Opening Statement by AMB. MONICA JUMA, DPhil, CBS Cabinet Sectretary For Foreign Affairs And International Trade During the Joint Retreat Between the Permanent Representative Committee (PRC) & the African Commission on Human and People's Rights (ACHPRs) VENUE: SAFARI PARK HOTEL NAIROBI, KENYA Date: 4th - 5th June, 2018
Excellency, Ambassador Hope Tumukunde Gasatura, Chairperson of the Permanent Representative Committee,
Excellency, Madam Soyata Maiga, Chairperson of the African Commission on Human and Peoples Rights,
Excellency, Madam Minata Samate Cessouma, Commissioner for Political Affairs;
Excellencies the Ambassadors,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is a great privilege and honour to address you this morning on the occasion of this Joint Retreat between the Permanent Representative Committee and the African Commission on Human and Peoples Rights. On my own behalf and that of the Government and the People of Kenya, I welcome you all to Nairobi. It is my hope that you have had good experiences since your arrival in Kenya, your home away from your station Addis Ababa. I am personally delighted that I have this honour, since assuming my role as the Cabinet Secretary for Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Kenya, to address this august gathering. A gathering of not only colleagues and friends, but also African envoys and experts that are sitting at the pinnacle of our institution, in the form of the PRC and the Commission, that are fully committed to the African dream.
I am delighted that you convene here as two critical organs of the African Union - the PRC and the Africa Commission on Human and Peoples Rights to deepen understanding of your work as it relates to the African Union Agenda and to work our modalities of work that will optimize your collaborative work. Allow me Chair to be blunt by declaring that this session is long overdue. But as they say, its better late than never.
This retreat session reminds me of the first retreat of the Peace and Security Council, convened in South Africa in 2002, to outline the modalities of work of that important organ of the African Union. The effort that went to that retreat was significant shaping an organ that I believe has performed above par, compared to similar organs globally. There is, therefore, no doubt in my mind that this retreat will contribute to enhancing the promotion and improvement of the dignity and quality of lives of our people. It is important as Africa is posed for the inevitable take off, this take off happens first and foremost with, and for, its peoples.
Excellences, Ladies and Gentlemen,
The desire for the enjoyment of human rights and dignity is a part of the African story. Long before the Charter of the United Nations - promulgated 73 years ago, or the African Charter on Human and People's Rights drawn 37 years ago, the African people were clamouring for human dignity and rights. The struggle against slavery, the struggle for independence and self-determination are some significant manifestations of this drive and clamour for human rights. Since our attainment for independence, we have bestowed upon ourselves commitment for the promotion of human rights and signaled this through our sign up to strong international, regional and national legal instruments to guarantee, promote and protect the human rights of our people. In Kenya, as in many other African countries, we have an elaborate bill of rights that guarantees a range of political, civil, social, economic, cultural, community and gender rights. These instruments derive from our experience and history.
For Africa, 21st October 1986 was a milestone for human rights with the entry into force of the African Charter on Human and People's Rights paving the way for operationalization of the African Commission on Human and Peoples Rights. The Charter was ahead of its time because it recognizes the right to development as a human right, the universality of human rights, and the enjoyment of economic, social and cultural as a prerequisite to the enjoyment of civil and political rights. Cognizant of the need to free the people of Africa from the clutches of poverty and want, the African Charter also makes economic and social rights justiciable.
In addition to the establishment of the African Commission, the African Union has established other organs and institutions with a human rights mandate such as the African Court and mechanisms to coordinate the activities of these organs. It has also adopted a number of human rights instruments including the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights on the Rights of Women as well as the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child to enhance the enjoyment of human rights.
Further, the AU has also adopted Agenda 2063, which is a Pan- African Vision of the Africa We Want in 2063, which amongst its seven aspirations is an Africa characterized by good governance, democracy, respect for human rights and the rule of law; an Africa that is peaceful and secure. As we all know there cannot be peace and security without the respect and promotion of human rights.
In order to realize the rights provided in all these legal instruments, the African Commission on Human and Peoples Rights is created as our audit mechanism - to objectively and usefully monitor and evaluate the state of play of human rights. It must, therefore, remain focused and foster a close collaboration with Member States, civil societies and other human rights defenders. This working relation must be clearly structured in a modality of work that is agreed upon. It is my hope that this will be one of the issues that will be dealt with at this retreat.
Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,
We do recall that since the establishment of the Commission, there has never been a joint forum to reflect on the working relationship between the Commission and Member states. I believe strategic engagement and partnership between the Commission and Member states is critical to realizing meaningful protection and promotion of human rights. This is because we must share the same objective and vision, of an Africa in which every individual's rights are protected. I believe that a continent in which human rights are respected is more stable, more secure, healthier, and wealthier.
It is also important to explore ways to ensuring that the this important organ of the African Union retains independence from influences that may shape or influence its operations. In this regard, this retreat should address itself to ways of ensuring that the work of the Commission is funded by the AU member states. This is an imperative if we are to have a Commission that it truly serving the interests of our continent. I do recall serving as a member of the PRC as the challenges we raised in relations to the locus of actors engaged with the Commission, sometimes in a manner that seeks not to assist by the vilify and harm Member States without due regard to the vision and objectives of the AU. This must be guarded against. The discussions that take place here in the next two days must therefore be candid and deal with these relational issues that can impact on the workings and credibility of the Commission and or its work.
Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,
Member States of the African Union have, over the time, invested heavily both individually and collectively towards the protection and promotion of human rights in the continent. And this is because every government has as its primary reason de'tre, protection of its people.
It is also critical for this retreat to look at the challenges - old and emerging that are threatening the realization of human rights on our continent. For instance, the nature of security challenges that we face threatened the rights and dignity of our people. First among these is the challenge of terrorism - where violence is visited on populations indiscriminately - to cause fear and with the sole intend to roll back our commitment to democratic governance: Denying populations their rights - like prohibiting girls from going to school, forcing a certain faith, radicalizing the populations and limiting many other freedoms. We also have other threats that threaten human rights including the growing transnational crimes like human trafficking. In addition are non human factors that impact negatively on the enjoyment of rights including the growing ecological fragility - which is resulting in displacement, fracture and sometimes diseases in scales that degrade the enjoyment of rights. Women and children continue to be rendered vulnerable by conflict, situations. These conditions result in significant stress on government's ability to respond and protect rights.
Your retreat must evolve strategies of protecting human rights in these conditions. And because of the complexity of the context, it will require well calibrated tools and cooperative work between the commission, member states and other publics.
In Kenya, we remain firmly committed to the objectives of the African Union as they relate to the protection of human rights and very much look forward to the outcome of this retreat. I therefore wish you productive, results-oriented discussions in the course of the coming two days ahead.
With those remarks, I declare this Joint Retreat of the PRC and the African Commission of Human and People's Rights, officially opened.
I thank you for your kind attention.