The Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum (the Forum) joins the world in celebrating Africa Day. This day is a commemoration of the foundation of the Organization of African Unity (OAU) which was established on 25 May 1963 and became the African Union (AU) in 2001. Zimbabwe joined the Organization of African Union on 1 June 1980. In commemorating Africa day, the Forum reflects on the recent commitments of the African Union which have a bearing on Zimbabwe.
The African Leaders committed to Agenda 2063 as a realization of the need to prioritize social and economic development, continental and regional integration, democratic governance, peace and security. This prioritization gives effect to the urgent needs in Africa and is critical for all African Governments to consider. The Heads of State and Governments adopted Agenda 2063 as a vision and action plan for inclusive and sustainable development echoing the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals to enhance good governance and development.
The Forum highlights the 50th Anniversary Solemn Declaration signed by Heads of State of the African Union during the Golden Jubilee celebrations of the formation of the OAU/AU in May 2013. The Heads of State acknowledged that the African Union carried forward from the OAU a clear vision and laid down the ground work for the entrenchment of the rule of law, democracy, respect for human rights, solidarity, promotion of gender equality and the empowerment of Women and Youth in Africa.
The Africa we want is an Africa characterised by good governance, democracy, respect for rule of law and human rights. The key aspiration expressed by the African Union is a prosperous Africa based on inclusive growth and sustainable development. The aspirations of the African Union align with the founding values and principles of good governance, rule of law, fundamental human rights and freedoms as provided for in section 3 of the Constitution of Zimbabwe Amendment (No. 20).
The Forum welcomes approval by the Parliament of Zimbabwe in March 2019, for the ratification of the 2007 African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance (ACDEG) and calls upon the ministry of foreign affairs to expedite the process of depositing the instrument of ratification with the AU. The further Forum calls for the domestication of the charter in keeping with the African Union’s vision for democracy, elections and governance to bring the ratification process into effective function.
The Forum also welcomes the adoption of the African Union Transitional Justice Policy in February 2019 as a progressive step towards the Africa we want. Transitional justice is an urgent issue across Africa and in Zimbabwe as the nation struggles with confronting its past legacy of atrocities committed mainly by the government.
Having noted these progressive steps by the African Union, the Forum regrets that much of this remains all talk and no action back home. The Forum calls on the President and the Parliament of Zimbabwe to follow the lead of 30 African Countries that have ratified the Protocol establishing the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights and to make Declaration in terms of Article 34 (6) of the same protocol to allow direct access of individuals and NGOs to the African Court on Human and People’s Rights. This will go a long way in widening access to justice for the Zimbabwean community at regional level and fostering of fundamental rights and freedoms as enshrined in the Constitution of Zimbabwe.
While government has made overtures and statement regarding confronting Zimbabwe’s legacy of violence in line with the African Union Transitional Justice Framework, there is no traction in actual policy implementation. The National Peace and Reconciliation Commission continues to face a myriad of problems owing to lack of sufficient support from government.
Africa wide, the people’s rights continue to face assaults from African governments with questions being raised if the African Union is indeed a union of the African people or the African governments. Many people continue to live in abject poverty with the economic situation declining and no solutions in sight from governments. As Africa is troubled by mass uprisings and threats of uprisings across the continent, African governments seem reluctant to adopt the African Union models for peaceful resolution of conflicts. Talented and patriotic Africans are leaving the continent in their million is search of economic salvation, a major social and economic loss for the continent.
Back home, Zimbabwe is sitting on an explosive power-keg with a restless citizenry while calls for real dialogue fall on deaf ears with the government continuing in its collective monologue with its friends at the expense of livelihoods. The crackdown on civil society continues with 9 (nine) civil society leaders currently facing trumped up charges in violation of African Union’s Cotonou Declaration on the protection of human rights defenders.
It is a desperate situation for the African people on this Africa day as Africa seems due for a second liberation from the tyranny of poverty and violence, with most African leaders on the wrong side of that struggle. As Africa commemorates Africa day, the Forum hopes that governments take this day to truly reflect on their obligations to the liberation ethos that led to the founding of the OAU and later the AU and show real commitment to restoration of the dignity of the African people, safeguarding their rights and transforming the economic fortunes of the continent in line with 2063 vision and action plan for inclusive and sustainable development.