By MUHAMMED Sailu BAH
Forum on the Participation of Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) in the 57th Ordinary Session of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, and 31st African Human Rights book fair are underway in Banjul.
This forum attracts Civil rights organization from all over the African continent to come and discuss pertinent Human Rights issues affecting the continent currently and make recommendations to the African Commission for actions to be taken on those recommendations.
This Forum started on Saturday 31 October and is expected to end on Monday 2 November 2015, at the Kairaba Beach Hotel.
In her introductory statement Mrs Hannah Forster Executive Director ACDHRS, urged the participants to stand up and observe a minute’s silence for the loss of two of their colleagues who were also actively part of them in previous years.
She said one of them is called Duel Nana from Cameroon who works for ACHDRS, and Maleh Mour who used to have an exhibition on torture and other related issues. This was done by all participants at that juncture.
She said that, this Forum is a platform where NGOs will discuss with the African Commission on issues of Human Rights in Africa and how they would like the Commission to help them in their work.
“We are going to look at the situation of Human Rights situation in Africa as well as specific rights. Our role as a secretariat is to facilitate [this] and anything you want us to do we will do it,” she assured.
She also implored participants to visit the book fair as well some of the NGOs who were not able to send their materials to do so and share it with everyone.
She thanked and welcomed everyone in the Forum.
In his Keynote Address focusing on the protection of Civic Space in Africa Gaye Sowe Executive Director of the Institute for Human Rights and Development in Africa (IHRDA), thanked the African Centre for Democracy and Human Rights Studies for the opportunity.
“Ladies and Gentlemen we are gathered here again to take stock, share experiences and make projections on crucial issues pertaining to and affecting Human rights in Africa. It goes without saying that the respect of human rights is indispensible for the achievement of the post-2015 development agenda in Africa, as human rights have always been the underlying concern in all development objectives,” he noted.
Mr. Sowe remarked that, for development to take an effective course, all or most stakeholders must be fully involved, both international and National originations as well as government agencies, the media and civil society.
Mr. Sowe said unfortunately for Africa, the Human Rights Defenders such as the Media, Civil Rights originations as well as activists are often treated with a lot of suspicion by state institutions or actors.
“The African Charter provides for freedom of expression, assembly and participation in government, but many people living in many countries across African states do not enjoy these rights,” he disclosed.
Mr. Sowe, said many African governments continue to use legislative, Judicial and extra-legal measures to clamp down on Human rights defenders.
He said this ranges from allegations of being involved in terrorism or threatening state security, to accusations of association with opposition parties, representing foreign interest and non compliance with state procedures.
According to him many African governments continue to find ways to make it difficult for civil society actors to do the all important work of engaging government or scrutinising government actions or inactions.
Different issues were discussed on the violation of human rights in Africa, such as Government Restrictions on Civil Society organisations or Human Rights defenders and Journalists; as a result sometimes some are even killed or jailed.
And also human rights issues such as Disappearance without trace, or detention without proper trial.