African Commission says thumbs up but expresses concerns

By Kebba A.F. Touray

African Commission on Human and Peoples Rights has taken noted the positive developments in The Gambia regarding human rights but has expressed concerns on certain issues.

These sentiments were expressed by  Commissioner Jamesina  Essie .L. King, commissioner responsible for the promotion and protection of Human and Peoples  rights in The Gambia and the chairperson of the working Group on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights in Africa.

The human rights defender made this statement at a press conference held at the Kairaba Beach Hotel to dilate on his mission on the promotion of  human and peoples’ rights. The other delegate is Commissioner Reine  Alapini  Gansou,  Special  Rapporteur on Human Rights Defender in Africa.

The delegation acknowledges the positive developments such as the commitment to revive, strengthen and maintain the necessary collaboration with regional and international  human rights bodies particularly the Commission whose headquarters is hosted by The Gambia; the efforts to establish transitional justice mechanisms, including a Truth and Reconciliation body; plans towards the establishment of national human rights institution for the protection and promotion of human rights.

Commissioner King however further stated  that despite these positive aspects, the delegation is concerned about many challenges like the need to promote social cohesion, political stability, inclusion, equality and nondiscrimination at all levels in the Gambian society, the low representation of women in parliament and other decision making positions; the prison conditions which are far below regional and international standards with overcrowding at Mile Two Central Prison, non- separation of inmates on remand and those convicted, poor quality of prisons facilities as well as the poor conditions of service of prison officers  inter alia.

She revealed  that the delegation would like to make the following preliminary recommendations:

  • that the Government should incorporate the promotion and protection of human rights in all its actions as well as in legal, policy and institutional reforms and address past and continuing human rights violations;
  • the Government should submit its overdue periodic reports in accordance with Article 62 of the Charter and Article 26 of the protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights of Women in Africa.

The aim of the mission according to Commission King, is to promote the African Charter and all other regional and international human rights instruments which the country has ratified and to strengthen relations between the Commission and The Gambia, engage with relevant stakeholders, exchange views on ways and means of enhancing the enjoyment of human rights in the country and seek information on human rights issues of particular concern to the commission.

Honorable Jamesina cited that during the mission, the delegate paid courtesy call on Madam Aja  Fatoumata  Jallow Tambajang, Minister of Women Affairs, overseeing the Office of the Vice President and held discussions with her on the purpose of the mission. The delegation held similar discussions with various state and non-state actors involved in the promotion and protection of human and people’s rights in The  Gambia among others.

It also met with international institutions such as the United Nations Development  Programmes,  African Centre for Democracy and Human Rights Studies ,United Nations International Children’s Emergency, and appreciates the unequivocal resolve of the Government and the people of The Gambia to promote human and people’s rights and to reverse the culture of impunity for human rights violations.

The commission will prepare a detailed mission report with detailed recommendations which will be forwarded to the state for comments before publication.