10 July, 2020
Statement of Hassan Shire, Chairperson of the AfricanDefenders and Executive Director of DefendDefenders at the 2020 NGO Forum
Hassan Shire, (AfricanDefenders Chairperson and the Executive Director of DefendDefenders), alongside H.E. Commissioner Solomon Ayele Dersso (Chairperson, African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights) gave a statement at the 2020 Forum on the Participation of NGOs/Civil Society Organizations in the Work of the 66th Ordinary Session of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights. The theme of the session was “The Impact of COVID-19 on Human Rights and Governance in Africa.” In his statement, he highlighted the fact that a lot of civil society organisations have had to change their way of work because of COVID-19 and also the fact that the virus uncovered a lot of discrimination practices. To this regard, he mentioned the open letter addressed to the Chairperson of the African Union Commission,H.E. Moussa Faki Mohammed, on the discrimination and stigmatisation of Africans in China. The letter was signed by over 400 civil society organisations in Africa; 17, 000 African people from a broad cross-section of the citizens of the African Union and include women organisations and feminist movements, labour and students movements, youth organisations, professional associations, lawyers, judges, academicians, business people, clergy, artists, activists and journalists.
He further mentioned that there has been a general clampdown on civic space by AU member states to the point where some member states are trying to undermine the work of African Human Rights Systems and Institutions under the guise of AU reforms.
Other speakers in the session were Naji Moulay Lahsen – Representative of the NGOs Forum Steering Committee, Gilbert Sebihogo – Executive Director, Network of African National Human Rights Institutions, and the closing remarks were given by Mr. Roland Amoussouga-Gero – Director of Political Affairs, UNOWAS.
Read the full statement below:
Statement of Mr Hassan Shire, Chairperson of the AfricanDefenders and Executive Director of DefendDefenders
NGO Forum, 10 July 2020
- Honourable Remy Ngoy Lumbu, Vice chair of the African Commission on Human and Peoples Rights,
- Mr. Andrew Chigovera, Chair of the Governing Council of the African Centre for Democracy and Human Rights Studies
- My Sister Hannah Forster, Convener of the NGO forum and Executive Director of the African Centre for Democracy and Human Rights studies,
Allow me also to recognise the presence of some dignitaries:
- Bineta Diop, AU Special envoy on Women,Peace & Security,
- Honourable Commissioners here present
- Patrice vahard, UN office in West Africa
- Chief Arnold Tsunga, from the Southern Africa Human Rights Defenders Network
Colleagues and dear comrades, Good day!
- It is a new norm we are living in today and away from our usual gathering in Senegambia, and truly glad to be on this platform today and reconnect.
- In this context imposed to us by COVID19, many civil society organisations have shifted their way of operating and have still continued to document human rights violations across the continent even in a very harsh and difficult circumstance.
- Allow me here, to express my sincere solidarity with HRDs on the continent who have continued to monitor the human rights situation within different states during this global pandemic.
- Covid19 exposes the high level of discrimination and inequalities in our society It is in this regards that we drew the attention of the Chairperson of the African Union Commission H.E. Moussa Faki Mohammed on the discrimination and stigmatisation of Africans in China through an open letter signed by over 400 civil society organisations in Africa; 17, 000 African people from broad cross-section of the citizens of the African Union and include women organisations and feminist movements, labour and students movements, youth organisations, professional associations, lawyers, judges, academicians, business people, clergy, artists, activists and journalists.
- We reminded His Excellency Moussa Faki that the inhuman treatmentof our fellow citizens is in violation of international human rights laws and principles. It is inhuman and against all principles of dignity and shared humanity that should ideally guide China-Africa relations.
Distinguished commissioners, dear Comrades,
- As an African citizen, I am still yet to understand whether as stated by the African Union African countries are increasing investments in health by 2030? If I recall well, our leaders’ commitments in 2001, while meeting in Abuja the heads of state of the African Union committed, through the Abuja Declaration, to allocate at least 15% of national budgets to health care in order to achieve universal health coverage.
- Continental wide, the share of expenditure allocated to health in national budgets in Africa has in fact decreased, and so far only two out of 55 African Union member states complied with the Abuja Declaration targets.
- I am stating this because I wanted to illustrate adopted standards versus the state of implementation of such standards. It is undeniably a lack of commitment by African State (including political will) to domesticate and implement many progressive protocols and instruments they have voluntarily developed and adopted.
- There no structural commitment by the African States to work towards the vision of united, inclusive and prosperous Africa. The clampdown on civic space and growing attacks and repression against human rights defenders, Journalists, and other dissenting voices including legitimate political opponents, social media/digital trolls and cyberbullying of human rights defenders, the establishment of pro-authoritarian governments civil society groups, armed militias who operate with the acquiescence or instruction of the state to disrupt legitimate defenders. All these including the weaponisation of the legal system to systematically target and degrade the work of human rights defenders is threatening to turn back the clock of democracy and human rights progress in Africa.
- Some States went further, under the guise of reforming AU institutions seem bent on undermining the work of African Human Rights Systems and Institutions, threatening their independence by among other things interfering with their Mandate
- As a result of this gap of commitment, we see increasingly unaccountable governments with such ills as corruption, organized crime including trafficking in people and precious resources, state capture, money laundering and illicit financial flows with impunity, gender-based violence, social injustice, attacks and discrimination against minorities… etc And these are inevitable structural drivers of conflict and absence of peace in Africa.
- As a Pan African Network, we support the AU’s campaign on “Silencing the Guns in Africa by 2020, aiming to achieve a conflict-free Africa, prevent genocide, make peace a reality for all and rid the continent of wars, violent conflicts, human rights violations, and humanitarian disasters.
- In the meantime, we see the need for the role of some important institutions of the African Union being strengthened if the guns are to be silenced.
- An area to look at could be how the effectiveness of AU Peace and Security Council in early warnings, early responses and crisis prevention. This is because of the lack of a strong accountability mechanism for crimes and gross human rights violation committed on the continent.
- In some situations, where existing mechanisms of the AU make decisions and recommendations to address egregious human rights violations, there is unwillingness or incapacity by member states to comply with the decisions of such tribunals undermining the AU human rights systems.
Distinguished Commissioners, dear comrades,
- A united and prosperous Africa means also respect for democratic governance principles, rule of law and dignity of its citizens, it is, therefore, capital for the Members States of the African Union to build the Union, which is people-centred and based on genuine commitment, and political goodwill order to achieve a peaceful continent, equal and just society in Africa.
I thank you