By Modou S. Joof
Millions of our people [Africans] continue to live undignified lives, Catherine Dupe Atoki, Chairperson of African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR), said on Tuesday in Banjul, The Gambia.
Many [Africans are] languishing in extreme poverty, without access to food, clean drinking water, proper healthcare, education and shelter, she said at the start of the 54th Ordinary Session of ACHPR (October 22 – November 5, 2013).
Atoki note with dismay that many of the gains that have been made in several parts of the continent are constantly being eroded through the resurgence of conflict, terrorism, unconstitutional change of governments, gross human rights violations and the impunity that accompanies it.
“It is this characteristic indignity that has forced many young peoples from the continent on perilous journeys looking for green pasture elsewhere,” she claimed. “We have all followed to the many recent news reports of hundreds of African migrants that die from boat accidents off the Italian island of Lampeduza,” she added.
Scar on governments
Atoki blames the exodus on “insecurity, the lack of enjoyment of basic civil and political, economic and social rights” – factors, she said, force (young Africans) to seek desperate means to escape.
“These young men are fully aware of the risks and the fact that they are undertaken is a clear indication of their misery and desperation,” the ACHPR Chairperson noted.
She concluded that these youths would not embark on such a perilous journey if they had food to eat, clean water to drink, adequate shelter, access to education, adequate healthcare, jobs, not harassed and intimidated for their belief and identities, and allowed to express their opinion freely.
Catherine Dupe Atoki said: “The plight of these migrants should be a scar in the conscience of any government for pushing its youth to such perilous journeys in search of basic living standards which the African Charter enjoins State Parties to provide.
“Our governments therefore need to recommit their obligation under the [ACHPR] Charter to meet the legitimate aspirations of their people to freedom, equality, justice and dignity.
“There is an urgent need for all the abundant resources of the continent to be harnessed for the benefit of our populations.”
The Nigerian calls for a “very swift response” from African governments to try at all times to adhere strictly to the respect of fundamental (human) rights.
Mama Fatima Singhateh, The Gambia’s Justice Minister, agreed with Atoki. “Our citizen must enjoy their rights in Africa and not feel obliged to embark on perilous trips while searching for better lives on other continents,” she said.
Justice Singhateh blamed those she called “unscrupolous individuals” for swindling “our beloved brothers and sisters” to embark on one-way trips towards a dream life that sometimes result in deaths.
According to her, the Government of The Gambia is working tirelessly to improve the lives of the citizens.
“Great efforts are been made to create opportunities for youths so that they can fulfil their dreams in their own country,” she said.
Young Gambians are among the many Africans who try to reach Europe in rickety boats in deadly waters and deserts in search of better lives.
In 2009, seven Gambian migrants died and three seriously injured after their vehicle hit a landmine in the Niger-Libya border.