The fact that 26 out of 54 African countries ratified the protocol to the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights (AfCHPR) on the establishment of the African Court on Human and People’s Rights, while a mere seven have actually made declarations allowing their citizens access to the court is telling.
Once again, African governments have sadly displayed a strong aversion for genuine democracy and paranoia for the observance of fully fledged human rights for the grassroots.
Burkina Faso, Cote d’Ivoire, Ghana, Malawi, Mali, Rwanda and Tanzania stand out as a group of exceptions on a continent notorious for all manner of undemocratic governance.
The African Court on Human and People’s Rights’ first and former President, Justice Niyungeko Gerard, did not mince his words at a workshop with media professionals on the subject in Arusha this week.
“The states seem to fear that next after they have made the declarations, an avalanche of cases will be brought against them,” Justice Niyungeko said.
While 26 is not a small number per se, as one local human rights legal expert says, ratifying the protocol on its own is nothing more than simply a result of African leaders going along the current; succumbing to peer pressure at continental gathering. They endorsed it because they wouldn’t want to be seen as being reactionary among “progressive” Pan African states.
A case of simply playing to the gallery.
Even then, 26 is still short of even half the number of countries in question. That a mere seven countries went all the way beyond simply ratifying is a statement on our leaders’ distaste wholesome for democracy. numbers do not lie.
Not surprisingly, Zimbabwe is among those that have not even ratified the protocol to establish the court but the less said about the notorious pariah state to the North, the better.
Most of the continent’s leaders cannot help but take advantage of the masses’ ignorance.
When you consider events in Kenya relating to the International Criminal Court (ICC), the picture becomes complete.
The majority of the continent’s incumbent leaders do not trust themselves enough as democrats to unequivocally leave all the legal channels of citizens’ recourse to justice open for the masses to enjoy their full liberties.
It is clear a majority do not intend to fully empower their citizens with information about their rights lest such empowerment is used against them.
According to Justice Niyungeko, if we were to say all African states’ citizens were to be said to have a right to education today, there would be serious financial implications to states.
This clearly partly accounts for the decision by most governments to contend with giving their citizens piecemeal concessions when it comes to the important question of fundamental human rights.
The continent’s largely democracy-shy leadership knows any cases which make it to the African human rights court are candidates for a hearing at the dreaded ICC.
President Uhuru Kenyatta’s government has lately illustrated African leaders’ fear of the institution.
Reports yesterday suggest Kenya appears to be punishing nations that back the ICC where Kenyatta and his deputy William Ruto face trial at the Hague-based court over crimes against humanity.
When he assumed office, European countries decided they would keep diplomatic contact to a minimum because of the allegations at ICC. Now, about eight months after taking office, it looks like its Kenyatta’s turn to hit back at Europeans for supporting the ICC that he abhors.
Six ambassadors from Italy, France, Germany, Japan, Iraq and Zambia have been waiting for months on end now to present their credentials.
Such a retributive streak is characteristic of many African strongmen before him.
Unfortunately, it will always be the masses that bear the brunt in any diplomatic fallout, not the elite leaders.
The jitters among the general African leadership are clearly symptomatic of paranoia, given that the process of taking a case all the way up to the African Court on Human Rights is a very laborious one which means not many cases will make it up there anyway.
We urged the rest of the African states to follow the seven exceptional countries.