Charity starts at home, they say, except in East Africa where only two of the five-member East African Community (EAC) states have both signed the Protocol setting up the Arusha based African Court on Human and Peoples Rights (AfCHPR) and deposited a Declaration enabling it to be assessed by individuals and non-governmental organizations (NGOs).
The matter somehow irks the Court’s President, Justice Augustino Ramadhani, who is from Tanzania, the seat of the Court. Luckily, it is only his country and Rwanda that have ratified the Protocol and deposited a Declaration to make the court a truly organ of the people of Africa when their rights are violated and feel dissatisfied by the way their grievances were handled by national jurisdictions.
“I feel ashamed sometimes to see that EA countries have not made a Declaration when the Court is in their vicinity,” Justice Ramadhani is quoted to have told a delegation from Kenya’s International Peace-Keeping Training Centre (IPTC) and the National Steering Committee (NSC) recently. The other EAC member states are Kenya, Uganda and Burundi.
The frustration that Justice Ramadhani feels is understandable. So far, only 29 of the 54 member countries of the African Union (AU) have ratified the Court’s Protocol. Yet, it is the same African countries, who complain that the International Criminal Court (ICC) based at The Hague targets unfairly African leaders for cases of violation of human rights.
Indeed, such complaints would have been avoided if people had universal recourse to a court set up by African countries themselves. For, it cannot be said that Africa doesn’t have an unenviable record of human rights violations. The question is: What is there for African leaders to fear if not the threat to the impunity in most countries? African leaders have to appreciate the fact that the continent cannot develop carrying heavy baggage of human rights violations at the same time.
Secondly, where impunity reigns, the rest of the world cannot simply standby and watch un-bestirred. For Africa to be respected and join the global community of nations, it must show and demonstrate uncompromising protection of the sanctity of life, which is what human rights are all about.
Furthermore, it doesn’t paint a very good picture that nearly half of the AU member states have not ratified the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights that established the AfCHPR 11 years ago and almost 30 years after the Charter itself came into effect on October 21, 1986, which is observed as “African Human Rights Day!”
It mocks common sense for Africa to celebrate annually “African Human Rights Day” whereas in actual fact, governments would rather have it parried away. But, there is great hope for optimism. First and foremost is the fact that Africa already does have an instrument for human rights, The African Charter for Human and Peoples Rights (ACHPR). There shall be no going back.
The Court on the other hand, was established to make judgements on AU member states for compliance to the tenets of the ACHPR. It can be rightly argued therefore that without a truly vibrant AfCHPR, the ACHPR can remain just a good piece of paper with very noble but non unenforceable values. Now, that is not acceptable.
With roughly two months before observance of the next African Human Rights Day on October 21, let each of my readers turn into an activist and lobby their governments to ratify the Protocol to the ACHPR that established the AfCHPR and deposit a Declaration.
It is unacceptable that only Algeria, Benin, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Cote d’Ivore, Comoros, Congo, Gabon, The Gambia, Ghana, Kenya, Libya, Lesotho, Malawi, Mali, Mauritania,Mauritius, Mozambique, Nigeria, Niger, Uganda, Rwanda, Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic, Senegal, South Africa, Tanzania, Togo and Tunisia have ratified the Protocol 11 years after.
The people should to treat human rights as their most pressing agenda and nudge their governments along. The author believes that could help solve a lot of Africa’s dilemmas, including the seemingly unending wars in many trouble spots including DR Congo, South Sudan and the Darfur region