Posts Tagged ‘Africa’

Bikes and digital power for human rights defenders in Africa

April 27, 2018

Africa remains a continent of contrasts, also with regard to human rights defenders. Just to illustrate:
(1) Bikes for human rights defenders: Girls Empowerment Network (GENET) in Malawi has donated 30 bicycles to child protection groups in Dowa district to assist in its ongoing girl child protection programs. Speaking in an interview with the Malawi News Agency Mana after giving out the support at Kayembe Primary school, GENET Programs Officer, Twambilile Kayuni said their organization thought of providing the support as one way of easing transportation challenges among girl child protection groups in the area. “As GENET, we thought it critical to ease the challenge of transport among our village child protection groups so that when any violence has happened to a child they should be able to rush to the scene and take action“. She added that the bicycles have been given to all schools in the area, human rights defenders, mother groups, Area Development Committees (ADCs) and chiefs in order to assist in their child protection duties in a more coordinated manner…Group Village Headwoman Siwinda said:”In my area many girls were being forced to marry but now with the coming of GENET through COMIC relief and OXFAM Malawi things have changed and as of now many girls have gone back to school,” said GVH Siwinda.

Mo Ibrahim Prize 2017 to Ellen Johnson Sirleaf

February 12, 2018

After twice skipping a winner, the 2017 Mo Ibrahim Prize for Achievement in African Leadership has been awarded to Liberia’s former president, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.

Sirleaf, the continent’s first elected female president, left office in late January, after overseeing the first democratic transfer of power in Liberia since 1944. The 79-year-old Nobel laureate came to power in 2006, just two years after the end of a 14-year civil war that saw more than 250,000 people killed and another million displaced. During her two terms in office, Sirleaf tackled the spread of Ebola in the West African nation, developed the economy and championed the cause of women. Opponents said she did not do enough to tackle corruption while in office.

In their citation, the prize committee commended her “exceptional and transformative leadership” in leading the recovery efforts, strengthening democratic institutions and improving human rights.

The prize is special in that it gives large amounts of money for life to former African leaders. See: http://trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/awards/ibrahim-prize-for-achievement-in-african-leadership

http://mo.ibrahim.foundation/prize/

Africa’s most prestigious leadership award goes to the continent’s first elected female president

NB I apologize for an erroneous post of 21 November 2017 attributing the Ibrahim Prize (2017) to former Cape Verde President Pedro Verona Pires. He received it in 2011!

In memoriam: Corinne Dufka remembers Peter Takirambudde

December 1, 2017

On 1 December 2017 Corinne Dufka of Human Rights Watch wrote a column aboutPeter Takirambudde who passed away on 16 November in his native Uganda. He was head of HRW’s Africa division from 1996 to 2008 during multiple crises, including in Sudan, Sierra Leone, Nigeria, Rwanda, and the Democratic Republic of Congo. After leaving Human Rights Watch, Peter founded and directed the Botswana-based African Human Rights Consortium, which helped train members of civil society from across the continent in human rights investigation and advocacy. Peter was also a lawyer and a well-respected law professor, including at the University of Botswana-Gaborone, where he served as head of social sciences, and at the University of Lund in Sweden. He received a bachelor’s degree from Makerere University in Uganda and a doctoral degree from Yale University.

As noted by Kenneth Roth, Human Rights Watch’s executive director, “We remember him fondly for his deep intellectual engagement with African human rights issues, his always-incisive analysis, and his principled and passionate defense of the rights of people throughout the continent. He made a very important mark establishing Human Rights Watch in Africa, and we remain deeply indebted to him.

The full text below:

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Defend the Defenders newsletter about African developments

October 2, 2017

One of my sources is the Defend the Defenders network run by the East & Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project. I will continue to follow it for you, but those with special interest in Africa should subscribe themselves:  https://app.getresponse.com/site2/publicsignup?u=Bl16k&webforms_id=1980102. Below the latest newsletter as an example: Read the rest of this entry »

Africa’s DefendDefenders new website

August 30, 2017

In 2015, the East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project (then still abbreviated EHAHRDP) celebrated its ten-year anniversary and decided it was time to give the organisation a new, fresh face under its new name: DefendDefenders. In February, after a year of consultations, it presented its new logo and rebranded image during the third general assembly of the East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Network. Today, it launched its new website at https://www.defenddefenders.org as the final step. 

On DefendDefenders’ new website, it is easier to find information and stay up to date on its work. HRDs will be able to contact them more quickly in case of emergencies and to access essential resources they can use to improve their safety. The website itself was developed with the specific requirements of the East and Horn of Africa in mind, and is designed to work with low bandwidth Internet or on mobile devices.

Every element of DefendDefenders’ new brand represents the changes over the years, without losing sight where it came from: from prominent features in the logo, such as the shield which remains the core of its identity, to a font inspired by anti-apartheid activist Stephen Biko.
For earlier posts on DefendDefenders: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/tag/defenddefenders/

Source: DefendDefenders | East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project

DefendDefenders launched new security manual for human rights defenders in Africa

May 9, 2017

On 5 May, 2017, at the NGO forum preceding the 60th session of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, DefendDefenders (East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project) launched “Stand Up!”, a new organisational and personal security manual to help human rights defenders (HRDs) do their work in a safe and effective manner.
DefendDefenders was founded to protect HRDs from immediate risks. However, a decade of experience has taught us that much can be done to prevent them from reaching this critical point,” said Hassan Shire, Executive Director.By carefully considering their safety, developing strong security plans, and rigidly adhering to them, even HRDs working in extreme conditions can mitigate the risk they face as individuals and organisations.” “Stand Up!” helps defenders to reduce the risks inherent in achieving their goals. They can use it to better understand the opposing and supporting factors in their environment, identify their vulnerabilities, and create new capacities to stand up to adversity.
 
Book One covers personal, physical, and organisational security planning. HRDs can learn the essential framework for security analysis and planning as well as the support mechanisms available at the regional and international level for human rights defenders.
 
Book Two covers digital security for electronic devices, and online accounts and communications. It extends the lessons of security management into the digital realm with risk assessment of electronic workspaces and the essential steps to secure human rights work when it is conducted from phones, computers, email, websites, social media accounts and more.
Download the full manual here.
 
At the same time, the Pan-African Human Rights Defenders Network (PAHRDN) also launched its annual “State of African HRDs” report, which examines the major events affecting the freedoms of association, assembly, and expression in the last year. The report is compiled with input from PAHRDN’s five sub-regional networks and is available in English and French.

African human rights defenders defend the ICC against attacks by their governments

July 6, 2016

Human rights defenders from across Africa clarify misconceptions about the International Criminal Court (ICC) and highlight the need for African governments to support the court in a video released on 6 July 2016 by 21 African and international nongovernmental organizations. [see also: https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2013/11/18/the-fight-against-impunity-for-international-crimes-in-africa-no-free-pass-for-leaders-say-human-rights-defenders/]

In January 2016, the African Union (AU) gave its Open-Ended Committee of African Ministers on the ICC a mandate to develop a “comprehensive strategy” on the ICC, including considering the withdrawal of African member countries from the court. The committee met in April and agreed on three conditions that needed to be met by the ICC in order for the AU to agree not to call on African countries to withdraw from the court. These include a demand for immunity from ICC prosecution for sitting heads of state and other senior government officials – which is contrary to a fundamental principle of the court.

Human rights defenders from across Africa highlight the need for African governments to support the International Criminal Court in a video by 21 African and international nongovernmental organizations. The video features 12 African activists who raise concerns about AU actions toward the ICC.

It is not clear if the AU will consider any of the open-ended committee’s assessments and recommendations at its upcoming summit in Kigali, Rwanda, from 10 – 18 July.

The reasons why we supported the establishment of a permanent court as Africa have not changed,” says Stella Ndirangu of the International Commission of Jurists-Kenya. “The only thing that has changed is that now leaders are being held to account.”

To say that the ICC is targeting Africa, I think, is a misrepresentation of the situation,” says Angela Mudukuti of the Southern Africa Litigation Centre. “It’s more Africans making use of the court they helped to create.”

Six out of the nine African situations under ICC investigation came about as a result of requests or grants of jurisdictions by African governments – Côte d’Ivoire, Democratic Republic of Congo, Mali, Uganda, and the Central African Republic twice. Two other investigations in Africa, the Darfur region of Sudan and Libya, were referred to the court by the United Nations Security Council. In Kenya, the ICC prosecutor received the authorization of an ICC pretrial chamber to open investigations after Kenya repeatedly failed to investigate the 2007-08 post-election violence domestically. In January, the ICC prosecutor opened the court’s first investigation outside Africa, into Georgia, and is conducting several preliminary examinations of situations outside Africa – including in Afghanistan, Colombia, Palestine, and alleged crimes attributed to the armed forces of the United Kingdom deployed in Iraq.

The recommendations from the open-ended committee are the latest development in a backlash against the ICC from some African leaders, which has focused on claims that the ICC is “unfairly targeting Africa.” The backlash first intensified following the ICC’s 2009 arrest warrant for President Omar al-Bashir of Sudan for serious crimes committed in Darfur. While blanket immunity for sitting heads of state is available in some domestic jurisdictions, it has never been available before international criminal courts dealing with grave crimes. The AU, in 2015, adopted a protocol to give its continental court authority to prosecute grave crimes, but also, in a controversial provision, grants immunity for sitting heads of states and other senior government officials. That protocol will need 15 ratifications before coming into force, but has yet to be ratified by any country.

The video is endorsed by the following organizations that are part of an informal group that works to promote support for justice for grave crimes in Africa and beyond:

Africa Center for International Law and Accountability (Ghana)
African Centre for Justice and Peace Studies (Uganda)
Africa Legal Aid
Centre for Accountability and Rule of Law (Sierra Leone)
Centre for Human Rights and Rehabilitation (Malawi)
Children Education Society (Tanzania)
Club des Amis du Droit du Congo (Democratic Republic of Congo)
Coalition for the International Criminal Court (Burundi)
Coalition for the International Criminal Court (Global)
DefendDefenders – East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project
Fédération Internationale des Ligues des Droits de l’Homme
Foundation for Human Rights Initiative (Uganda)
Human Rights Watch
International Commission of Jurists (Kenya)
Kenya Human Rights Commission
Kenyans for Peace with Truth and Justice
Legal Defense and Assistance Project (Nigeria)
Nigerian Coalition for the International Criminal Court
Réseau Justice Et Développement (Togo)
Southern Africa Litigation Centre
Southern Africa Centre for the Constructive Resolution of Disputes (Zambia)

 

Source: AU: Activists Challenge Attacks on ICC | Human Rights Watch

“Writing Human Rights and Getting It Wrong” – revealing piece by Alex de Waal

June 10, 2016

Alex de Waal {https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alex_de_Waal} published on 6 June 2016 a long piece entitled “Writing Human Rights and Getting It Wrong” in the Boston Review. There is no way I can give you a summary but reading the whole article is certain worth the time. It is bound to be controversial – especially within the international human rights movement – and stands out by being critical and mostly self-critical about the role of human rights monitors. The focus of the narrative is on Africa (Sudan, Rwanda) and genocide but the former HRW staff reaches out to the general questions of context and impartiality that human rights defenders struggle with, still today.  READ IT!

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AI’s Ambassador of Conscience Award 2016 shared by Angelique Kidjo and African youth groups

May 7, 2016

Every year, the Amnesty International Ambassador of Conscience Award celebrates individuals and groups who speak out for justice. The 2016, award will be shared between world-renowned musician Angélique Kidjo from Benin and three African youth activist groups: Y’en a marre from Senegal, Le Balai Citoyen from Burkina Faso and LUCHA from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

Angélique Kidjo. Credit: Pierre Marie Ziimmerman.Angélique Kidjo. Credit: Pierre Marie Ziimmerman.

Grammy-winning artist Kidjo fled her homeland Benin in the 1980s after being pressured to perform for the country’s repressive regime. In a 40-year-career spawning 12 albums, she has been a prominent campaigner for freedom of expression and for the education of girls in Africa, as well as against female genital mutilation.

LUCHA, DRC. Credit: Private.
LUCHA, DRC. Credit: Private.

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Events in memory of Alison Des Forges at Buffalo University

April 19, 2015

Alison Des Forges (1942-2009) was a well-known human rights defender and one of the world’s leading experts on the Rwandan genocide. She was senior adviser of Human Rights Watch at the time of her death in the crash of Continental flight 3407. HRW named its human rights award after her [see: http://www.brandsaviors.com/thedigest/award/alison-des-forges-award-extraordinary-activism]. Now the Alison L. Des Forges Memorial Committee in her native Buffalo (NY) is organizing three events in Buffalo on 23 and 24 April 2015 with as focus “Islam, Islamism, and Human Rights in Africa”:
  • An international symposium on April 23 featuring talks by university researchers and representatives of human rights organizations working in Africa. This event is free and open to the public.
  • A scholarship dinner and discussion on April 23. [reservation is required, and tickets are $100 per person. Proceeds go to the Alison Des Forges Memorial Scholarships]
  • A community roundtable on April 24, where university researchers will reflect on the previous day’s symposium topics: “The Interplay of Politics, Religion, Terrorism, Modernity and Human Rights”.

In an effort to address issues of intense public concern, these events will explore in depth the recent rise of violent extremist groups in Africa,” said Dussourd, co-chair of the Alison L. Des Forges Memorial Committee. “In so doing, we will go beyond sensational media headlines to the historical roots of this phenomenon as we examine groups such as Boko Haram, Seleka and Al-Shabaab.”

For information about the events contact Ellen Dussourd  dussourd@buffalo.edu)

Events in memory of Alison Des Forges will focus on Islam and human rights in Africa – University at Buffalo.