Tuesday, 22 October 2013

African Rights


Seriously, the journey of humanity –our journey- has cost us quite a ‘bit’: World Wars; disasters, genocide, hatred, protests, revolutions, pacts, treaties, laws, peace, love, pacts, more love, then tough love, contempt, tyranny, dictatorship, dissatisfaction…the list is endless. But humanity has survived to an extent that she can be called a survivor. However, she can take only so much before she gets to that ‘here’ when she can be stretched no more. At that point she gets taut and things get ugly. This has been the case for us for as long as most of us can remember. Peace is so disturbed every now and then that peace uninterrupted is disturbing. Then again humanity is special, delicate, deserves to be unconditionally respected and allowed to enjoy quality existence - or these are the implications of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). This document is an international outcry setting out the standards and aspirations of a quality existence a man, woman, boy and girl should have both individually and collectively.

However, these are mere aspirations and have since then been left to global and regional international institutions to expand and define. So at this point, it is fair to say that, though ‘Human rights are the rights that humans have just because they are human’, there is no universally accepted scope of what they may contain or not permit as they case may be.

Albeit the case, I am particularly fond of Africa’s de jure stance on Human Rights as can be found in
the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights- my being African has got nothing to do with this. Yes, yes…the Charter goes ahead to heartily embrace the relevant global international aspirations as reflected in the UDHR: the rights to life…freedom of expression, association…thirty solid articles as they are, yet neatly articulated in the African Charter.

However, the great thing about the Charter which sets it apart from other regional human rights treaties and documents is the singular fact that it recognizes that the individual, as an individual, has a role to play in the implementation, promotion, preservation and protection of human rights. The details of these duties are to be found in Articles 27-29 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights.

So crazy am I about two of these duties- contained in Article 29 paragraph 2 and 7. Paragraph 2 states that the individual shall have the duty to, ‘…serve his national community by placing his physical and intellectual abilities at its service’, while paragraph states,

‘To preserve and strengthen positive African cultural values in his relation with other members of the society, in the spirit of tolerance, dialogue and consultation and, in general, to contribute to the promotion of the moral wellbeing of the society.’

For me, these provisions are the most beautiful things about Human Rights in Africa. The individual
is mandated to ‘change the world’. This is actually a law. A must. With this, it is now clear, as it should be, that Human Rights is not just a liberty. It is a big responsibility for the present age.

This is a great call streaming loud and clear to all of us to come out; to stand out for Africa among the likes of Chinua Achebe- who laid out the African civilisation for the whole world to appreciate; Wole Soyinka- who is involved in numerous international artistic and human rights organisation (including being the United Nations named UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador for the promotion of
African culture, human rights, freedom of expression, media and communication); Fela Kuti- who vented his disregard and disagreement with misrule in Africa through his music; Jeta Amata- who through his movie, Black November, brought the world’s attention to the gross environmental degradation and its lethal consequences occasioned by the oil spills in the Niger Delta which have been unattended to; Mo Abudu- who through her Pan African Televison Network, Ebony Life TV, transforms brings to the international scene, through entertainment, a more sensational and befitting version of Africa that what the rest of the world have been deceived into believing;  Ken Saro Wiwa- who devouted himself entirely in the non-violent struggles of his people who suffered extreme environmental damage from decade of indiscriminate petroleum dumping; Gani Fawehimi(SAN)- who through law practice stood out, lived and shouted for human rights; Omotala Jalade Ekeinde- who has equally proven herself in human rights activism through her participation as a United Nations World Food Programme Ambassador; the Walk the World campaign in Liberia; her NGO the Omotola Ekeinde Initiative for Youth Empowerment; and her recent campaign in the course of which she shot a video asking Shell and the Government to Own Up, Clean Up, Pay Up and take responsibility for the Oil spills in the Niger Delta….It is official. The list of Africans who have stood out for our rights are inexhaustible. And for me, this is Human Rights.

As we have witnessed, Human Rights violations are getting more systematic and organised by the day. Smooth operations.

 Treaties are nice, but activism and individual duties need to be further encouraged and sank deep in the grass roots where the worst of these violations all occur and rights need to see light.

These days, dictionaries fail me so I will just go for it…

In the Twenty First Century ‘civilised society’, Human Rights is humanity’s only claim to a good life and it is her duty to stand out; to contribute; to make this happen. After all…It is Human Great; Human Rights.