in Africa.

Legislative Mechanisms To Pursue Human Rights

The Africa renewal magazine states that the pursuit of African human rights requires and enabling environment to pursue the promotion and protection of such rights. The Pan-African Parliament (PAP), Economic, Social and Cultural Council (ECOSOCC), the Peace and Security Council (PSC), the African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM) and the African Court are all structures and legislative frameworks to ensure that such rights are upheld for all.1

The Role Of The African Court

The African court (hereinafter- the court) was established by the 1998 protocol in respect of the Africa Charter on Human and Peoples rights which endows many African governments, acting nationally and also collectively through the AU, are serious about solidification and protection of human rights. In the Journal of Administration and article written by Antigegn G.K. avers that the jurisdiction of the court extends from the determination of disputes related to the interpretation and application of the Charter, the Protocol and other instruments ratified by state parties, to provide an advisory opinion to the AU or any African organization recognized by the AU on legal matters. For many a key judicial issue, lies between the question of an independent judicial system and the question of impunity. The court can put pressure on states to lessen their hold on the courts, which they use to massively violate human rights throughout the region as cited in the Journal of Public administration.

Courts Response To Human Right Violations

According to UNESCO Director-General’s Report on the Safety of Journalists and the Danger of Impunity between 2006 to 2020, 174 journalists have been killed in Africa, and unfortunately only 10.3% of the cases that were reported have been judicially resolved. The above paints a grim picture albeit there are a few landmark decisions made
by the court on Human and Peoples’ Rights directly contributed to strengthening freedom of expression and to fight impunity for crimes committed against journalists on the African continent.

End Impunity: Promote Free Speech

In the case of Norbert Zongo, the Court has undoubtedly made a direct contribution to ending impunity for crimes against journalists wherein the Court found that the delay in prosecuting the assassination in 1998 of investigative
journalist Norbert Zongo and his companions constituted a violation of their rights to a fair trial, namely to have their cause heard within a reasonable time. In what is known to be one of its overall landmark judgment on the merits, the Court found that the Respondent, the State, failed to uphold its duty to due diligence as no trial was conducted in more than 15 years in a case where Zongo was allegedly about to release a report on investigations involving officials including the brother to the then President of Burkina Faso.

In its judgment on reparations, the Court also awarded a quantum of 1 million USD compensation to the beneficiaries for material and moral damages suffered as a consequence of the violations established.

Similarly, in the case of Lohe Issa Konate exemplifies the contribution of the Court to the protection of journalists in Africa. The issues at hand were strongly focused on the freedom of expression rather than an attempt to the applicant’s life. In its ruling on the merits, the Court found that the one-year imprisonment against Konaté for publishing newspaper articles that were critical to the prosecutor constituted a breach of his freedom of expression as it was disproportionate.

Further to this the Court held that authorities who discharge public functions should be prone to a higher level of criticism and prison sentences would therefore deter journalists from performing the very critical duty of exposing shortfalls in public governance. As a result of the violations found, the Court ordered the Respondent, the State, to amend its laws accordingly and reinstate the Applicant’s banned newspapers, and pay compensation.

Finally, it is worth referring to the judgment rendered by the Court in the matter of Ingabire Victoire Umuhoza regarding freedom of speech in a political setting. The matter relates to statements made by opposition leader Umuhoza which were found by domestic courts to constitute denial of the Tutsi genocide. The findings of the court were that the remarks made by the Applicant did not constitute minimisation of the genocide against the Tutsi and therefore found her conviction to violate her freedom of expression. Although the case did not involve a journalist, it provides an interpretative position to understanding limitations to freedom of expression in instances such as genocide where states may use the restriction to silence critics, including media professionals. In the Umuhoza case, the Court ordered the Respondent State to restore the Applicant’s rights and pay her compensation for material and moral loss suffered by herself and her family members.

Therefore, the effect of such outcomes is the greatly wedged against the domestic systems of each country involved and must be evaluated from a normative, regulatory and judicial perspectives. Human rights are not just a construct based on ideals. They have deep roots in the traditions of all peoples. The primary focus for the promotion and protection of human rights is at the national level, an African level and an international level, it is the primary responsibility of Africa and all its people to ensure that human rights are promoted, protected and fulfilled.

“Our experience over the last 20 years has shown that indeed people must themselves become their own liberators. You cannot wait for somebody else to come and rescue you.” Thabo Mbeki

 

Written by: Dr. Kim Lamont-Mbawuli

 

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Tapping into African Diaspora

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By: Nchimunya Muvwende (Photo: ADN)

In a famous quote, an author penned down the words “No matter where you go, always remember the road that will lead you home.” There are many Africans that left their countries in search of green pastures in the diaspora but it seems that they have become so comfortable with developing the already advanced countries and do not seem to remember their roots. While foreign investors are rushing to invest in the opportunities present in Africa, very few foreign based Africans do the same but rather focus on helping family members through remittances that have no sustainable impact. This status quo is not helpful and there is a need to harness a working relationship between nations and their people that live abroad in order to have inclusive development.

Harnessing diaspora resources

Many African countries are highly indebted and much of this debt arises from the ambitious development projects that governments are undertaking to improve the livelihoods of their people. Most projects cost more money than countries can manage to mobilize domestically and so, the countries are forced to depend on external aid and loans that are sometimes tied to adverse conditions.

On the flip side, there are many diaspora based Africans who have raised enough resources which when invested back in their countries, the rising debt crises could be mitigated. To do this, there is a need to provide specific incentives for the foreign based Africans so as to attract their resources to be invested in their home countries. Doing so will come with many benefits such as reduced dependency on borrowing, money remaining within countries hence stabilizing exchange rates, employment creation, economic growth and basically improved wellbeing of the people. It should be noted that no one will prioritise the development of Africa except its people regardless of where they are based and so, measures need to be taken to engage the children of the African soil.

Nations need to appeal to their people to remember those they left back home and think of ways of improving their livelihoods. It goes without saying that it is important to look strategically, systematically and critically at the diaspora’s role in the African development matrix and engage the huge reservoir of human and financial capital found in the large African diaspora.

Investment not remittances

When you give a child fish, they would still come back for more but if you build them a fish pond, teach them how to earn an income, the dependence syndrome reduces. There are many Africans that are in the diaspora that earn decent incomes and have to always remit funds to their families back home. However, this has created a continued financial dependence that has not necessarily improved livelihoods as it is not a sustainable source of income for the people back home.

The World Bank statistics show that remittances from the diaspora are estimated at about $87 billion annually and these amounts actually exceed official development assistance to Africa. Why always beg for help when Africans in the diaspora have more resources? It is time that the many Africans domiciled across the world begin to think of how they can reinvest their incomes into building businesses that will benefit not only their families but their countries as a whole. When critically analyzing cost factors, it would be cheaper to set up a business in an African country than in western countries.

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This is because the cost of labor, availability of ready market and investment incentives are more pronounced in many African jurisdictions. It should be a source of concern that foreigners find it easier to invest in Africa than it is for the Africans who left the continent for greener pastures to think of taking back the resources to their roots. Imagine if every diaspora based African thought establishing at least one business in their home countries using mobilized resources and using the skills and knowledge gained, the development of Africa will be more pronounced. It is time to convert remittances into Foreign Direct Investments in order to grow African economies and deal with pressing challenges.

Diaspora Network

Most of the western countries have advanced skills and knowledge and attract the best minds around the world, inclusive of the many diaspora based Africans. There is a need to create effective diaspora networks that can help replicate, transfer and build the knowledge to actualize Africa’s potential. There is a need for building capacity in the management of businesses. Financial prudency, sourcing financing among other skills in the people in Africa and this is a role the African diaspora could take up when effectively engaged. In addition, they can help create opportunities for Africans to acquire skills and knowledge from the best schools and experts and use this to develop Africa. The networks could help create market linkages for the many products produced in their home countries.

The abundance of natural resources and wildlife make Africa a good and attractive tourist destination but the lack of effective advertisement and expensive costs have hindered reaping benefits. The African diaspora needs to be engaged more in marketing their home countries, and this could come at almost no cost because word of mouth advertisement is rated the best.

African Governments should not look at the African diaspora as deserters of their continent but rather as ambassadors that could be instrumental in dealing with the many challenges faced in their home countries. This calls for effective engagement with the African diaspora. In the same vein, the African diaspora should be reminded to remember the road that leads to their roots and that if they do not take part in uplifting the lives of their people, financial burdens will keep falling on them. Therefore, working on a win-win situation will be the best way to achieve a prosperous African continent.

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Presidential Candidates Nigerians should not consider voting for in 2023 – Adaku Efuribe

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Nigerians would be going to the polls in 2023 to elect a new president. I have written a lot of articles in the past regarding qualities of a great leader, but going by the understanding of most Nigerians, it would be more sensible to discuss the character of candidates not suitable for the job to enable us to separate the goat from the sheep so to say.

In solving mathematical equations, we sometimes use elimination methods to arrive at the correct answer. if we all know who we shouldn’t vote for, perhaps we could pinpoint who the possible suitable candidates are.

If we want to improve our economy and place Nigeria in its rightful place in world affairs then we must make conscious effort to ensure people with certain character flaws do not come anywhere close to the office of the president

Nigerians must not consider voting for candidates with the following character flaws/history.

Liars

Some of the candidates who have declared interest have been known to tell false tales to Nigerians in the past. A good example is a notorious fella who once made Nigerians doubt their cognitive ability. A few thought they actually suffered from short term amnesia. I wouldn’t tell you who to vote for but do not vote for liars, especially the one that woke up one morning shouting enough is enough! he went ahead to say he would be staging a protest against the present Government, he talked about a dream he had in which God revealed to him what he must do…Then the next day ..he said he wasn’t referring to this Government.

Treasury Looters

Anyone who has been involved in advance free fraud, misappropriation of public funds or lack of accountability must not be voted for if we want to move forward in this country. A leopard cannot change its spots. To be forewarned is to be forearmed.

People with unaccountable wealth

Any candidate who cannot explain the source of their wealth is not to be trusted. Some people just spring up from nowhere to tell us God made them rich and no one can comprehend their source of wealth. We have had public servants who could not give account of the budget of their former office or keep an open book on how they spent public funds, such people will only continue to loot the treasury if given the opportunity.

Aspirants who do not believe in cutting down the cost of Governance

The GDP in Nigeria has depreciated over the last 8 years and part of the reason why we cannot come out of economic hardship is the cost of Governance. We spend a lot of money on the welfare of elected Government officials and legislators, more than most developed countries. There is definitely something wrong somewhere. Any candidate who does not believe in cutting down the cost of governance will only do one thing i.e.- continue to use public funds to fund their lavish lifestyle while the masses die of hunger and economic hardship.

Aspirants with no proven track record of effective leadership

Anyone who does not have any proven track record of leadership should not dream of becoming Nigeria’s next president. This country has sunk really low and we don’t have to operate anymore experiments. We don’t need the usual ‘I can do’ attitude. It’s either the proven experience is there or not.

Once again, the power would be placed in your hands to redecide the trajectory of our beloved country Nigeria. I intend to vote and my vote must count this time around. I know exactly who I will be voting for as I do not operate with sentiments. For us to see our country rise up again from the dunghill, I enjoin you all to have an open mind and consider the future of this country with any decision you make.

Article by Adaku Efuribe, Health Promotion Ambassador/Political analyst.

 

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World War 3? Africa’s opportunity

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It has often been said that when elephants are fighting, the grass is the one that suffers the most. And this statement is highly applicable to Africa in the ongoing Russia-Ukraine conflict. Whereas the European countries are fighting a physical war, Africa’s fight against economic challenges such as poverty, unemployment, trade deficit and starvation is worsened by the conflict. Barely a fortnight into the conflict, global commodity prices have been on the rise and had adverse effects on import dependent countries. What lessons can African nations pick from the conflict and what low hanging opportunities can be explored? 

Agricultural market

Both Russia and Ukraine are important players in agricultural production, supplying about 30 percent of the world wheat and barley. In 2020 alone, African countries imported agricultural products worth about $6.9 billion from the two countries. However, the conflict has caused a disruption in the global supply chain of agricultural products. Essentially drying up exports as evidenced by the supply ban imposed by Ukraine, resulting in higher prices and stockpiles reducing. The global citizen report estimates that over 500 million people would be forced into hunger because of the food crisis arising from the conflict. There is a supply gap created which will lead to importers to seek alternatives markets. And therein lies the opportunity for African countries to stand out as global suppliers of these agricultural products and fill the gap.

Historically, Africans are farmers who have survived on agricultural production mostly at a micro level. Africa is blessed with arable land and good climatic conditions that support the growth of various products but productivity has remained low over the years. To take advantage of this situation calls for deliberate efforts to direct resources into growing the agricultural products in large quantities and benefit from the sales. To boost productivity faster, farmers could be incentivised through the use of outgrower schemes. Which are systems that link networks of unorganized smallholder farmers with domestic and international buyers. The identified agricultural market requires that both farmers and countries expand their capacities by investing in equipment and modernisation for higher output. The after effects of the crisis are projected to last for extended periods of time but for those countries that will emerge as gap fillers stand to benefit for a long time. 

Trade reorganisation 

While it can be argued that globalisation and trade have been a key driver for growth and economic expansion for many nations, the gains have not been fairly distributed especially in Africa. Intra-Africa trade when compared to external trade accounts for a smaller percentage and hence the observed vulnerability of African trade to external factors. Imagine, while Africa is neither physically involved in the Russia-Ukraine conflict nor imposing any sanctions on these countries. The effects of these two factors in derailing economic progress is worse in most African countries. Oil is a key input in various sectors of economies and the affordability and access to it has an impact on economic growth.

The crude oil prices are daily breaking record prices and for the many oil importing countries especially in Africa are at the receiving end of the spillover effects. Such as high cost of doing business and rising inflation which is detrimental to their economies. It defeats economic logic that African countries import oil from outside the continent, spending huge funds on transportation despite having neighbouring oil producing countries. The oil producing African countries should consider prioritising African nations for their exports to ensure that the continent is oil secure and the economies are thriving. Where possible, a differentiated preferential price which should be lower than the global price should be considered to ensure affordability and support to African nations. 

The implementation of the Africa Continental free trade area, which has been envisioned as a game changer in African trade, has stalled with frequent postponements to actualisation. The current European conflict should be viewed as a catalyst for trade reorganisation in Africa and ACFTA implementation. This is because the crisis has indeed created a gap in trade and there is no guarantee that African nations could be prioritised in importing from the European countries that also have pressing needs. Self-sustenance in intra-Africa trade should be the target because, decades after independence, Africans cannot forever be dependants. Who are vulnerable to external factors which do not directly concern them.

Strategizing opportunity

While the conflict has devastating effects on some countries, it actually creates an opportunity for others. The identification of the comparative advantage that nations have in either current production or potential production is what should preoccupy those not participating in the physical fight. The current capacity in most African countries to manufacture products may not be able to compete with developed countries that have advanced technology. But in terms of primary produce, African nations have huge unexploited potentials. 

Each country should introspect, organise its people and resources in targeting the global market. This is a matter of expanding what is already being produced and organising smaller businesses in bundling their produce. Working out strategies that will see individual countries to be a solution to a looming global crisis and benefit their nations in the process. If the opportunity is well taken and African nations stand out as solution providers, it could be a turning point for them to recover from indebtedness and economic challenges they have perpetually faced.   

The looming crisis could just be a test to examine the capability of developing countries to switch from being dependents to being solution providers. The focus should not be on the current investment costs to be incurred. But rather the benefits that have potential to erase economic challenges when potential is exploited and opportunities seized. 

By: Nchimunya Muvwende, Economist

 

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