Closing speech by the Chairperson of the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights

    Honourable Attorney General and Minister of Justice of the Republic of The Gambia;

    Honourable Members of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights;

    Excellencies Members of the Diplomatic and Consular Corps accredited to the Republic of The Gambia;

    Distinguished Delegates of African Union Member States;

    Representatives of International Organizations;

    Representatives of National Human Rights Institutions;

    Representatives of Non-Governmental Organizations;

    Invited Guests;

    Ladies and Gentlemen; 

    I am honoured but with mixed feelings to give the closing statement at the occasion of the 53rd Ordinary Session of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights. Particularly in view of the fact that my mandate as Chairperson and Member of the Commission is soon coming to an end. I am however comforted that I still have the opportunity to make my last statement at the opening ceremony of the 54th Ordinary Session in October 2013.

    Permit me to begin by expressing my sincere appreciation to all State Parties, National Human Rights Institutions (NHRIs), Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs), International and Inter-Governmental Organizations, African Union Organs and all other stakeholders who have immensely contributed to the discussions during this session and enriched our deliberations. I thank you for your participation and invaluable contributions.

    Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,

    Although a lot of achievements have been made in the promotion and protection of human rights on the continent, the Session and the side-events that took place during the margins of the Session have certainly drawn our attention to various human rights matters that require our strictest consideration. No doubt human rights abuses still occur in several parts of Africa.

    The only way that we, as Africans, could bring an end to these endless problems is by building strong and democratic institutions that lay the foundation for good governance, free and fair elections, and competent and independent judiciaries and justice systems. In this regard, the past three years have witnessed elections in many African countries. The advancement in peaceful conduct during election processes demonstrated recently in Ghana, Sierra Leone, Kenya and in Zimbabwe are indicative that Africans are now determined to take their destiny into their hands by ensuring that not only that their vote counts but same must translate to their choice.                                              

    While unconstitutional change of government continues to rear its head now and again, the constant stand of the African Union to disassociate itself from such rebel forces is commended and its sustenance is imperative. A sound message must be sent to discourage not only the initiator but perpetration of such destabilizing intervention in an otherwise democratic government. 

    Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,

    While the African Commission will continue to work tirelessly to actualizing its mandate, I call on all stakeholders to work together towards a safer and better Africa. The achievements of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights as of today cannot be overemphasized; as it is evident in the awareness that the African people now have in their fundamental human rights and its enforcements. I therefore take this opportunity to once again call upon all States Parties to fulfill their obligations under international human rights law and ensure respect for human and peoples’ rights, as State Parties are the primary guarantors of human rights. It is imperative for Member States to redouble their efforts by undertaking wide ranging reforms in order that the governance and human rights landscape on our continent could be transformed. 

    I also call on the African Union to give particular attention to the protection of human rights in conflict situations in Africa, including the protection of civilians in Mali, Sudan, Somalia Democratic Republic of the Congo, and the Central African Republic. All parties to the conflicts in these countries should take immediate and effective steps to safeguard civilians from attack, and to exercise maximum restraint from transgressing international humanitarian law (IHL) or abuse of human rights and to investigate independently and impartially, with a view to bringing perpetrators to justice. 

    Furthermore, I urge NGOs to continue to strengthen their cooperation with the African Commission taking cognizance of the major role NGOs play in the promotion and protection of human and peoples’ rights in the continent. Similarly, the role of NHRIs in the work of the Commission is of great significance, as they are in a position to not only shape and influence the actions of State Parties, but also monitor the implementation of the African Charter at the national level. In this regard, urge States Parties who have not yet established a National Human Rights Commission are urged to do so in line with the Paris Principles.

    I call on all governments, civil society organizations and all stakeholders to continue launching and implementing initiatives aiming at addressing the issues of human rights on the continent. Human rights is our collective responsibility, and hence no one should be a bystander as each can play a role; as Edmund Burke once said “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing”. 

    Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen, 

    Let me take this opportunity to express my profound gratitude to the Government and People of the Republic of The Gambia for yet again hosting another Session of the Commission and creating a conducive environment with excellent facilities to ensure the success of the Session.  In that regard, allow me Honourable Attorney General and Minister of Justice of the Republic of The Gambia, to personally express through you, to His Excellency, The President of the Republic of The Gambia, Sheikh Professor, Alhaji, Dr. Yahya A. J. J Jammeh and his Government, our sincere gratitude for the warm hospitality which was accorded to the Commission and all its partners who attended the 53rd Ordinary Session.

    I would also like to take this opportunity to salute my colleagues, the honourable Commissioners for their hard work, sacrifice, dedication and commitment to the cause of human rights promotion and protection in Africa.

    To all travelling i wish you safe journey. I thank you, merci beaucoup, shukran, obrigado and to all Gambians I say jerre jeff.

     

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