56th NGO Forum on Human Rights in Africa concludes in Banjul

By Kebba Jeffang

A three day Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) Forum preceding the 56th NGO Forum on Human Rights56th Ordinary Session of African Commission for Human and People’s Right, which brought participants across Africa to address human rights issues prevailing on the continent, has ended at Kairaba Hotel on Sunday, 19th April, 2015.

Addressing participants at the opening ceremony on Friday, 17th April, Mr. Andrew Chigovera, the Chairman of the Governing Council of the African Center for Democracy and Human Rights studies (ACDHRS), told participants that the NGO forum should have been held last year but it was postponed due to Ebola outbreak in the sub region. He said the forum will be reviewing human rights issues and the prevailing challenges.

Mr. Chigovera  said the three day forum preceding the Ordinary Session will not only review the human rights situation in Africa but the recommendation and resolution will also put forward by the participants, adding that such issues have attracted attention.  He noted that remarkable achievements have been registered in the past due to NGO forum.

“However, lacking good governance, rule of law and other human rights violation continue to prevail in Africa as well as corruption. The programme will also include freedom of expression, press freedom, assembly, prisons and conditions of detention centers,” said the ACDHRS Chair.

He thanked the government of the on behalf of ACDHRS and the NGOs for their contribution.

Mr. Abdoul Gadiry Diallo, member of the NGOS Forum Steering Committee, in deliberating on the immigrant issue, said concerns have been raise in the past few days in South Africa for the attacks on foreign nationals. He said xenophobic attack is a total and gross violation of human rights, specifically the rights of the emigrants.

On the issue of elections, Mr. Diallo informed the Forum that in 2015/16 so many African countries are heading for elections which, he said, is a concern as far as peace and stability is concerned.

“We are worried about the countries holding elections this time because in many a times, post election is characterized by chaos. The victims in the conflict usually are the minorities, immigrants, women etc. Their lives are at stake all the time,” he said.

Mr. Diallo added that “with recommendations and resolutions from this NGO forum, it can help us a lot to address so many issues.”

For his part, Commissioner Mohamed Bechir Kahafallah, Vice Chairperson African Centre for Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR), described the forum as the realization of GOALS ON rights. He noted that in 2014, several West African countries were affected by the Ebola virus outbreak. He said the disease is still unfolding in the countries like Guinea and Sera Leone, adding that the Ebola and bird flu are among the challenges prevailing in the Sub-Region that attracted attention. He added that food insecurity is also another burning issue affecting the region.

“I reaffirm my Commission’s commitment to the human rights issues such as freedom of the press and expressions, freedom of assembly, fight against terrorists and terrorism, infant mortality. We strongly condemn the beheading of Egyptian Christians, Kenya university attack and the xenophobic attack in South Africa. We are also very much concerned about the conflict in the Central African Republic and Somalia,” said Commissioner Kahafallah.

The Vice Chair of ACHPR said the role of NGOs in Africa is crucial for the fact that they are influencing laws and policies, fight against impunity and awareness creation for the masses. He said Africa human rights are unattainable without NGOs. He said out of this forum, the state periodic report will be provided and each state report will be considered.

Mama Fatima Singhateh, Gambia’s Attorney General and Minister of Justice, recognizes the NGOs contributions to humanity in Africa. She said her government also recognizes the efforts made by ACDHRS in facilitating the forum to enable the NGOs to fully participate in the work of the African Commission which is mandated to oversee the implementation and interpretation of the rights and responsibilities enshrined in the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Right.

She acknowledges that NGOs continue to play an unprecedented role in the society, noting that their role in setting international human rights standards and documenting human rights violations, to their advocacy role in lobbying for effective enforcement of such provisions enshrined in the instruments.

“NGOs are increasingly becoming indispensable. In recent years, we have witnessed a growth in the numbers of NGOs in Africa which undoubtedly manifest the increase of pluralism and democracy especially when some when we note that some governments have either outlawed or restricted their operations in their respective countries,” said the Gambian Justice Minister.

The justice minister further noted that the forum is a strategic meeting point as it is a gathering not only for the NGOs working in the areas of human rights and related issues but also a platform where both government representatives and intergovernmental institutions converged.