Assessment of the human rights situation in Africa
When it comes to human rights, I will speak for Ghana. I can’t speak for the whole of Africa, but generally when you look at human rights in Africa, when you look at the situation in Togo, when you look at the situation in countries like Cameroon, we still have a long way to go with human rights. Ghana has been tagged as a beacon of democracy since 1992. We have had successful elections since that time with no glitches. But in recent times democracy is being threatened. I don’t know if you’ve heard of the by election earlier this year in Ayawaso West. It was just a by election but there was a lot of violence during that election, and now we are wondering, if this is just a by election with so much violence, then what is going to happen with the main election in 2020? Apart from that, there has been a clampdown on press freedom in our country.
Ghana has been tagged as a beacon of democracy since 1992. We have had successful elections since that time with no glitches. But in recent times democracy is being threatened
Earlier this year, the journalist Anas released a video on corruption in our football administration and it to be dissolved. What he did really angered a lot of people, very powerful people. There was an MP, a member of parliament, who released the privacy of one of the actors, one of the key members of the team, and asked people to beat him up whenever they see him. A few months later the guy turned up dead. That is a clear violation of press freedom. And to this date no suspect has been apprehended. Our status as a beacon of democracy is being threatened by these acts.
Independence of the commission
I think civil society has to put pressure on the African Commission to make member states perform their various human rights obligations, then I would say that they can be independent. It’s a body within the African Union, so therefore they are independent, but all of their work has been more talk and rhetoric rather than action. Put pressure on the African Union to really do its work and make member states accountable by presenting states reports on the various human rights mechanisms on the African Charter and the Maputo Protocol. When you are really doing your work, when you are accountable, it shows your independence.
When you are really doing your work, when you are accountable, it shows your independence
Who can contribute to protecting human rights in Africa?
The main protectors of our human rights are state parties. Our constitutions enshrine that the states protect the rights of the people. When they are not protecting the rights of the people, the CSOs come in to lobby on our behalf, on the behalf of citizens, to make sure that these institutions created out of our constitutions ensure the rights of the people. For example in Ghana, our constitution allows for independence of all arms of government, but there are certain situations where you see that the arms of government don’t seem to be independent and they have too much political interference.
Our constitutions enshrine that the states protect the rights of the people. When they are not protecting the rights of the people, the CSOs come in to lobby on our behalf
The CSOs come in to remind you that this is where the constitution says that there should be independence of each arm. That’s what CSOs do. Apart from CSOs, as I said earlier on, state parties, the core mandates of protecting human rights are with state parties and the CSOs only come in to help where state parties are lagging behind.
Apart from CSOs, I feel organizations like the United Nations, whose mandate is to ensure peace and security around the world, must push for the protection of human rights. I know we have the United Nations Human Rights Council and they have to do a lot more work and put pressure. If they can provide punitive measures to these states that are violating people’s rights, maybe they can create economic embargoes to push them to protect the rights of citizens.
I feel organizations like the United Nations, whose mandate is to ensure peace and security around the world, must push for the protection of human rights
What you have is all talk. You complain, you criticize without punitive measures, nothing is going to be done in the long run. So where there are punitive measures for these states, for example Sudan. Sudan was taken out of the African Union. Those types of punitive measures will go a long way to make sure that states protect the human rights of their people.
Elorm Atakli is a program officer at the Gender Center for Empowering Development in Ghana. The goal of the organization is to strengthen political participation of women. They are currently working with ECOWAS to develop strategies for political parties to include gender mainstreaming and affirmative action in parties across West Africa.