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African Human Rights Memorial (AUHRM) Project Background

December 13, 2016

African Human Rights Memorial (AUHRM) Project Background


In April 2004, on the tenth anniversary of the commemoration of the genocide in Rwanda, the Permanent Representatives Committee (PRC) of the AU passed a resolution, sponsored by Rwanda, deciding to make 7 April an annual event in the AU calendar, and also to preserve part of Alem Bekagn prison, where the New AU Conference Building has been built, as a human rights memorial, dedicated in the first instance to the victims of the Red Terror and the Rwanda Genocide.  Immediately afterward, the AU General Assembly of the African Union endorsed the PRC’s Decision to establish a permanent memorial in honour of victims of major human rights atrocities in Africa. Assembly Decision (Assembly/AU/5 (XIV) paragraph 22 (iv)) mandated the AUC to “initiate steps to build a permanent memorial to the victims of human rights violations, including genocide, within the African Union headquarters”.

Significantly, a foundation stone for the AUHRM was laid down by Heads of State and Government at the AU headquarters in January 2012.

The AUHRM is intended to:

1. Honour all victims and survivors of atrocities in the spirit of Pan African Solidarity.
2. Document different histories of suffering in Africa, while promoting dialogue
3. Educate African youth about past atrocities on the continent and tell the stories of those who strived to resist them.
4. Denounce the crimes committed by Africans against Africans
5. Confront genocide, crimes against humanity and human rights abuses in Africa and contribute to creating a human rights culture in Africa

The AUHRM will focus entirely on:

1. The Rwandan genocide which was initiated in the capital of Rwanda, Kigali by extreme Hutu nationalists who incited Hutu citizens to take up arms against the Tutsi’s in 1994 from April to July which ended in the killing of up to 800,000 Tutsi minorities by members of the Hutu ethnic Majority.
2. The Apartheid(1948 to 1991) in South Africa which was racial segregation under the all-white government of South Africa which dictated that nonwhite South Africans (a majority of the population) were required  to live in separate areas from whites and use separate public facilities, and contact between the two groups would be limited.
3. Ethiopian Red Terror which was a campaign of oppression and mass killings in Ethiopia, which began in 1976, when communist Mengistu Haile Mariam took control of the military dictatorship and ousted Emperor Halie Selassie, and lasted until 1978. During these years, the governing body used atrocious violence against anyone that was not a part of its party by arbitrarily arresting, torturing, and massacring thousands of people.
4. Colonialism in Africa which saw Africa being invaded by European imperialist in the 1870s and 1900  ,which was motivated by three main factors, economic, political, and social.
5. Slave trade which was transatlantic trading patterns which were established in the mid-17th century which saw trading ships set sail from Europe with a cargo of manufactured goods to the west coast of Africa. There, these goods would be traded, over weeks and months, for captured people provided by African traders. European traders found it easier to do business with African intermediaries who raided settlements far away from the African coast and brought those young and healthy enough to the coast to be sold into slavery.

The project will have the following components:

1. Memorial structure which will serve the purpose of honouring the victims of human rights violations in Africa, including those of the slave trade and colonialism, and particularly the genocide in Rwanda (1994), the Alem Bekagn prison massacres (1937 and 1974), the Red Terror (1977-1978) in Ethiopia and Apartheid in South Africa. In addition, it will also serve as a means to examine the past and address contemporary issues.
2. Educational center which will serve as a center which will archive survivors stories and provide African countries with the necessary historical background to past violations and serve as communication center for researchers and Universities working on human rights.
3. Website that will function as a hub for survivors and general public, various memorial centers, museums, academic institutions, donor agencies and other interested parties;
4. Conduct relevant research and studies.