Forum on the Participation of NGOs in the 39th Ordinary Session of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights and the 13th African Human Rights Book Fair Karaba Beach Hotel, Banjul, The Gambia 6-8 MAY 2006
The Attorney General and Secretary of State for Justice and National Assembly Affairs of The Republic of The Gambia, Honourable Sheik Tijan Hydara
Honourable members of the National Assembly
Honourable Secretaries of State
Your Excellencies, Chairperson and Members of the African Commission
Your Excellencies, Members of the Diplomatic and Consular Corps
Distinguished Commissioners of the African Commission
Venerable Religious and Traditional Leaders
Representatives of NGOs
Representatives of the Press
Dear Colleagues- facilitators and participants of this forum.
Distinguished ladies and Gentlemen
All Protocols respectfully observed.
I am privileged to welcome you once again, to yet another forum on the participation of NGO’s in the work of the African Commission on Humans and Peoples’ Rights. I wish to applaud the response of human rights NGOs and activist to this forum, which precedes the Ordinary Session of the African Commission. The presence in increasing numbers of participants demonstrates, without doubt, your determination to join hands together in the promotion and protection of human rights in Africa – a concern that we all share; a dream to see an Africa that observes and respects the rights of all people.
Your Excellencies, Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen, I crave your indulgence to observe a moment of silence for all victim of human rights violations, especially those who have suffered and lost their lives in the last six month. We want to remember in particular all those innocent victims who have suffered and have left this world as a result of disrespect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. On behalf of participant of this forum, we extend our sincere condolences to their families. May God grant them eternal rest.
Please allow me to seize this opportunity to welcome every participants, facilitators and distinguished guests of this august forum, especially our brothers and sisters from the Diaspora as well as the representatives of other International agencies, who have all come to join us in this important deliberations. The African Centre are indeed please to extend a warm welcome to each and every participants, resource person and facilitator of this forum, as your presence here is a clear evidence of your commitment to the cause of human rights in Africa.
In the same vein, I would also like to thank the Secretariat of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights and to welcome all Commissioners who are present, particularly the Chairperson her Excellency, Mrs. Salamatou Sawadago. The forum will reach to register its appreciation for the willingness and consistency manifested in the existing collaboration with the African Centre in the organisation of this forum since the withdrawal of the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) –a major collaboration in the preceding forums during the 1990s.
A special word of welcome is extended to the Secretary of State for Justice and National Assembly Affairs, Hon. Sheikh Tijan Hydra for gracing this occasion and for accepting to deliver the opening address. The African Centre presents its compliments to the Gambia Government for the continued support and the hospitality accorded to the participants and facilitators since their arrival in the smiling coast of Africa,
Further more, let me acknowledged the presence of Mr. Mohammed Mabassa Fall, Executive Member of the ACDHRS Governing Council for being here this morning and for the support he has been given and continues to give to the Centre.
Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen
The forum on the participation of NGO in the work of the African commission has over the years maintained momentum mostly as a result of serious deliberations that has characterised its proceedings. Moreover, the resolutions and recommendations passed by the forum to the Commission have continued to received attention from the Commission as they give a true picture of the human rights situation on the continent, which aims at facilitating the work of the Commission as well as promoting the effective contribution of the African human rights community and their deliberations.
Honourable Secretary of State, Distinguished ladies and Gentlemen,
In recent times Africa has witnessed a twist in relation to the human rights situation in the continent due to striking changes in priorities and perceptions that has taken place at the regional and international level; which confirms the notion of the global village we live in and the ensuing rippling effect being experienced.
Honourable Commissioners, Distinguished Participants
Our discussion during the next three days will be centred around these issues and other topics of interest in an attempt to inform ourselves and in the final analysis to formulate recommendation and the way forward. As human rights NGOs and Activists, we must continue to live up to the ideals we preach in order to consolidate the foundation already laid- of a perpetual struggle against human rights violation, impunity and other forms of injustice, for liberty is the very essence of our being.
Distinguished Participants, Ladies and Gentlemen,
As part of African Centre’s Networking for Human Rights Programme, the NGO Forum like the preceding ones offers a platform where the African human rights community can meet to prepare for substantial and constructive participation in the session of African Commission. The importance of our fruitful involvement and collaboration with the African commission cannot be over emphasised, as it continues to advance its work. Moreover, it also creates opportunity for partnership between and among NGOs, governments and other stakeholders, which reinforces networking, the forming of relationship as the renewing of old ones for human rights in Africa.
The core of our deliberations will take into account the formidable challenges within the continent. An overview of human rights and democracy situation that provides the background for the pertinent themes that will ensue. This NGO Forum unlike the other forums will try to strengthen the lobby groups for the ratification and implementation of the women’s protocol, which endorses affirmative action to promote the equal participation of women in the development process. Under the discussions of the special interest groups, this years programmes has taken into account the issue of the death penalty in Africa a phenomenon that we as human rights activist condemn on moral and humanitarian grounds. The death penalty has also been largely criticized because of its discriminatory tendencies and the fact that it had failed to actually act as a deterrent in the states that impose it. Meanwhile, the rate of murder cases continue to be on the increase.
An overview of human rights in Africa will provide a contextual background for pertinent themes: The Protocol on Women’s Right in Africa, Challenges facing the African Court on Human and Peoples’ rights, Democratic development, and the Protection of Human Rights Defenders will be reviewed for NGO contribution at the Public Sessions of the African Commission.
The Programme will also incorporate salient and pressing issues raised by special interest groups. These include the prevention of Torture and the Death Penalty; the Status of Women’s Rights; Refuges and Internally Displaced Persons; Minority and Indigenous Peoples Rights; Freedom of Expression and Human Right Defenders. Special Interest Groups will also bring to the fore question about the African Court on Human and Peoples Rights, and the International Crime Court; and will treat International Humanitarian Law and Conflict in Africa. All theses issues require attention, bearing in mind the particular role of the African Commission, and its mandate to respond to the needs of civil society and the African Community at large.
The networking section of this forum will feature deliberations on two very important issues in the promotion and protection of human rights. These are the role of the media and the role that the International Justice System can play in the whole setup. The International Criminal Tribunal of Rwanda, would be the focus of the presentation and we would get to know how NGOs can work with them in advancing human rights.
Honourable Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen,
This Forum is being held at a time of significant movement and change for those who form the majority of this continent s population: Women.
In some of our countries, this year is a year of celebrations. In Liberia, the 1st Lady President in Africa was elected and we have also seen Charles Taylor, extradited to face the International Courts on charges of impunity. In The Gambia, there is progress in the area of Women’s Rights, as the Protocol on the Rights of Women in Africa, which was ratified by The Gambia, has witnessed the lifting of reservations on articles 5, 6, 7, 14. This is great news for the women of this country and a victory to those National Assembly Members who lifted the reservation. We are extremely grateful for their cooperation and dedication to women’s advancement. With all these developments, I am optimistic that the future can be what we ourselves make it.
Honourable SOS, Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen
Human Rights require defending in both times of peace and times of conflict or instability. In this vein, situations in Darfur (Sudan), Zimbabwe, Northern Uganda, and in Northern Democratic of Congo, and other fragile areas, are great causes of concern.
Our concerted efforts are therefore urgently needed in order to restore the dignity of women and men, in Africa and in the wider global community. The African Centre urge you all to continue your collaboration with the Centre and the Commission in a resolve to promote and protect human rights in Africa.
On this note, I would like to welcome you once again to this Forum, and to the 13th African Human Rights Book Fair, which runs simultaneously with the Forum. Please find time to register your presence at the stands as numerous and interesting publications from various NGOs would be on display.
Thank you for your kind attention.