|ACDHRS, Madam Hannah Forster|
Tuesday, May 1, 2012
'Election A Challenge, Kudos Only For Senegal' Hannah Forster
The Executive Director of the African Centre for Democracy and Human Rights Studies (ACDHRS), Madam Hannah Forster has said in her opening statement at the Non-Governmental Forum (NGO Forum) that only the Republic of Senegal must be congratulated for successfully concluded elections.
The ACDHRS boss was speaking at 25th NGO Forum, held at the Kariaba Beach Hotel from 14 to 16 April, 2012, preceding the 51st Ordinary Session of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR) in The Gambia.
Forster told the gathering of rights activists from different countries, and members of the diplomatic and consular corps in the Gambia, among others, that after the minor attempt to upset the cart of constitutionalism by the former President Abdoulie Wade, the voice of the Senegalese people have been heard loud and clear reinforcing the constitutional framework towards the respect for democracy, for peace and human rights.
“We must, however, congratulate the Republic of Senegal for the outcome of their recently successfully concluded elections,” the ACDHRS chief remarked.
According to her, while the entry into force of the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance brings with it much hope, it is disappointing to note the elections has become more of a challenge to the process of consolidating democracy in Africa.
The concerted efforts of Civil Society Organisations- CSOs continue to be urgently needed in order to restore the dignity of women and men, in Africa and in the wider global community, said Forster.
Individually and collectively, she challenged, they must, however, remain objective, focused and committed to the ideals of their cause in these days of diverse and politicization of civil society.
The forum on the participation of NGO in the work of the African Commission has over the past two decades maintained momentum mostly as a result of serious debate and discussions that characterise its proceedings, remarked Forster.
“Furthermore, the results of these deliberations adopted by the Forum and submitted to the Commission reflect the collective input and contribution of the African human rights community to their deliberation aimed at facilitating the work of the Commission,” the Forum heard from the ACDHRS Executive Secretary.
The recent coup d’etat in Mali, and the continuing carnage being perpetuated by the Taureg rebels in their quest for an independent state, she said, is still fresh in the minds of many participants and is indeed a cause for concern. There has also been disturbing news of after elections unrest coming out of Guinea Bissau, while in Nigeria fresh attacks of the Boko Haram sect continues to bring terror and misery in its wake, noted Forster.
The general situation of human rights defenders, she told her audience, is also on the agenda as is freedom of expression, association and particularly repressive laws before parliamentarians against persons of Sexual Orientation and Gender Identities (SOGI), noting that the Arab Spring is yet to settle down and updates will be solicited.
During the next the days, she said their discussions would be centred around those issues and other topics of interest in an attempt to inform themselves and in the final analysis to formulate recommendations and dilate on the way forward, which she added, will be shared with the African Commission.
According to her, the challenges are immense but, “we must continue to live up to the ideals we preach” in order to consolidate the foundation already laid against human rights violations, impunity and other forms of injustice.
As part of the African Centre’s Networking for Human Rights Programme, she stated that the NGO forum like the preceeding ones, offers a platform where the African human rights community can meet to prepare for substantial and constructive participation in the session of African Commission.
The importance of their fruitful involvement and collaboration with the African Commission as pointed out by Forster, cannot be over-emphasized, as it continues to advance its work.
Moreover, it also creates opportunities for partnership between and among NGOs, governments and other stakeholders, which, she re-echoed, reinforces networking, the establishment and maintenance of relationships as well as the renewing of old ones for human rights in Africa.
To this effect, “we must remind ourselves that the implementation of the recommendations of the evaluation of the NGO Forum, adopted by all of us, will provide the much needed impetus to move on to the next level of developing this unique Forum, the only one of its kind in Africa and the forerunner and catalyst of many a forum organised today, I dare say”.
The core of their deliberations, she explained, would take into account the formidable challenges within the continent.
She also applauded the response of human rights NGOs and activists attending the NGO Forum preceding the 51st Ordinary Session of the African Commission.
The presence in increasing numbers of participants, she went on, demonstrates, without doubt, their determination to contribute towards the promotion and protection of human rights in Africa- a vision, she held, “we all share- a dream to see an African that observes and respects democracy and human rights”.
In her speech, she also urged and craved the indulgence of the participants to observe a moment of silence for all victims of human rights violations, especially those who have suffered and lost their lives in the last six months. Consequently, all the participants stood-up and observed one minute silence.
Madam Forster in no uncertain term,“We strongly condemn this killing and the violence and the torture perpetrated against and hundreds of women. We want to remember in particular all those innocent victims, the citizens of Africa, who have suffered and continue to suffer as a result of disrespect for human rights and fundamental freedoms.”
She then on behalf of the participants at the NGO Forum, extended her sincere condolences to families that have lost loved their ones and, as well extended theiy sympathies to those victims living with the after effects of their trauma.