OPENING ADDRESS ON THE 51ST ORDINARY SESSION OF THE AFRICAN COMMISSION ON HUMAN AND PEOPLES’ RIGHTS BY THE HON. ATTORNEY GENERAL AND MINISTER OF JUSTICE OF THE REPUBLIC OF THE GAMBIA JUSTICE LAMIN JOBARTEH
Your Excellencies, Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen, I am privileged and honored to the part of this honorable gathering marking the 51st Ordinary Session of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights.
Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen, on behalf of His Excellency, the President of the Republic of the Gambia, Sheikh Professor, Alhaji, Dr, Yahya A.J.J. Jammeh, the Government and people of the Republic of The Gambia, I convey the compliments of the government and people of The Gambia to you all including the representatives of NGOs and National Human Rights institutions working in and on Africa, for your continued commitment to the struggle for humanity.
In particular, I wish to recognized the efforts of the African Commission in their struggle, though with meager resources, in the promotion and protection of human and peoples’ rights in Africa. I am therefore privileged to be part of this which represents an opportunity for us, members of governments and other partners involved in the protection of human rights, to carry out an objective assessment of the effective implementation and efficiency of our regional system of human rights protection within which the African Commission plays a prominent role.
Nonetheless the challenges are gigantic and multi-faceted and the reasons abound. The first is the economic crisis that is being experienced by the African Continent which has a negative impact on the promotion and protection of human rights. Added to this is the drought that plagued the entire continent and thereby exposing the people of Africa to eminent hunger, thereby hindering economic development where the majority of the population survives essentially on agriculture and in particular subsistence farming.
Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen, the African Continent still witnesses armed conflicts and persistent human rights abuses, particularly mass atrocity of crimes, which have been occurring in various parts of Africa over a long period of time. These massive and gross human rights violations continue to be committed repeatedly in Somalia and the South Sudan. I also note with great concern, the continued and persistent conflicts in the Northern parts of Africa, where large pockets of tension which foster mass violation of Human Rights continue to be manifested, the consequences of which often have serious impact on the innocent civilian populations. This is generally linked to lack of dialogue and to the absence of a democratic culture among some of our political leaders.
Human Rights in my humble opinion are sacrosanct and inviolable. They are not subject to any form of negotiation. Any system of government which not only denies but makes the protection of human rights impossible is clearly inviting a situation in which the use of violence is inevitable. A living testimony to this assertion is the tension and conflicts resulting in the transition in Egypt and Libya. This is generally linked to the lack of dialogue and to the absence of a democratic culture among some of out political leader. It is therefore my humble feeling that to address these challenges it is vital for all the stakeholders, namely the Governments, the human rights defenders and other non-state actors, to collectively combine their efforts towards the realization of the noble cause of human rights as well as towards the realization of a lasting peace and security in these countries.
Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen, despite the challenges we face in our effort to realize a peaceful and safe environment for out citizens, there are positive developments as well that have taken place and which should therefore give us all hope. For example, Africa and the world at large are witnessing a continued stable democratization process in Africa during the last decade. Countries took steps in adopting constitutions that nurture democratic governance and multiparty elections. These processes took place in a number of countries, thus signaling the beginning of a new era and a new system of doing things in accordance with the expectations of our societies,
African be proud that the democratic institutions that it has cultivated are surely yielding fruits. For instance The Gambia recently observed both the presidential and parliamentary elections in October 2011 and March 2012, both of which received international commendations. All the political parties in The Gambia and the people of The Gambia as well as the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) were commended for the peaceful manner in which the campaigns and the elections were conducted. This, coupled with the government’s efforts to guarantee equal access to basic social services and the implementation of the citizens rights without discrimination whatsoever, is a clear manifestation that The Government of The Gambia is in the fore front in the protection of the human and peoples’ rights of its people.
Similarly, apart fro The Gambia, some other African countries have also recently observed peaceful, free fair and transparent elections as can be witnessed in the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Republic of Liberia, Republic of Niger and of recent the Republic of Senegal. These elections are important because it is about the people being able to make a choice in the difference of opinion in the choices of who forms and runs their affairs. It means that in all these countries, Africa can be proud of securing and counting on legitimate governments which will guarantee stability and development in the continent.
Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen, it is against this background that the recent development in the Republic of Mali and Guinea Bissau became shameless, crude and completely out of fashion. When Africa is striving for prosperity and good governance, and its people competing about which country has the best democracy, the junta in Mali and Guinea Bissau decided to return the country and the continent of Africa to the dark ages. I am relieved that they have realized that Africans will no longer tolerate unconstitutional change of governments. I therefore hereby renew calls to the African Union, the ECOWAS and the International Community to join forces to make sure that such illegal barbarian practice is history in Africa.
Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen, I am aware that during this session, the African Commission will discuss various human rights challenges that Africa is currently faced with, including analyzing statements from delegated of Member States, African Union Organs, National Human Rights Institutions, International and Inter-governmental Organizations as well as consideration of Communications and State Reports. I agree it is not an easy task but I am convinced that our confidence is reposed on the right people. African Commission, keep up the good work!
Finally, distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen, I wish to take this opportunity to emphasize and re-assure this gathering that the Government of The Gambia remains attached to the ideals of the African Commission and re-affirms its commitment to the work of the Commission. To achieve this, the Government of The Gambia remains open to your concerns regarding a better functioning of the Commission, especially in your fight in the promotion and protection of human and peoples’ rights in Africa.
It is therefore my singular honor and privileged to declare the 51st Ordinary Session of the African commission on Human and Peoples Rights open.