Africa In Focus

Africa In Focus: "The mainstream thinking now is that Africa is different and we could get it right if we want. The choice is fully ours, and it is now time for us to define what we want."

African Development Bank (AFDB) President, Dr. Donald Kaberuka.

Wednesday, 10 December 2014

#Rights365: How Should We Address Human Rights Issue In Africa?

Today, the world observes the International Human Rights Day.

The Human Rights Day as declared by the United Nations (UN) on 10 December, 1948 is meant to commemorate the UN General Assembly’s adoption and proclamation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) which enshrines the global rights to which all human beings are inherently entitled.

In all, there are 30 basic human rights which are considered as moral principles or norm that describe certain standards of human behaviour. These rights include the right to life and security of persons, abolition of slavery and slave trade in all forms,   fair treatment by fair courts, right to fair trial, right to privacy,  freedom of movement,  freedom of thought and expression, right to social security and the right to play.

To mark this year’s celebration, the United Nations has encouraged every person to make Human Rights a round-the-clock activity. With the theme, Human Rights 365 (#Rights365), people all over the world are enjoined to consider everyday a Human Rights Day and ensure everyone is entitled to the full range of human rights. It also connotes that human rights belong equally to each of us and bind us together as a global community with the same ideals and values.

Coincidentally, this year’s celebration marks the end of the 16 Days of Activism for No Violence against Women and Children, an official line that offers everyone the opportunity to show their non-tolerance to violence against women and children. However, like most developing nations, African nations are yet to entirely uphold the terms of the Universal human rights.

African governments habitually use laws to silence critical voices of journalists, activists or lawyers to deprive the public of information about the misconduct of officials, hereby violating the fundamental rule of human rights on the basis of freedom of expression. Issues of child labor, sexual violence, insecurity and sit-tight governments are still prevalent in many African countries, evidence that African countries are yet to fully implement the tenets of the universal human rights declaration. The recent sentencing of 188 supporters of ousted 
President Mohammed Morsi to death without a fair trial is another reason more attention should be paid to issues concerning human rights in Africa.

The death sentence of the suspected brotherhood member is not surprising as many African countries are yet to support the African Court for Human and Peoples’ Rights (AfCHPR) ­– the only judicial arm of the African Union (AU) that allows individuals and NGOs to bring human rights related cases directly to the Court to be tried fairly without impunity. Only seven countries – Burkina Faso, Cote d’Ivoire, Ghana, Malawi, Mali, Rwanda and host United Republic of Tanzania have pledged their allegiance to this court. Nevertheless, a number of African countries are working towards ensuring that the rights of their citizens are fully implemented.

In Namibia for example, a five year human rights plan was launched to entrench the principles of human rights effectively. ‘Our people today feel discriminated because they don’t own lands. Today the children of those who colonised us and took away the land sit on the land and are reluctant to give land… As we talk about human rights let us also talk about land’, Namibian president, Hifikepunye Pohamba, said at the launch of the country’s human rights action plan.

In war-infested Somalia, the Secretary-General of the National Union of Somali Journalists (NUSOJ), Mohamed Ibrahim calls for the need to end violation. According to him, journalists receive threats to life or are assassinated, compromising the ability of journalists to report freely on what is happening on the ground without fear of reprisal.

In Nigeria also, the Association of Senior Staff of Banks, Insurance and Financial Institutions (ASSBIFI), have also called for the end of modern day slavery. According to the association’s National President, Comrade Sunday Salako, ‘There is an urgent need to address the scourge of modern day slavery through new binding international regulations that restore worker protection in Nigeria’.

Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) also said that they want the government to take urgent measures to ensure that people access adequate and clean water.

All these requests and much more that will be pouring out today emphasized the need to ensure that governments and individuals respect the rights of every person. This year’s Human rights Day therefore calls for everyone to express their unified opposition against human rights abuse and work towards the effective implementation of the declaration in the life of every person. Violation Africa director at Human Rights Watch, Daniel Bekele has said, ‘This is a critical moment for international policy makers to say loudly and clearly that those who kill, torture and rape will one day face a court of law. The time of impunity is over’.

Africans need to make stronger commitments to human rights issues if the continent is to make further economic and democratic advances. Clamping down press and sit-tight leaders syndrome must be abolished. The judicial system must also be strengthened to make the court a successful human rights protection mechanism that can ensure and establish the fundamental human rights of any person irrespective of their age, race or social status.

Most importantly, implementation of Human Rights must be every day, a 365 days affair.

Breaking the Chain of Corruption on African Development

‘Corruption is a threat to development, democracy and stability’
- United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

As the world celebrates the international Anti-Corruption day today, 9 December, the attention of individuals, national governments and international organisations is once again drawn to the need to stand against corruption globally.

The theme for this year’s Anti-corruption Day urges everyone to break the chain of corruption.

Coincidentally, this year’s anniversary came at the heels of the recently released Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI), the leading indicator of public sector corruption that offers a yearly snapshot of the degree of corruption all over the globe. As in the past, Africa fared worse on the list again this year – an indication that little has been done to curb the growing menace of corruption.

According to the TI corruption index, five of the 10 most corrupt nations in the world are in Africa. These countries are: Somalia, Sudan, South Sudan, Libya and Eritrea. Interestingly, none of the 48 countries in sub-Sahara Africa were part of the 10 least corrupt nations. The first African nation to surface on the list of 175 countries surveyed globally was Botswana at number 31, making it the least corrupt country in Africa. The Southern African nation is closely followed by Namibia and Rwanda which shared the 55th rank on the index.

While African nations like Egypt, Ivory Coast and Mali are among the notable countries that improved on the TI index; Somalia, Sudan and South Sudan were positioned among the five most corrupt countries in the world. The African countries at the bottom of the index are all war-ridden and from East Africa region, making it perhaps the most corrupt region in Africa. Unassumingly, most developed economies in Africa like Nigeria, Angola and Kenya were also below average on the TI Corruption perception Index.

The report shows that, perhaps, efforts by international, governmental and non-governmental organisations to tackle corruption have yielded little or no tangible result over the years. While many African governments have in the past pledged their commitment to stop the scourge of corruption over the years, it is apparent that little has been achieved as many of these territories are still riddled with corruption which has debarred necessary developmental changes in the lives of citizens. For instance, in Somalia, corruption has collapsed the economy and this has resulted in massive human migrations and much of the population live in conditions of severe poverty.

According to the 2013 Afrobarometer report, which surveyed 51,000 people in 34 African countries, African governments have faltered in the fight to curb corruption. Developed African economies like Nigeria and South Africa were perceived to have grown corrupt practices compared to countries like Botswana, Malawi, Mozambique, Senegal and Zambia, where people believe that their governments are making gains in curbing public sector corruption.

In the same vein, while countries like Egypt improved on the TI Corruption perception index (moved from 114 to 97), evidence shows that despite the ongoing socio-economic and political reforms, the Maghreb nation is still battling corruption and cronyism.

Another example of an infested corrupt African nation is oil rich but improvised Angola. Although the country is one of the two topmost oil-producing countries in sub-Saharan Africa, most of her people still live in dire poverty and the nation’s wealth is in the hands of the minority rich, including the daughter of its President, Isabel Dos Santos who has been acclaimed one of the richest female billionaires in Africa.

Lack of checks and balances, insufficient institutional capacity and a culture of impunity has been identified as one of the major factors promoting corruption in Angola and even though the country has been able to attract foreign investment over the years, corrupt practices still made it one of the most difficult places to do business in Africa. The situation is not different from what is obtainable in faraway Somalia where political instability and lawlessness, fueled by the activities of the Al-Shabaab militant group have made economic and social freedom in the country a foregone benefit and the situation keeps getting worse as very few African countries are doing well to tackle corruption. 

This is because corruption is pervasive in the corridor of power and even in homes – the primary agent of socialisation. From petty corruption to cases of high-level government malfeasance, the circle of corruption in Africa knows no bound. Embezzlement, trade mispricing, lack of transparency, facilitation payments (bribery), illicit financial outflows are some of the agents fueling corruption in Africa.

Another common factor aiding corruption in most African nations is the lack of information on where to report corrupt practices and where there are agencies and institutions created, most people believe that no disciplinary action would be taken. Corruption therefore remains a serious act that needs to be curbed to move Africa forward.

Corruption calls for serious attention because the act is at the expense of ordinary citizens, especially those who are poor and vulnerable. It beckons on desired change because it impedes development and promotes poverty, inequality and injustice. According to Transparency International, ‘Poorly equipped schools, counterfeit medicine and elections decided by money are just some of the consequences of public sector corruption. Bribes and backroom deals don’t just steal resources from the most vulnerable – they undermine justice and economic development and destroy public trust in government and leaders.’
These are just some of the damages corruption does to development.

As the world commemorate this year’s Anti-corruption Day urges everyone to break the chain of corruption, it is time to make anti-corruption everyone’s business. It is time to start asking question using the policy or law in place to ensure accountability that will create self-reliance and break the chains of poverty. When the chain of corruption is broken, it will yield great trust that will usher in more businesses and investment from development partners both on the local and international level. It will also create a safe and conducive environment for all and also give room for sustainable development.