The African Commission notes with great concern on information alleging reprisals by States Parties against NGOs in the conduct of their mandate, Commissioner Catherine Dupe Atoki said on Saturday.
The Chairperson of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR) said “these reactions by State Parties are indicative of the efficacy of human rights advocacy by NGOs, as it implies that the activities of the NGOs are actually impacting the states concerned”.
She was speaking during the officially opening of the NGOs Forum (April 6-8, 2013,) in Banjul, The Gambia, which usually precedes the Ordinary Session of ACHPR. The 53rd Session of the Commission, also hosted by The Gambia, will kick-off on Tuesday and will last for two-weeks.
Commissioner Atoki told NGOs the Commission remains committed to protecting and defending human right defenders and urges that such incidences are urgently brought to the attention of the ACHPR.
Atoki call on civil society organizations to continue to work even harder in the crusade against human rights violation, intolerance and bad governance.
FPI understands the African Union (AU) is preparing to celebrate 50 years as an organisation. Throughout this period, a mixture of progress on human rights and massive disregard and violations of the same cause have been matching side by side.
Atoki notes that the process of transformation by the AU from the OAU and bringing human rights as a top priority was mostly set in motion and orchestrated by NGOs.
“It was through the concerted and relentless efforts of NGOs that the African Charter was adopted and human rights have now taken centre-stage in the affairs of the African Union,” she said.
“Despite all this progress made in Africa, the continent still continue to be plagued with serious and widespread human rights violations and armed conflicts, as well as social and political unrest that continued unabated and leading to appalling human rights abuses in many parts,” she admitted.
She saw the need for continuous mobilization and constructive engagement of state parties (the primary duty bearers), the Commission and other actors by the community of NGOs, to ensure human rights remains a matter of priority for African governments.
In a statement read on his behalf, The Gambia’s Attorney General and Minister of Justice Lamin Jobarteh, admits NGOs have played and continue to play unprecedented roles in societies.
Over the past decade there have been an increase in the numbers of NGOs in Africa, this according to Jobarteh, is a clear manifestation of the increase in “pluralism and democracy”.
“In spite of all these improvements some authoritarian governments have either outlawed or restricted NGOs in their operations,” he claims.
He calls on NGOs and governments to work together. “It is only through concerted efforts that we can overcome the challenges facing our countries, regions and our continent,” he said.
While there has been marked progress in improving the democracy and human rights situation in some areas in the continent, Jobarteh said, a lot more remains to be done as gross human rights violations continues on a day-to-day basis.
Africa has a long way to go in relation to its development and human rights record, he said.
Meanwhile, close to 40 NGOs are boycotting the 53rd Ordinary Session of the ACHPR in protest of alleged human rights violations in the host country, The Gambia. The NGOs include Article19, Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI), Rencontre Africaine pour les droits de l’homme (RADDHO) and the pressure group Civil Society Associations Gambia (CSAG).
They are protesting against holding sessions of the African Commission (ACHPR) in the tiny West African nation “where basics human rights are constantly violated with total impunity”.