Africa Human Rights Day Commemorated

ON the occasion of Africa Human Rights Day on 21 October, Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) joins the rest of the African community in marking this important day with a call for governments to implement in good faith their human rights obligations.

Africa Human Rights Day, which is set aside by the African Union and is celebrated annually on 21 October to reflect upon the entry into force in 1986 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (“the African Charter”), after its adoption by the Organisation for African Unity on 27 June 1981, is commemorated as a continental enunciation of human rights.

Africa Human Rights Day serves to reflect on the sincerity of the commitment by African leaders to respect, promote and protect human rights on the continent and progress in this regard.

The African Charter is vital in that it forms the foundational stone for the African Human and Peoples’ Rights system and is unique to other regional human rights instruments in that it not only covers internationally accepted human rights norms and standards, but also recognises the values and principles that are unique to the African continent.

That African leaders, in their wisdom, committed to the establishment of the African Commission and the African Court to promote and protect human and peoples’ rights is a testament to the fact that such rights are not alien to the African continent and its citizens.

This crucial day on the African human rights calendar is an opportune time for all stakeholders working towards promoting and protecting human rights on the continent, and in particular Member States to take stock of what they have done to foster a culture of respect for human rights in Africa and what they can do to enhance the enjoyment of human rights and peace on the continent.

It is also an opportunity to remember and honour all those who laid down their lives fighting for the emancipation of the oppressed majority on the continent and in this country to realise the inherent dignity of each and every African and Zimbabwean citizen. As we mark this day, we do so with respect and appreciation of our fellow men and women who fell in the process of confronting the past injustices and dissipations of African governments.

As we commemorate Africa Human Rights Day, ZLHR appreciates the critical role played by various generations of fighters who sacrificed their lives in the interest of a better Africa and Zimbabwe and takes this opportunity to express gratitude to women, men, boys and girls on the African continent and beyond who worked relentlessly in preventing the spread and in the elimination of the Ebola outbreak particularly in the western region of the continent and help combat the deadly disease’s devastating socio-economic ramifications.

Nonetheless, Africa remains plagued by a plethora of cases of war crimes, genocide, mass atrocities and crimes against humanity. Today, poverty, inequality prevails as the gravest human rights challenge on the continent. It is pertinent to bear in mind that Africa won’t secure peace without respect for human rights, and security and development can only flourish where there is durable peace.

As we commemorate Africa Human Rights Day this year, ZLHR draws the African citizenry to the escalating tensions and instability within and between nations on the continent and it is regrettable that lives had to be lost early this year owing to the spate of xenophobic attacks in South Africa.

In Zimbabwe, ZLHR, whose mandate is to foster a culture of human rights and respect for the just rule of law in Zimbabwe and throughout the region, is a witness to the erosion and restriction in the enjoyment of fundamental freedoms and rights despite the adoption of a new Constitution two years ago.

It is regrettable that the majority of Zimbabweans do not have anything considerable to celebrate as the enjoyment of socio-economic and cultural rights remain a pipedream as evidenced by the insatiable appetite and planned blatant violation of citizens’ right to shelter through demolitions and evictions without the prior provision of alternative decent accommodation.

In Chingwizi, in Masvingo province, government’s coercive actions have resulted in more than 1 000 children dropping out of school together with those in Tsholotsho in Matabeleland North province owing to starvation and long distances that they have to tread to access education facilities.

Seven months after the forced disappearance of pro-democracy campaigner Itai Dzamara, it is depressing that the government and all its powerful State security organs cannot account for his whereabouts together with locating Paul Chizuze and Patrick Nabanyana among other disappeared people in Zimbabwe. The situation of these people is not only disheartening, but shocking as they remain unaccounted for several months and years after they were disappeared while survivors of enforced disappearances have so many unanswered questions as to why they had to be subjected to such cruel and degrading treatment.

It is unacceptable that the majority of Zimbabweans remain unemployed or informally employed and unable to clothe, feed, house, treat and educate themselves and their families in a Zimbabwe which is so blessed with abundant and unexploited natural resources despite the shallow promises of empowerment and indigenisation programmes.

As we reflect on progress in attaining and maintaining the tenets of the African Charter, it is of deep concern that the government continues to ignore with impunity the implementation of several of the African Commission’s recommendations – among them the right of Diasporans to vote in national elections.

Instead of intimidating and threatening to unleash legal and extra-legal measures to media practitioners who are perceived to be enemies of those in power, the government and authorities must focus on speeding up reforms and harmonisation of laws to ensure compliance with the new constitutional dispensation and the norms and standards espoused in the African Charter.

ZLHR calls upon government authorities to implement in good faith their human rights obligations and commitments. We call upon local authorities and law enforcements agents to cease the arbitrary and illegal actions of violating the rights of citizens and legitimate human rights defenders pursuing their noble work.

ZLHR urges the African Union to be more proactive to ensure the African Commission’s resolutions and recommendations are respected and effectively implemented.

We reiterate that promotion and protection of human rights is everyone’s collective responsibility and ZLHR stands together with citizens of Africa and Zimbabwe in the continuing struggle for a better and more dignified life for all.

Let’s make every day AFRICA HUMAN RIGHTS DAY.

Post published in: Africa News
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