Table of Contents
The human rights appear to be a new issue in Africa. It is majorly considered to be a legal notion. It has been made possible by various quarters. The United Nations’ System as well as the African Union is a main contributing factor to the institution of the Human Rights as an officially authorized concept. In general, different scholars acknowledge that this concept is considerably under-fulfilled in the African Continent. Being a new aspect of the legal issue, the issues to be addressed by the human rights officially still seem far from being managed. Reports by various researchers indicate that the violation of human rights is considerably high in Africa. These practices tend to be taking place under the watch of respective state officials being supposedly protecting the citizens from such injustices. Conversely, the aspect of the ongoing as well as upcoming civil wars in Africa appears to be the major contributing factor to this. Among the most common reported cases are the matters pertaining to rape, death sentences as well as the mutilation. As a result, the International African Commission on the Human and People’s Rights have been established to help in overseeing the implementation of human rights for the benefits of the African populace. With regard to different African nations, this assertion will seek to evaluate the role as well as contributions made by non-government organizations. This helps to address as well as monitor the human rights’ issues in the African region.
The Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) denote the private sector organizations that operate independently of the state. These companies are mostly the international based organizations which help different states and nations in initiating as well as managing developmental and change programs. Concerning the human rights’ issues, these sectors have considerably come up to help the various nations to deal with the issues they are facing. Majorly, these NGOs have taken interest in different aspects of the human life, i.e. in the developmental issues, the women empowerment as well as fighting against injustices in different regions. This participation of private sectors in the human rights’ issues can seemingly be regarded as a common referral of the NGOs as real heroes of the revolution to the African Human Rights’ system. According to Alston and Robison, the realization of this perception has ostensibly been affected through the relative financial support that such organizations receive from different quarters. For instance, the International Finance Corporation (IFC), which is denoted as the lending arm of the World Bank, has overly enabled different nations to realize their human rights’ objectives. It has supported such programs financially as well as established the new guidelines and monitoring procedures. On the outset, the NGOs have somehow made it possible for most African nations to observe and state officials to respect the rights of citizens. This dissertation, therefore, considers some of major contributions that have been made by the Non-Governmental Organizations in boosting the legal concept of Human Rights among African nations.
History of the Human Rights’ Concept in Africa
According to Mutua, the Regional African Human Rights’ system is mainly founded in the African Human and People’s Rights’ Charter. This system seemingly has become operative in 1986 subsequently to the sanction of a simple widely held approval of respective members of the Organization of the African Unity (OAU). Traditionally, the OAU has incorporated the protocol to the African Charter on the Human and People’s Rights in 1998. This was majorly after the majority’s agreement. According to the Supra note 3, Article 34, this protocol had to be implemented thirty days subsequently to the approval by fifteen member states of the OAU.
Despite the protocol being approved by 30 states in April 1999, only Senegal and Burkina Faso sanctioned it. According to the protocol proposal, the African human rights court had a mandate to make the safeguard and advancement of human rights in different regional systems of Africa as more efficacious. Many modern African states have violated the human rights for a long time. No doubt, the ability of Africa to come up with an effective and fundamental system of the human rights’ protection has been a great challenge. The African human rights’ court was mandated by the protocol to safeguard the compliment and reward different functions of the African Commission on Human Rights. The preface of the supra note 3 further explained that the African Commission on Human Rights (ACHPR) would remain the main control body in the effectuation of the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights. This would be until the human rights’ court is founded in Africa and the protocol fully implemented.
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The misanthropically and hostile environment has drastically affected the functioning of the African Commission on Human Rights by limiting its powers. Most African countries lack the stable fundamental human rights’ bodies to promote and protect human rights. Consequently, this has led to massive and uncontrolled human rights’ violations in those countries. For example, the genocide in Rwanda and of the immediate past inhumanities in Liberia, Ethiopia, Nigeria, Somali, Burundi, Sierra Leone, DRC Congo and Sudan calls for the careful attention and prompt mitigation. That will see the establishment and implementation of a stable body safeguarding the human rights in Africa. Several non-governmental organizations with help of the United Nations, governments and other relevant bodies such as the African Union have been formed in efforts of curbing human rights’ violations in African countries. The Oversight of human rights by the state government has greatly resulted in the human rights’ violations in the country. Therefore, there has been the need for non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to monitor the government in ensuring that human rights are not violated. Civil societies and international bodies such the United Nations are a major boost to the protection of human rights against the abuse in Africa. Through civil societies influence, the human rights’ violations in Africa have been put on spotlight. Accordingly, this has resulted to the decline of human rights’ abuse in the African continent countries.
The universal Declaration of Human Rights was adopted in 1948 by the United Nations General Assembly. The Declaration stated that irrespectively of the race, language, ethnicity, sex, political affiliations, social or religion status, and human beings have the same fundamental human rights. In the same year, only Egypt, Liberia and Ethiopia have supported the Declaration among the African states. This portrayed the lack of attention to human rights’ matters by the African states.
Following ones are various systems developed by the African states to promote the human rights’ development in Africa. Challenges facing the effectiveness of these bodies in the protection of human rights are provided below. The role of African charter and various strategies developed by the international law, the United Nations and the African Union are included. It touches the historical developments of the human rights’ protocols in Africa. The discussion will include the highlight of the history and functions of African bodies for the human rights’ promotion. These bodies include the African court and African commission on the human and people’s rights. The explication is given of the role of various bodies, such as civil societies for addressing the human rights’ violations.
The African Charter
The African Charter was conditioned by the organization of the African Unity at a time when the human rights’ violations in Africa had increased. Many countries in Africa were born because of some struggles against the human rights’ violations. Seemingly, the historical developments of some human rights’ concepts in Africa date back to the colonial era. According to Mutua, the Africans in leadership during colonialism in countries such as Angola, South Africa, Mozambique and Zimbabwe were unimpressed by injustices that violated the human rights. This has led to the development of various groups such as Apartheid in South Africa being opposed to the human rights violations. The inhumanity and brutal treatments of citizens in the African continents by some of their traditional leaders also have led to the emergence of human rights’ defence groups in many countries. For example, Idi Amin Dada of Uganda, Nguema of Equatorial Guinea and Bokassa of the Central African Empire have sparked the human rights’ protest.
Nevertheless, human rights’ violations in African countries remain a myth to solve. Many states in Africa have, however, embraced the concept of human rights and developed the efficient strategies in efforts to mitigate violations.
The African Charter is a document that promotes the human rights’ development in Africa. It has provided for the protection of various human rights in a broad aspect. These ones include some social, economic and political rights. The Charter contains various provisions that address the violations of human rights in Africa distinctively. The Charter provides a link between the human and people’s rights and duties. It also anchors the various problems experienced in various human rights’ systems through the African Commission.
African Commission on Human and People’s Rights
The African Commission on the human and people’s rights was established on 21 October 1988 upon the stipulation of the African Charter on human rights. The Commission is mandated in the interpretation of the African Charter on human rights as well as in addressing the human rights’ violations in the entire of the African continent countries. The main function of the Commission is to report to the African Union which has been formerly the organization of the African Unity (OAU) heads of the state governments regarding human rights’ issues in the continent. These issues include the matters related to the promotion and safeguard of human rights in African countries.
According to the African Court Website, the African court was established by African countries in efforts to guarantee the human and people’s rights protection and reinforcement. The African court strengthens supports and compliments the operational functions of the African Commission on human and people’s rights. The court was established after the enactment of the article 1 of the Protocol to the human and people’s rights. It analyses the cases related to the human rights’ violation in the whole African member countries.
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Milestones of the NGOs’ Contribution to the Human Rights’ Issues
Human rights can be defined as the rights entitled to all people regardless of sex, nationality, language, religion, the place of residence, ethnic origin, the colour or any other status. Every person enjoys the same amount of human rights]. As seen above, a non-governmental organization is an organization where some people come together and form a voluntary group for non-profit purposes. They are concerned with the humanitarian issues. They bring the people’s interests to the governments and monitor government actions, guide and pressurize it to act according to the human rights’ requirements. Some of these NGOs are formed to address the specific issues, e.g., the human rights. Some of NGOs dealing with the human rights’ issues in Africa include the Africare, Africa Action, Adilisha and Arab Organization for the Human Rights among others.
Achieving a reasonable respect for the human rights by the NGOs in Africa has constituted to big challenges in the new millennium. They include the increase in the number of African countries afflicted by war and associated human rights’ abuse. They are mainly caused by some factors. Exemplars include the undeveloped economies, high population growth rates, violation of economic, civil and political rights by the regime, etc. Some of the poor human rights received by individuals include poverty, ignorance, disease, the monopoly of power, border conflicts, corruption, post-colonialism and racism among others.
Human rights are a new idea that has gained the reasonable importance over the years both in local and international negotiations. Human rights’ issues traditionally were addressed within the domain of states. However, the recent attempt to address any human rights’ issues is being treated as the infringement upon the government. During the debates of the Commission of Human Rights in Geneva (the main united organ dealing with human rights), any question to human rights in the certain country would be ruled out of order and then rejected by the country concerned. The situation has now changed. Some important developments and new approaches for possible diplomatic actions have aroused in almost all parts of Africa. Some of the human rights’ issues that NGOs seek to address for various purposes or rather reasons include the following one such as: poverty. Africa’s poverty has decreased because of realizing the UN millennium development goals over the few past years, although many people are still living poorly with no access to such important necessities, as health care, education, clean water and sanitation among others. The growth in urbanization experienced in African countries is because of the inadequate housing. This symbolizes that Africans live often in slums; thereby they lack many necessary facilities. They are always at a risk of the forced displacement or rather eviction by relevant authorities. The forcefully evicted people suffer from the loss of belongings when their homes are destroyed and lose the livelihood pushing them further to poverty. This situation was experienced in the African nation and Kenya, when the mass forced evictions took place in five settlements in the capital city. Similarly, the same problem has been encountered in N’Djamena, Chad, the Federal capital territory of Nigeria and different parts of Angola. Poverty and increased levels of unemployment are partly the causes of violence also comprised of some anti-government demonstrations. The lack of the political support leads to a rise in anti-corruption initiatives. For example, in Nigeria, the president had fired the chairperson of economic and financial crimes in the Commission six months before the term ended with absolutely no explanation.
The political repression is another problem, which has been encountered in many parts of Africa. For example, the security forces used the live ammunition against demonstrators in Angola, Malawi, Nigeria, Senegal and South Sudan among other African nations. Governments tried to control the publicly available information in these African countries. Justice and impunity, hthe uman rights committed by security and law enforcement forces remain unaddressed by the authorities. They have never initiated any investigations in the cases reported of arbitrary arrests and detention. Impunity for the human rights’ violations by officers in charge of law enforcements was pervasive in many African countries; e.g., Burundi and Cameroon. For example, the inquiry commission formed by the Burundian authority to investigate some extrajudicial executions has never published its findings.
Security and human rights has also been experienced because Africa is seriously prone to terrorism acts from different Islam armed group, e.g., al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb. It stepped up its bombing in Nigeria and Alshabaab in Kenya and Somalia. These armed groups are responsible for many human rights’ abuses, e.g., indiscriminate attacks, unlawful killings, abductions and tortures. The advanced respect and protection for human rights by NGOs tries to solve these problems. Certain factors that include the sustained economic growth, better governance, a stronger civil society and an advanced access to information and communication technology will lead to the better human rights’ situations.
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NGOs aim at advancing the international human rights around Africa through formulating some rules, setting standards, documenting infringements as well as lobbying for their successful implementation. NGOs are influential in setting standards by establishing the global norms for judging or measuring the conduct of countries. For instance, NGOs were instrumental in achieving the introduction of the worldwide pronouncement of human rights. Such organizations usually document infringements or disrespect the human rights’ rules. Their investigations as well as documentation have been very significant in bringing the government and the public, at large, to the attention of human rights’ abuses. The influence of NGOs is tied to drive or rather the purpose of their research methodology.
NGOs have created and supported some enforcement mechanisms. As human rights’ standards gained the importance, NGOs have begun to create the special mechanisms to enforce these standards.
The organizations’ role is significant for the protection of human rights nationally and internationally. They ensure the public is aware of their human rights and bring to attention to the ones being accountable. They play a significant part regarding various human rights’ regional bodies, e.g., the African Union.
Under the African Union, NGOs play a very important role. They also provide a fruitful support to the African Commission. The roles of NGOs are recognized in many articles under the African Charter. Many of them have been given an observer a title that gives them the chance to take part in the sessions of commissions, of records and information. They may suggest the items for the agenda. NGOs have assisted to strengthen the supervisory mechanisms by ensuring the access of the reliable information to investigating bodies and help by advising and representing the specific people suffering from the violations of human rights.
NGOs have four main principles they use to implement rights and their approaches to the development. They include the design of their programs. Education is right-based, includes the participation rights and accountability. A human rights’ approach of designing programs commits some programs and funds to fulfil the missing human rights. Education is used to inform individuals of their rights and steps in which NGOs attempt to increase their human rights. The rights of participation are concerned with their idea in which individuals should participate in the program’s implementation. An accountability principle is expected to put into consideration the human rights and development.
Assertion that Non-Governmental Organizations Are the True Heroes of the Changes to the African Human Rights’ System
Non-governmental organizations on human rights are the bodies that safeguard and protect the human rights’ violations. NGOs relate with several international agencies such as the United Nations in performing its humanitarian functions aimed at monitoring and evaluating the promotion and sustainable protection of human rights. They form civil societies being involved in advocating for the human rights’ protection and maintaining the social justice in African countries. The role of non-government organizations in African countries cannot be overstated. They play an imperative function in maintaining the political stability, promotion of social and economic justices as well as the protection of Constitution manipulations in the African continent. For example, in Kenya, the NGO called Kenya Human Rights’ Commission (KHRC) has played a great role in championing for the adoption of the new Constitution in a recent referendum. It has also played a crucial role in a bid to monitor the members of the Kenyan legislature. They have tried to manipulate the Constitution to enter clauses to allow themselves increasing their salaries. Indeed, this is a tremendous duty that non-governmental organizations can play.
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In the majority of African countries, the government promotes and reinforces human rights. However, inhuman leaders normally hold most countries in Africa. This requires the oversight from non-governmental organizations. Non-governmental organizations form the major Commissions that ensure the human rights that are not violated. Sometimes state governments especially those that have the dictatorial form of rule are more likely to result to political instabilities that can result to civil wars. Only with the help of non-governmental organizations with the political stability, social justice as well as social and economic rights can be promoted. The country government that lacks a watchdog will indeed be a subject to the human rights’ violations. In this paper, I will debate the role of non-government bodies in protecting the human rights’ violations in African countries. I will elaborate and debate over major functions of civil societies in the continent. These roles include maintaining the political stability, safeguarding the Constitution, protection of human rights’ abuse, protection of social and economic rights and a government watchdog.