By Arret Jatta
Open Society-Africa in partnership with the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR) and the African Center for Democracy and Human Rights Studies (ACDHRS) hosted a one-day meeting focusing on conflict, closed spaces and coups in Africa. This is part of meetings taking place as the ACHPR holds its 73rd Ordinary Session on the trajectory of the Commission which is celebrating its 35th anniversary of operation.
The meeting highlighted that the first COVID-19 case in Africa was confirmed in Nigeria in late February 2020 and soon thereafter, cases spread across the continent, which holds 55 states, all inflicted with a disease that was highly infectious and contagious.
It was estimated that over 10 million people died due to COVID-19 complications in Africa. In an effort to control the Pandemic, authorities in the African Continent responded with lockdowns, as spaces shrunk, political reforms halted or were reversed, economies and growth contracted, debt ballooned to unmanageable levels, corruption rose in many countries resulting in a widening of the gap between the government and the governed.
According to a pamphlet shared at the meeting the reason for this meeting is to come up with solutions on how to handle or manage this crisis and also to bring to the attention of the ACHPR, specific AU member states that are on the verge of instability and conflict, where rights violations are prevalent and need to be addressed. There is a concern that if some of these issues are resolved quickly, the situation may reverberate across their respective regions further escalating and or worsening the situation.
The Chairperson of open Society-Africa Jeggan Grey-Johnson says that Eswatini is the only absolute monarchy in the African continent and their population has been fighting for just fundamental democratic rights. “The right to have political parties, the right to vote for their representatives directly, the right to have their own government to be accountable to them and not necessarily a monarchy, the right to own property because everything is held in trust by the king,” he said.
He went on to explain that these are all fundamental things most African States and most African citizens take for granted but they are very happy that they will be able to come here and ventilate some of these issues and give new perspectives on very fundamental problems that African states put behind them many many decades or even centuries ago.“ Now it’s the 21st century and we will have to talk about these things” he said.
Another reason advanced for the meeting is also to revitalize their partnerships in a post-COVID world, between African citizens, and between Pan-African Institutions mandated to elevate and better the lives of Africans, through their respective mandates to deliver on the promises of our shared values – to strengthen human rights, good governance, transparency, accountability and popular participation of the African populace.
The pamphlet shared at the meeting noted that Civil Society space was shrinking before the COVID-19 pandemic. However, Freedom House’s report on Freedom in the World 2022, indicated that 44% of African countries were not free and only 15% of African states were deemed free. This is an alarming statistic.
This sitting took place at the Sir Dawda Kairaba Jawara Conference Center on Wednesday 19th October 2022.