Opening Statement on behalf of H.E. Dr. Aisha L. Abdullahi (AMB.) Commissioner for Political Affiars, African Union Commission

    Your Excellency, Mr. Jose Eduardo dos Santos, President of the Republic of Angola

    Honourable Mr. Rui Mangueira, Minister of Justice and Human Rights of the Republic of Angola

    Honourable Madam Zainabo Sylvie Kayitesi, Chairperson of the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights

    Honourable Vice Chairperson and Commissioners of the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights

    Honourable Ministers and Heads of Delegation, Delegates of State Parties to the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights

    Honourable Representative of the African Court on Human and Peoples' Rights

    Honourable Representative of the African Committee of Experts on the Rights and Welfare of the Child

    Excellencies Ambassadors and Members of the Diplomatic and Consular Corps

    Dr. Mary Maboreke, Executive Secretary to the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights

    Distinguished Representatives of the African National Human Rights Institutions Distinguished Representatives of the UN Agencies

    Distinguished Representatives of the EU

    Distinguished   Representatives   of   Civil   Society   and   Non-Governmental Organizations

    Distinguished Guests Ladies and Gentlemen,

    On behalf of H.E. Dr. Aisha L. Abdullahi, Commissioner for Political Affairs, who regrettably was unable to be here with us today, I am deeply honoured and delighted to be in the Republic of Angola at the opening ceremony of the 55th Ordinary Session of the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights.

    The location of this session in this beautiful city of Luanda could not have come at a better time. Many of us will recall that less than a few years ago, this great Republic of Angola was in a long civil war, but thanks to the great patriotism, leadership, determination and courage of the Angolan peoples led by H.E. Mr. Jose Eduardo dos Santos, President of the Republic of Angola, the tide has since changed for the better. It is therefore most befitting that we are all gathered here today at this auspicious assembly in the Republic of Angola to renew our commitment to the promotion and protection of human rights in Africa.

    At the outset, I wish to express, on behalf of the African Union Commission, our heartfelt appreciation to H.E. the President of the Republic of Angola, Members of his Government as well as the Angolan people for the warm hospitality and welcome accorded to us and all other delegations since our arrival in Luanda. It is remarkable that just a few years after the regrettable conflict, the country has fully recovered, and marched with gusto towards national reconciliation and healing offering the Angolan people a better place to live in peace and unity.

    It is also appropriate to seize this opportunity to commend the bold leadership and commitment of H.E. the President of the Republic of Angola and his government to the promotion and protection of human and peoples' rights in Angola and in Africa. The continued support of the Republic of Angola to the African Union human rights agenda is clearly demonstrated by hosting this important ordinary session of the African Commission here in this beautiful city of Luanda.

    Honorable Chairperson Madam Zainabo Sylvie Kayitesi and Members of the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights, I would like to congratulate you, for your unrelenting efforts and dedication to the promotion and protection of human peoples' rights on the continent. We appreciate your diligence and efforts to hold this 55th Ordinary Session, in the Republic of Angola, which in no small measure, enhances the effectiveness of the African Human and Peoples' Rights System in general and the work of the Commission in particular, as the key custodian of the Continental Human and Peoples' Rights Agenda. I would also particularly like to recognize and thank members of the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights Secretariat for their hard work behind the scenes and even more importantly to all delegates and participants for their attendance of this session.

     

    Excellencies, Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen

    The African continent has witnessed decades of numerous human rights challenges resulting from a diverse range of factors, which include war, poverty, corruption, autocratic governance and much more. It is against this background that member states of the then Organization of African Unity (OAU), solemnly resolved to promote and safeguard freedom, justice, equality and human dignity in Africa by putting in place instruments to enforce these values.

    The African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights (ACHPR) was adopted by the OAU on 27 June 1981 and was entered into force on 21 October 1986. This instrument forms the basis of the African Human Rights System and it is unique to other regional human rights instruments because it is not only covers internationally accepted human rights standards, but also recognizes values that are unique to the African continent. The African Charter also provides for Civil and Political Rights, Social, Economic and Cultural Rights, Peoples' and Group Rights and includes duties and responsibilities of the individual in the society.

    This Ordinary Session is also taking place as we begin the implementation process of the African Union's Strategic Plan 2014-2017, which prioritised the promotion and protection of human and peoples' rights, peace and stability, democracy and good governance as foundations for sustainable development and stable societies in Africa.

    In the same vein, the adopted African Governance Architecture and its Platform are meant to support Member States in their efforts to promote democracy, good governance, human rights and the rule of law. Within this context, the full operationalization of the African Governance Platform inspires a lot of hope in deepening democratic governance in our systems of government in Africa.   The Platform presents a framework through which many of the stakeholders on governance,democracy and human rights will influence the process of facilitating accession to and ratification of AU instruments, but more importantly their domestication, monitoring and evaluation.

    The African Governance Platform, particularly under its Human Rights and Transitional Justice Cluster, provides a unique opportunity to strengthen the capacity and deepen our understanding of issues of human and peoples' rights, democracy and governance, as part of our African Shared Values. We are happy to announce that the Platform will receive and review this year reports from Member States on the implementation of the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance, another step towards enhancing the promotion of good governance, democracy and human rights in Africa.

    Excellencies, Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen

    As part of the continued efforts of the African Union to promote and protect human and peoples' rights on the continent, the Department of Political Affairs is coordinating the process of implementing the Action Plan of the Human Rights Strategy for Africa, which was adopted by the AU organs in 2011. The key objective of the Strategy is to address current weaknesses within the human rights system in Africa, as well as to bring about convergences in the workings of the human rights institutions and actors on the continent. This will then aid the efforts to strengthen and facilitate the development and the coordination of the promotion and protection of human rights in Africa.

    As a direct result of the Strategy, consistent meetings between the AU and the UN Human Rights Special Mandates and Procedures are being held on a regular basis. These meetings are aimed at enhancing the level of cooperation and collaboration between the Global and Continental Human Rights Systems and have successfully achieved this goal.

    It is also pertinent to note that, the Human Rights Strategy for Africa also focuses on Transitional Justice, which has become a major area of focus that aids our quest to deal with issues of post conflict reconstruction, peace and development. The Department of Political Affairs is collaborating with the relevant AU Organs, partners and other stakeholders to finalize the development of an AU Transitional Justice Policy Framework for Africa, which will be endorsed during the January Summit of 2015.

    Additionally, the Human Rights Strategy for Africa foresees the creation of a Pan African Institute for Human Rights by 2015. The work on establishing this Institute is led by the Department of Political Affairs (DPA) in close collaboration with all AU organs with a human rights mandate. The proposed Institute will have a mandate corresponding to article 45 of the African Charter and its focus will be on research as well as support to the AU human rights mechanisms, namely: the African Commission, the African Court, and the African Committee of Experts on the Rights and Welfare of the Child. It is my wish, therefore, that during this Session, the African Commission will issue a recommendation supporting these efforts.

    Another outcome of the implementation process of the Action Plan of the Human Rights Strategy for Africa is the support provided to the Network of the African National Human Rights Institutions in an effort to enhance its working relationship with the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights as well as other organs of the Union. Today, a meeting consisting of members of this Network will be concluded after successful deliberations on how to strengthen this working relationship in order to enhance the promotion and protection of human and peoples' rights in Africa.

    Additionally, the Department of Political Affairs began the deployment of human rights observers' missions to Mali and CAR, as well as the establishment of the Commission of Inquiry for South Sudan, which is currently on the ground. The Department is also leading the efforts to establish an AU Human Rights Memorial Site at the AU HQ for the victims of human rights abuses including genocide, civil war, slavery, colonialism and apartheid.

     

    Excellencies, Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen

    This Ordinary Session is taking place a few days after the commemoration of the 20th anniversary of the 1994 Rwanda Genocide, which affords us an opportunity to mark our collective resolve to never again allow genocide in Africa.

    Twenty years ago, we witnessed with shock and utter disbelief at the scenes of brutality as the genocide unfolded in Rwanda. The whole world stood paralysed despite the unanimous adoption on 9 December 1948, by the United Nations General Assembly, of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide and many other international and continental human rights instruments.

    In the same vein, the African Union Commission is monitoring the situation of human rights in many African member states namely; the Central African Republic, Mali, Egypt, Sudan, South Sudan, DRC, and Somalia supported by the commitment of the African Union and its Member States towards the full enjoyment of all Africans of their human and peoples' rights.

     

    Excellencies, Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen

    As we express our support for the work of the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights, it is important that we also recognize with appreciation the efforts of all who are active in the terrain of human rights in Africa. I also wish to seize this opportunity to urge the AU Member States to ratify and implement all human rights and governance instruments and encourage all governmental and non-governmental organizations to continue advocating for the full ratification and domestication of these instruments.

    It is essential to state that the promotion and protection of human and peoples' rights is the responsibility of every AU member state. But we should also be mindful of our individual responsibility, which is crucial for building a culture of human rights promotion and protection on the continent.

     

    Excellencies, Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen

    The realization of our common vision of a united and prosperous Africa as well as the building of a culture of promoting and protecting human and peoples' rights remain a great task, which requires our common resolve. it is within this context that the African Union Commission began the process of developing the AU Agenda 2063. It is indeed a process to actualise the African dream of a united and prosperous continent in the next 50 years. It is also a process to analyze and understand the global challenges that we are currently facing and to find homegrown solutions to them.

    In this regard, I would like to emphasize that the participation of all African people to this important process is essential for the promotion of human rights, good governance, respect for democratic principles and the rule of law as underscored in the Constitutive Act of the African Union. The particiaption of all Africans will also contribute to the maintenance of peace and  stability on the continent thereby accelerating its development as well as the realization of its vision of a peaceful, prosperous and fully integrated and united Africa.

    I will conclude this statement by highlighting the fact that this Session will contribute to the advancement of human and peoples' rights in Africa and help to strengthen the relationship between the African Commission on Human and People's Rights and other stakeholders in the terrain of human rights in Africa. I therefore call on every one of you to support the efforts of the AU human rights mechanisms and institutions in order to enhance the promotion and protection of Human Rights on the Continent. It is indeed a reality that the African Union as a people-centred organization needs the support of all Africans in order to achieve its goals and objectives for a better future for our beloved continent.

    Once again, on behalf of H.E. Commissioner for Political Affairs I would like to express our appreciation to the Government of the Republic of Angola and the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights for organizing this very important gathering, and invite you to contribute your ideas and suggestions on how we can move forward together and make this Session a success.

    I thank you.

     

     

     

     

     

     

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