Gambia to Construct African Commission Secretariat

By Kebba Jeffang

Gambian President Barrow, has announced on November 1st that the country is set to construct the permanent secretariat of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR) in Banjul.

He made this revelation as he presided over the commencement of the 61st ordinary session which also marked the celebration of the 30 years anniversary, since its establishment in 1987.

“My Government is aware of the obligation of The Gambia under the “Host State Agreement,” to construct a permanent structure to house the Secretariat of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights.

Consequently, the Ministry of Justice, in consultation with the Secretariat of the Commission, has constituted a taskforce comprising all stakeholders mandated among other things, to raise funds for the construction of the said Secretariat,” he said.

President Barrow indicated that Government will be making a declaration pursuant to Article 34(6) of the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the establishment of an African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights to allow individuals and NGOs to have direct access to the Court.

He said Government is equally conscious of its other treaty obligations including the timely submission of reports to the Commission under the Charter.

“It is without doubt that the Commission has worked tirelessly towards the promotion and protection of human rights on the continent for the past 30 years.   I wish to recognize its excellent contributions and achievements in this regard. The establishment of the Commission continues to be a source of immense pride and hope for Africa in particular The Gambia, as the host nation,” he said.

He said Government has enacted numerous laws aimed at the protecting and promoting human rights.

“Most recently, on the margins of the United Nations General Assembly, I signed five international treaties including the Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights on the Abolition of the Death Penalty, and the Convention Against Enforced Disappearances”, he noted.

He promised to ratify many human rights related treaties including the Convention Against Torture, in a few months’ time.

He said his administration is on the verge of adopting a new Republican Constitution within the shortest time possible. Existing constitutional provisions on the protection of human rights shall be strengthened in the new constitutional order, he added.

He remarked, “However, it is important to note that human rights protection must not only be about enacting laws on paper. Concrete steps must be taken through the creation of institutions, policies and programmes for the full realisation and enjoyment of these rights.’’

Barrow also informed delegates that the Gambia is in the process of establishing a Truth, Reconciliation and Reparations Commission to document the widespread human rights violations of the previous Government, with a view to establishing an impartial historical record of the truth to foster social cohesion and encourage national reconciliation.

Pansy Tlakula, the outgoing Chairperson of the ACHPR said at least 45 sessions were held in Banjul since the Commission’s establishment. She said they were under pressure that they resisted so well to relocate the Commission from Banjul due to human rights violations in the country two decades ago. She urges all member states to domesticate the ratified conventions.

Mme. Minata Samate Cessouma, Commissioner for Political Affairs said there is progress in Africa but urged member states to consider their promises in relation to the Commission and human rights.

“We need to know that there are still human rights violations on different areas and countries have to domesticate the legal instruments,” she said.

As part of the event marking the 30th anniversary, the Commission will be awarding the former Gambian President Sir. Dawda Kairaba Jawara for his role in the creation of Banjul Charter at a gala dinner at Cocoa Ocean hotel on Wednesday night.