Africa is bleeding: The Anglophone crisis in Cameroon

Author: Mary Izobo
International Human Rights Lawyer and Gender Advocate


The failure to promote the rule of law and democracy creates an environment for conflict, often exacerbated by marginalisation, discrimination,  inequality and inequity. The bitterness of citizens roused by violence is usually entrenched in lack of basic services and public infrastructure, corruption, lack of personal and economic security and lack of transparency and accountability of government to its citizens.  Thus, the greatest problem of African countries is their failure to protect the economic, political, social, and cultural concerns of its people. This year, 2020 has been marred by a series of human rights violations from Lagos to Kumba, Africa is bleeding.

On 24 October 2020, at least eight children were killed, and dozens wounded by a group of armed men at the Mother Francisca International Bilingual Academy  Kumba, in the Southwest Region of Cameroon. There has been a lot of attacks in Cameroon since 2016, however, these attacks have intensified dramatically.

Since the Anglophone crisis in Cameroon started in 2016, hundreds of people have died, over 70 villages destroyed, approximately 160, 000 people are internally displaced while 35, 000 people have sought refuge in Nigeria, Cameroon’s neighboring country. This crisis has also led to months of general strikes, innumerable days of internet shutdown and the loss of academic years. What started as a peaceful strike of teachers and lawyers in 2016, led to a conflict between the government and an armed separatist movement of the Anglophone region. This crisis is a serious threat to efforts to build national harmony and unification of Cameroon and has led to the reestablishment of strong contentions and conducts in support of secession and/or federalism by the Anglophones. This is because at the center of this conflict is the Anglophones’ wish to secede from Cameroon and form their own independent state called Ambazonia.

Many analysts contend that the current conflict is a result of the unmanageable historical animosity between Cameroon’s Anglophones and Francophones in terms of varying language, culture and identity. Thus, if the differences in identity, language and culture are the primary drivers of the conflict as these analysts contend, it is quite surprising that Cameroon, one of the most ethnically diverse countries in Africa, has to a great extent avoided conflict until 2016. This crisis goes way beyond language, culture or identity. It is a resurgence of an old problem known as the Anglophone problem. The Anglophone problem is often described as the evolution of the Anglophone’s awareness from the feeling of being marginalised, exploited and homogenised politically, economically and socially by the Francophone-dominated state and even the Francophone population in Cameroon. The Anglophone problem is driven by the marginalisation and discrimination against the Anglophones in Cameroon in decision-making nationally; the dilapidation of the region’s infrastructure; the exploitation of the region’s rich economic resources by successive Francophone administration without much beneficiation to the local communities; marginalisation in human resource development and deployment by the inundation of Anglophone regions with Francophone employees and workers; the marginalisation of the Anglophones in the allocation of economic resources by the Francophones especially by the mismanagement of the economic patrimony in the Northwest and Southwest Regions of Cameroon; the common law system and the francophonisation of the English educational system; gradual erosion of Anglophone identity; the predominance of French and Francophones in official documents and public offices respectively; as well as the second-class citizenship of the Anglophones when compared to the Francophones.

These atrocities and the killings of the innocent cannot continue and must stop. While President Paul Biya of Cameroon has made several commitments to end the conflict in Cameroon, there has to be a genuine commitment for the equal and equitable distribution of resources to the Anglophone regions as enshrined in the preamble of the Constitution of the Republic of Cameroon 1996, which stipulates that all citizens “have equal rights and obligations” and “the State shall provide all its citizens with the conditions necessary for their development” and that the state has a positive obligation to ensure that it protects the rights of the minorities. This must be upheld by the government of Cameroon.

Even if there is a commitment on the part of the Anglophones and the government of Cameroon to end the conflict and there are resources to do so, there may be an issue with the authorising environment. This is because President Paul Biya started ruling Cameroon in 1982 and is currently serving his seventh term, making him one of the longest-serving presidents in Africa and the world. This means that for an average Cameroonian, S/he has only known one president since birth. Since the early 1990s, it has been speculated that President Biya is aloof to the needs of his people and has made very few public appearances. He is termed an absentee president who regularly spends extended periods in Switzerland with the excuse from his government that he goes to Switzerland to work without being disturbed. This deficit in governance, as well as the economic apartheid of the Anglophones, are some of the reasons for the demand for a change in the system of government from autocratic to democratic rule.

The bilateral partners of Cameroon such as France, United Kingdom, United States of America and other national, regional and international organisations should put pressure on the Cameroonian government to put in place a course of action to assuage the situation, partake in a genuine national dialogue and transform the governance archetype. The government of Cameroon should allow for negotiation and mediation during the national dialogue between parties, where necessary.

The principle of territorial integrity and sovereignty may bar international actors from intervening. However, one can start from the low hanging fruits. For example, European media can call out President Biya for always spending his time and his country’s resources in Switzerland and other European countries without reasonable justification. Lastly, the African Union has a huge role to play in this crisis. Just like the Confederation of African Football (CAF) deprived Cameroon the right to host the Africa Cup of Nations in 2019, the African Union can strip Cameroon of the benefits that it enjoys from the continental body and may also place economic and political sanctions on Cameroon such as travel bans, restrictions on access to services in the international arena until it resolves the Anglophone crisis. Thus, it is imperative that the Anglophone crisis may continue to loom if the Anglophones still feel marginalized. Therefore, the government of Cameroon must make a conscious effort  to address the concerns of the Anglophones, particularly in the allocation and management of economic resources and representation in state institutions.

About the Author

Mary Izobo is a human rights lawyer with experience in the field of human rights, governance, and rule of law for development. She holds a Bachelor of Arts (BA Hons) in French Language from the University of Ibadan, Nigeria; Bachelor of Laws (LLB) from the University of Aberdeen, Scotland, United Kingdom; Barrister at Law (BL) from the Nigerian Law School, Abuja, Nigeria; a Master of Laws (LLM) in Human Rights and Democratisation in Africa from the University of Pretoria, South Africa; and a Master of Laws (LLM) in Rule of Law for Development from Loyola University Chicago, United States of America. She is currently a Doctor of Laws candidate with a focus on governance in Africa at the University of Pretoria, South Africa.

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Attempts at constitutional reform in The Gambia: Whither the Draft Constitution?

Author: Satang Nabaneh
Post-doctoral Fellow, Centre for Human Rights, University of Pretoria

The Gambia’s constitution-drafting process, aimed at ushering in a third Republic, has reached an unfortunate dead-end. More than two years after the constitutional review process began, and after a highly acrimonious and polarised debate in the National Assembly, Parliament, one week ago (on 22 September 2020), rejected the proposed Constitution Promulgation Bill, 2020 (‘the Bill’). The Bill would have enabled the eventual promulgation the Constitution of the Gambia, 2020 (‘Draft Constitution’) and the repeal of the Constitution of the Republic of The Gambia, 1997 (‘1997 Constitution’). Twenty-three lawmakers in the National Assembly voted against the Bill, while thirty-one supported it. This was, however, not a big enough majority to meet the threshold requirement of three-quarters of members needed to effect constitutional change. The Draft Constitution could, therefore, not be put to a referendum.

The movement for a new Constitution

In December 2016, after twenty-two years of authoritarian rule, Yahya Jammeh was finally voted out of office, and opposition leader, Adama Barrow, voted in. Although Jammeh at first accepted the results, he changed his mind a week later – triggering a political crisis in the country. The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) mobilised troops with a mandate to enter the country and forcefully oust the former President should diplomatic missions fail. On 21 January 2017, however, Jammeh left The Gambia for Equatorial Guinea. This unprecedented political event kickstarted a transition from dictatorship to democracy. Yet, ending the dictatorship was just the first step. The vision for The Gambia, in transitioning from an authoritarian rule to a democratic state, included drafting a new constitution and measures to ensure accountability for past human rights violations. This included the establishment of a Truth, Reconciliation and Reparations Commission (TRRC), to inquire into human rights violations committed July 1994 to January 2017.

Constitutional change and a rebuilding of the foundations for good governance and democracy had been a campaign promise of the ruling coalition. Consequently, a key pillar of the new ‘National Transitional Justice Programme’ became the formulation of a new constitution.  Leading, in December 2017, to the establishment of the Constitutional Review Commission (CRC). The formal process of reviewing the 1997 Constitution and drafting a new one started in June 2018 with the appointment of eleven members (five of whom are women, one of which was the Vice Chairperson) as Commissioners of the CRC.

The CRC had a two-fold mandate, first, review the 1997 Constitution and draft a new one, and second, prepare a report on the draft constitution. The CRC used a participatory and consultative approach to solicit the views and opinions of Gambians about constitutional issues they wished to see addressed in their new constitution.

The CRC kicked-off the review of the 1997 Constitution by preparing a comprehensive list of 369 questions and issues on which public opinion was sought. The Commission undertook an initial nationwide tour, which began in November 2018, followed by further consultations in early 2019 as well as additional household and online surveys. It also engaged in dialogue with various actors including political parties, central and local government institutions and civil society organisations. In addition, the CRC consulted with Gambians in the diaspora in Europe, United States, United Kingdom, Saudi Arabia and other African countries.

Following these consultations as well as some in-depth research, the Commission produced a draft constitution, published on 15 November 2019. The CRC then embarked on a second and final nationwide, public consultation tour, this time to make people aware of and to solicit feedback on the 2019 version of the draft constitution. On 30 March 2020, the CRC submitted the ‘Final Draft Constitution and Report’ to the President. In line with requirements in the 1997 Constitution, the Bill was twice published in the Government Gazette (first on 28 May and then on 28 August 2020), whereafter it was introduced in the National Assembly (section 226). The Bill was tabled before the National Assembly on 14 September 2020.

The Draft Constitution introduced several measures aimed at enhancing and strengthening democracy. This includes a presidential term limit, limits on executive power, measures to ensure greater political inclusion of marginalised groups (including women, youth and persons with disabilities) and a comprehensive Bill of Rights chapter, compliant with international and regional human rights standards. The public had high hopes for significant constitutional change. The personalised politics of the recent past, the undemocratic provisions in, and frequent amendment of, the 1997 Constitution and a complete disregard of the rule of law by the former President left Gambians with a desire for change. Sadly, however, these hopes were dashed when the Bill did not receive the requisite majority vote in Parliament.

Why did the Bill not pass?

One way of trying to determine why the Bill did not pass is to look at who voted against it in the National Assembly. From this it is possible to speculate what their main concerns were. A review of the parliamentary debates suggests that the major concerns were those of the ruling government. Issue had been taken with the limitations to the scope of executive power the Draft Constitution would implement and with the fact that the presidential term limit would operate retroactively. This later provision would ensure the current term of President Barrow will be counted towards his term limit.

What next?

The rejection of the Bill on its merits means that Gambians would not get to see this version of the 2020 Draft Constitution in a future referendum. So, what now? As the Government has not yet shared any plans we are left to speculate, I consider two possibilities here.

One option is to amend the 1997 Constitution to include some of the more progressive provisions in the 2020 Draft Constitution. The problem with amendment is that it would have to follow the same process as for the promulgation of a new constitution (section 226 (2)(b) and (4) of the 1997 Constitution). In other words, it would require approval of three-quarters of all the members of the National Assembly on the second and third readings and would also have to be passed in a national referendum (requiring 50% turnout and 75% approval).

A potential second option is to go back to the drawing board – have the Constitutional Review Commission restart the drafting process afresh, aiming to resolve contentious issues that are preventing consensus. However, this too would be challenging. In particular, it would be difficult to get buy-in and political legitimacy. The majority of parliamentarians that did support the Bill and therefore the 2020 Draft Constitution will view a new process with suspicion. Given the assertive citizenry and engaged and revitalised civil society we have seen in recent times, the public is also not likely to buy into any process that produces a watered-down version. Additionally, such a process might also make it difficult to garner the support of development partners. And, even if going back to the drawing board is feasible, success is clearly not guaranteed.

Lessons learnt

Even though the constitution-drafting process has not ended in the adoption of a new constitution, there are some important insights to be gleaned from this experience. For one thing, The Gambia’s experience demonstrates how political elites can serve as stumbling blocks when proposed constitutional change threatens their political power. It is therefore important for constitution drafters and academics alike to apply their minds to how this might be avoided in other constitution-making processes.

While this has been a costly exercise, it was worth it, because Gambians have grappled with some important constitutional ideas, and reached insights that will be helpful in the long run. Given its great quest for change and the broad consensus that there cannot be any meaningful break with the political past without true and complete reform, I am confident that The Gambia will eventually give itself a new constitution.

This article was originally published on the IACL-AIDC Blog

Suggested citation: Satang Nabaneh, ‘Attempts at Constitutional Reform in The Gambia: Whither the Draft Constitution?’ IACL-AIDC Blog (29 September 2020)

About the Author:
Satang Nabaneh is a Post-doctoral Fellow at the Centre for Human Rights, Faculty of Law, University of Pretoria. She is the Programme Manager of the LLM/MPhil in Sexual and Reproductive Rights in Africa (SRRA) at the Centre. Satang holds the degrees LLD and LLM in Human Rights and Democratisation in Africa from the University of Pretoria and an LLB from the University of The Gambia. Her research interests include a broad range of issues related to international human rights, women’s rights, democracy, and constitutionalism.

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Adolescent girls and young women have a right to know: Accessing information on sexual and reproductive health and rights in the wake of COVID-19

Author: Kerigo Odada
Human Rights Lawyer; LLM (Sexual & Reproductive Rights in Africa) student, Centre for Human Rights, University of Pretoria

For many adolescent girls and young women around the world, adolescence marks not only the commencement of puberty, but also a time where statistically, the risk of facing human rights abuses such as sexual violence, exploitation, and other adverse outcomes of sex increases. However, despite this high predisposition to abuse, adolescent girls and young women still face multiple barriers in accessing information on sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR). Discriminatory cultural values, laws, and policies that are driven by the stigma attached to sexuality have made it challenging for members of this social group to enjoy full access to much needed SRHR information.

As of April 2020, about 1.725 billion students worldwide were forced out of learning institutions due to COVID-19. Although the closure of schools and other lockdown measures were strategic in controlling the spread of COVID-19, this situation unfortunately meant that many adolescent girls and young women were now confined in homes where they were, and still are, at a heightened risk of prolonged sexual abuse, exploitation and negative outcomes of sex.

Although lockdowns, quarantines, and other isolation measures have had a negative impact on the lives of countless adolescent girls and young women worldwide,  it is not COVID-19 that is responsible for more than one girl being raped during the first 17 days of quarantine in Peru. It is not COVID-19 that is responsible for “a daily average of 48 cases of violence against children, including sexual assault and rape since the beginning of the lockdown in Bolivia”. It is not COVID-19 that is responsible for approximately 4,000 school girls being impregnated in Machakos County, Kenya within the first 4 months of lockdown, nor is it responsible for impregnating around  2,300 schoolgirls and marrying off around 128 of them in Uganda. These are the consequences of pre-existing gender inequalities that are driven by androcentric systems of justice, health care and education -systems that are oftentimes designed to protect perpetrators while leaving adolescent girls and young women exposed.

Denying adolescent girls and young women the opportunity to freely access SRHR information during this period is a failure on the part of governments because they have a duty to ensure all persons can fully enjoy the right to health.  This approach does not take into consideration the lived realities of many adolescents and young women, nor their evolving capacities.  SRHR information empowers members of this social group with essential knowledge, skills, and values such as critical thinking, communication,  negotiation, decision-making and assertiveness all of which empower them to navigate a world where they are highly susceptible to sexual exploitation and abuse, child marriage, unintended pregnancies, unsafe abortions,  HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted infections.

Several organisations working on adolescent girls and young women’s SRHR, have called upon governments to ensure we do not have a repeat of what was witnessed during the 2014 Ebola outbreak where teenage pregnancies increased by 65%. These organisations noted that measures taken to respond to epidemics often leave adolescent girls and young women vulnerable to sexual abuse and exploitation because they are usually isolated from people, systems and resources that can help them safeguard their SRHR. Therefore, preventative measures such as uninterrupted access to SRHR services and information must be ensured to safeguard the health and well being of members of this social group.

Keeping communication channels open, informed, and supportive of adolescent girls and young women play a key role in ensuring this social group acquires practical knowledge that will help protect them from abuse and other negative outcomes of sex. It is therefore imperative that governments, in collaboration with the media, develop and implement a framework for engaging with adolescent girls and young women on matters relating to SRHR.

Engaging the Media

Media has one of the greatest potentials to advance SRHR globally. Given its “ability to disseminate information in a broad, timely, and accessible manner”, strong partnerships and collaboration with journalists and social media activists at the global and local levels are essential in safeguarding adolescent girls and young women’s SRHR.  Governments, in collaboration with organisations working on SRHR, should invest in creating and sustaining the interest of the media in reporting on SRHR issues because this will ensure adolescent girls and young women have uninterrupted access to SRHR information. This also involves strengthening the capacity of the media to engage in the topic. Virtual trainings, workshops, and webinars should be organised to educate the media on how to report on SRHR issues. Helping journalists get a deeper understanding of the issues will ensure that they are motivated to report on them.

A good collaboration with the media can lead to the production and dissemination of quality campaign and educational materials such as movies, radio shows, songs, posters, stickers, and online campaigns. For example, in  Burkina Faso, a partnership with the National Coalition for the Abandonment of Child Marriage saw the training of 30 national journalists on child marriage, while in Niger, radio ‘Voix du Sahel’ and nine private radio stations worked together to air a soap opera that successfully raised awareness on child marriage in the region.

Nevertheless, in as much as using media will be essential in ensuring SRHR information is accessible to adolescent girls and young women, stakeholders must also ensure that they put in place measures to protect this group as they engage with these media platforms. This is especially relevant for online models of communication, such as social media. According to UNICEF, children now spend a lot of time online either for school, or when socialising with friends which consequently puts them at risk of online sexual exploitation and misinformation. In a report released in April, UNICEF noted that, since the pandemic started, internet usage had increased by up to 50% in some parts of the world as life became more and more digitalised. With fewer physically accessible activities during the COVID-19 pandemic, young people are spending more time browsing the internet. In Canada, for instance,, an online sexual exploitation of children tip line, reported a 66% increase in reports in April following the implementation of lockdowns. In India, there has been a 95% rise in traffic searching for child sexual abuse content,  while in Europe, Europol (The European Union police agency) has sounded the alarm over significant increases in activity relating to child sexual abuse and exploitation on both the surface web and dark web during the COVID-19 lockdown period.

Governments should partner with other stakeholders such as civil society organisations, and community-based organisations to develop strategies to engage the media, both mainstream and social media. This engagement should ultimately lead to the development of a framework to educate the youth on SRHR and should be part of the educational programs rolled out in various countries. Forming partnerships will be instrumental in bringing together a diverse range of people and organisations, thereby facilitating the exchange of information, skills, experience, and materials while providing peer support, encouragement, and motivation. Partnerships, especially with grassroots organisations, help in getting community buy-in which is vital in addressing issues related to young women’s access to comprehensive SRHR information.

For example, technical, financial, and logistical support could be given to initiatives such as InfoAdoJeunes, a mobile app developed in Togo to help youth access credible SRHR information during this time of COVID-19. Another successful initiative is U-Report, an SMS-based peer counselling service in Mozambique, Sierra Leone, and Uganda, that was developed to support continuous training and answers to young people’s questions and concerns on SRHR. U-report equipped mentors with mobile access that reaches over 200,000 adolescents with youth-friendly information mainly on child marriage.

The pandemic has exposed the fact that sexual exploitation of adolescent girls and young women, despite being a gross violation of human rights, is deeply woven into the tapestry of many societies. A situation that is further worsened by either lack of access to information on SRHR, or if access is there, the information is confusing or conflicting. When this group lacks knowledge on their SRHR, they are left vulnerable to sexual exploitation, coercion, sexually transmitted infections including HIV/AIDS, unintended pregnancies, and unsafe abortions. It is therefore of paramount importance that we provide adolescent girls with comprehensive information on SRHR that prepares them for a safe, productive, and fulfilling life.  To continue denying adolescent girls and young women access to this information under the pretext of protecting them from immorality is discriminatory and a violation of their rights.

This article was originally published on the SRHM Blog

About the Author:
Kerigo Odada is a human rights lawyer who specialises in Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights and currently serves as a Board Member of The Youth Coalition for Sexual and Reproductive Rights. She is currently a LLM (SRRA) student at the Centre for Human Rights, University nof Pretoria

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Ending child marriage: A call to action

Author: Mary Izobo
International Human Rights Lawyer and Gender Advocate


The International Day of the Girl Child is commemorated globally every year on 11 October since 2012 to highlight the injustices girls face based on their gender, while advancing the fulfilment of their rights, development and wellbeing. The United Nations theme for  the International Day of the Girl Child 2020 is ‘My voice, our equal future.’ There is a specific emphasis on the girl child because there is a direct form of discrimination against girls who are often deprived of their fundamental human rights. Millions of girls from birth are discriminated against on the grounds of sex and gender. This year, as we commemorate the International Day of the Girl Child, it is important to bring to the world’s attention, child marriage which continues to be an unending anathema that serves as a challenge in the fulfilment and enjoyment of the rights and welfare of the girl child.

Child marriage is the marriage of a child before he or she turns 18 years of age. It is a global phenomenon that continues to obstruct the wellbeing of young boys and girls. Child marriage affects both boys and girls, but nine in ten children married off before they turn 18 years are girls. Every two seconds, a girl is married off, before she is physically, psychologically or emotionally developed enough to become a bride or mother. An estimated 650 million women and girls in the world today were married before they turned 18 years and one-third of these women and girls were married off before they turned 15 years. According to United Nations International Children Emergency Fund (UNICEF), out of the world’s population, 1.1 billion are girls and 22 million of them are married off before they attain adulthood.

Next to Asia, Africa has the highest prevalence of child marriage, a decadence deeply rooted in society and an atrocity that is a major impediment to regional development and prosperity. It is believed that ‘if current trends continue, almost half of the world’s child brides in 2050 will be African.’  The United Nations Child Rights Convention (CRC) which guarantees the rights of children, is the most ratified treaty in the world, ratified by 196 countries excluding the United States of America and Africa’s newest state – South Sudan. The African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child (ACRWC) which deals with peculiar human rights challenges affecting children in Africa has been ratified by 49 out of the 55 countries in Africa. The CRC and the ACRWC recognise non-discrimination, devotion to the best interests of the child, the specific needs and rights of the child, as well as respect for the views of the child. Even countries that have signed, ratified and domesticated the CRC, ACRWC and other international instruments on the promotion and protection of the rights of the child, fail to comply with the implementation of these instruments and policies because of gender-discriminatory norms, socio-cultural practices, tradition, custom and religion.

Gender discriminatory norms, for example, have marked a female child as inferior to a male child. The birth of a male child is celebrated with great splendor and ardor, while the birth of a female child is received with disappointment because she is seen as a burden when compared to her male counterpart. Be it education, health, basic services, protection, participation, inclusion, the girl child is always treated unequally. Unfortunately, girls are led to believe that their goal in life is to cook, clean, serve and please their husbands as well as bear children. This is inconceivable and unfathomable in the 21st century where we have strong female leaders who have made landmark strides in systems completely dominated by men like Ms Chimamanda Adichie, a prolific and award-winning author; President Sahle-Work Zewde of Ethiopia; Mrs Amina J Mohammed, Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations; Former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia and Mrs Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala who is currently vying for the position of the Director-General of the World Trade Organisation and may very well become the first female leader of the institution in its 25 years of existence.

The effects of child marriage on the girl child

Child marriage affects the education of a girl child as she is forced to take care of her husband and/or children. Consequently, these girls are unable to go to school or continue their education, and their financial freedom becomes hindered. This leaves them in a constant state of abject poverty and perhaps raise a generation of women and girls that continue to live below the minimum wage.

Also, child brides are prone to domestic violence. The International Council of Research on Women (ICRW) contends that girls between the ages of 15 and 19 years old with little or no education are at a higher chance of being violated than older and educated women.

In addition, child brides suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and depression. These girls are made to live with their husbands and in solitude away from their families and friends. Child brides are more prone to HIV/AIDS and STIs as they are unable to discuss contraceptives with their husbands. Child brides are also likely to suffer complications from early or teenage pregnancy, sometimes leading to death. Approximately 70 000 girls die each year due to complications from pregnancy and/or childbirth. These girls also suffer from miscarriage, obstetric fistula, and postpartum haemorrhaging.

Aspiration 6 of the African Union (AU) Agenda 2063 and Goal 5 of the United Nations (UN) Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) 2030 sets target on ending child marriages. However, child marriage continues to rob the girl child of her opportunity to grow, learn, be empowered and develop to her full potential as child marriage makes the girl child dependent trapping them in a perpetual cycle of poverty.


We must all come together to end child marriage. The birth of a female child must be celebrated with equal zeal as that of a male child. There must be community ownership and duty in eliminating child marriage. There must be sensitisation programmes that would create attitudinal shifts towards gender equality and the mainstreaming of the rights and wellbeing of the female child. We must continually launch national awareness campaign against child marriage by highlighting the dangers of child marriage on the child, family, society, nation and the world at large.

Girls need to be empowered through the provision of information on sexual and reproductive health, support networks, career guidance, role modelling and mentorship programmes. School curriculum needs to eliminate gender roles and education must be inclusive.

There has to be state accountability to implement laws, policies, schemes, constitutional and international commitments on gender equality as well as institutionalising gender-sensitive laws and programmes within the national systems.

Girls want a world where everyone has equal rights and opportunities; a world without patriarchy; a world where she can voice her opinions in her environment and be heard in decisions that affect her life; a world where she is not marginalised, stigmatised or victimised. Girls want to have access to equal opportunities to learn, grow and prosper as their male counterpart. In this world, she is equal and gender equality is the standard. We must end child marriage now to protect her rights and wellbeing and safeguard her future and the future of the world.

About the Author

Mary Izobo is a human rights lawyer with experience in the field of human rights, governance, and rule of law for development. She holds a Bachelor of Arts (BA Hons) in French Language from the University of Ibadan, Nigeria; Bachelor of Laws (LLB) from the University of Aberdeen, Scotland, United Kingdom; Barrister at Law (BL) from the Nigerian Law School, Abuja, Nigeria; a Master of Laws (LLM) in Human Rights and Democratisation in Africa from the University of Pretoria, South Africa; and a Master of Laws (LLM) in Rule of Law for Development from Loyola University Chicago, United States of America. She is currently a Doctor of Laws candidate with a focus on governance in Africa at the University of Pretoria, South Africa.

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Critical analysis of Pan-African Parliament’s resolution on peace and security in Africa

Author: Masalu Masanja
LLM (HRDA) student, Centre for Human Rights, University of Pretoria


The Pan-African Parliament (PAP) is among the nine organs of the African Union (AU) established with the aim of ensuring the full participation of African people in the development and economic integration of Africa. This purpose is anchored under Article 17 of the of the AU Constitutive Act. One of the objectives of PAP is the promotion of peace and security on the continent. In terms of its mandate, PAP is limited to consultative and advisory power within the AU. Its full-fledged legislative power is provided for under the Protocol to the Constitutive Act of the African Union on the Establishment of the Pan-African Parliament (Malabo Protocol), which is yet to come into force. This opinion piece seeks to examine critically the resolution on peace and security with a specific focus on the Continental Early Warning Mechanism (CEWM).

War and violence in Africa are among the stumbling blocks to economic development and integration in Africa. Consequently, the PAP passed a resolution on the promotion of peace and security in Africa at its Second Session of the Fourth Parliament held from 5 to 17 October 2015. This opinion piece specifically focuses on PAP’s recommendation on the need of reinforcing CEWM in conflict prevention in Africa and the establishment of an African centre for conflict and arbitration focusing on providing training and capacity building on alternative dispute resolution mechanisms in the five sub-regions of Africa, under the oversight of African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights.

Reinforcing CEWM

PAP’s resolution emphasised the reinforcement of the CEWM in ensuring peace and security in Africa. CEWM is a creature of the Protocol on the Peace and Security Council and was established under Article 12 of the Protocol. it is one of the pillars of the African Peace and Security Architecture, as part of the conflict prevention mechanism in Africa.  CEWM is aimed at giving the AU a proactive system of conflict prevention as opposed to the traditional reaction system. For this reason, ‘early warning is perceived as an effective tool to action” and encompasses the collection of information, analysis of information, formulation of best/worst scenarios and response options and communication to decision-makers.

It is from this background that the PAP urged the AU to reinforce the CEWM in order to prevent conflict in Africa. The resolution captured the potential of CEWM in avoiding conflict. Nevertheless, despite CEWM, Africa still experiences deadly political violence which cost the lives of so many innocent people. This call into question the efficacy of CEWM in preventing conflict before it erupts.

Even though the PAP resolution concluded that the AU needed to reinforce its CEWM, the story is not all gloomy. According to Noyes and Yarwood, CEWM made progress in terms of ability to monitor, analyse, and provide warning of emerging conflict in Africa. In this regard, CEWM involves advance data collection, on which the AU has made significant advancement. This data collection mechanism puts Africa ahead of other regional bodies because AU has comprehensive data collection managed by situation Room in AU.

Nonetheless, the inefficiency of CEWM in Africa comes from the lack of expertise in terms of analysis of the information collected. In this area, the CEWM is facing difficulty because of the lack of highly skilled and trained personnel. Similarly, as the resolution clearly articulated, the AU is not proactive in giving a response. This is because after the analysis of data collected is worked on, the Peace and Security Council (PSC) does not receive early warning for it to make decision. At this point, there is very poor communication between CEWM and PSC. This means the PSC does not usually get the necessary information for it to act. Even if the PSC has the information, the PSC does not usually work as quickly with the information furnished and the AU is supposed to be pro-active in acting accordingly and to notify member states of warning signs.

The resolution also champions establishment of an African centre for conflict and arbitration focusing on providing, training and capacity building on Alternative Dispute Resolution mechanisms in the five sub-regions of Africa under the oversight of African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights. The proposal for establishing an African centre for conflict and arbitration is good idea. It would be better if Africa would have such a centre, but the proposal that the African Court should have oversight is questionable and problematic for three reasons. Firstly, this will have repercussion on accountability of African States on issue of human rights abuse because the court will be overloaded with another mandate in case more member states make declaration pursuant to article 34(6).  Secondly, the proposal poses a challenge on personnel and expertise. Currently, the court is made up of judges who are experts on human right. Thus, if the proposal is to be implemented, it will require the recruitment of experts in the field of conflict management. This obviously, has financial implications on the part of the African Court. Lastly, extension of the mandate of the African Court to the oversight of the African centre for conflict and arbitration will also have financial implications. The Amnesty International Report on the Malabo Protocol highlights that the African Court several times raised the issue of resources allocated to it by the African Union. Therefore, the extension of the mandate will seriously hamper the court in discharging its full mandate if not accompanied by commensurate financial resources.

Conclusively, if the AU takes the CEWM seriously as a means of preventing conflict in Africa (as PAP’s resolution suggests), Africa will be able to promote peace and security and ensure the economic development and integration across the continent. This is because peace and security are inextricably linked with economic development. In ensuring a prosperous and developed Africa, the AU must reinforce its CEWM.  Also, the establishment of an African centre for conflict and arbitration need not be under the auspices of the African Court, as doing so will have a negative impact on the accountability and enforcement of human rights as stipulated in the African Charter.

About the Author

Masalu Masanja is currently completing an LLM in Human Rights and Democratisation in Africa at the Centre for Human Rights, University of Pretoria. He is attached to the Democracy and Civic Engagement Unit of the Centre.


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Uncontacted peoples: A legal failure

Author: Ross Booth
LLB student, University of KwaZulu-Natal

In the age of antiquity, brilliant minds spoke of lost cities and forbidden regions that lay beyond the edges of the known world. Plato famously wrote of Atlantis – a hyper-advanced civilisation that fell from favour with the Gods and was submerged beneath the sea as a consequence. As the world developed, however, and explorers chartered the unchartered, humans realised that these myths were exactly that – myths. But global expansion revealed other mysteries, and while the ideas of golden cities and sunken empires have faded into fable, lost and isolated tribal groups have certainly existed – and still do to this day.

It is roughly estimated that some 100 tribes still operate in varied isolation worldwide, with the bulk situated in different parts of South America. Having largely resisted outside contact (or contact with neighbouring tribes), these indigenous groups have earned the name “uncontacted peoples” – a term that has sparked interest among tourists and missionaries alike. Acting from curiosity or personal intent, many outsiders have sought to intrude upon isolated communities – with differing outcomes. In some instances, tribal groups have welcomed strangers and allowed them to view and even participate in cultural activities. The Jawara tribe on the Andaman Islands of India, has been known to allow tourists and researchers onto their reservation without trouble – even occasionally sending their children to settlements beyond the reserve to be educated. Other tribes, however, are known to respond to outsiders with aggression and violence. The inhabitants of North Sentinel Island are notable for ferociously resisting outside contact, with two fishermen and an American missionary, John Allen Chau, dying as a consequence of trespassing onto the island.

Despite each particular tribe’s nature, the general consensus of the international community is that they must be universally protected to preserve their customs and ways of life. This has resulted in a string of relatively successful and unsuccessful legal measures at both local and international levels.

It seems that each respective country has tackled the issue of tribal protection differently. For example, in the case of North Sentinel Island, the Indian government has established a no-go-zone within a 5-mile radius of the island to ward off trespassers and overflying aircraft. Where a tribe exists within a landlocked region, such as the Awá in Brazil, reserves have generally been demarcated to preserve their existence and prevent a forced assimilation of tribe members into modernity. The Awa tribe has been particularly affected by outside interference and it is largely on account of international pressure from activist groups that their existence has been ensured. As a tribe of hunter gatherers, they live on the move, but their land has become increasingly smaller as logging companies encroach further into their territory. There are even reports of such companies hiring gunmen (known as pistoleros) to “remove” tribe members who stand in the way of their production. No one is safe from such attacks and even children have been killed at the hands of hired guns.

As a result of the plight faced by indigenous groups, countries in South America have become increasingly aware of the need to protect indigenous groups and have even passed state-binding legislation to achieve this. Brazil, for example, has an established group called FUNAI, which gives effect to tribe-related law and ensures that companies with commercial interests in land occupied by indigenous groups refrain from carrying out their activities. However, in recent years, FUNAI has suffered continuous budget cuts which have hampered its protective abilities. Brazil’s president, Jair Bolsonaro, has also vowed to extensively remove the legal barriers which have protected the Amazon from economic activity – essentially opening up the forest to commercialisation. Mounting factors such as these have increased fears that the days of uncontacted peoples are quite literally numbered.

It is no surprise that much of the current legislation passed regarding tribal protection has been ignored by private companies and individuals with misguided intent or a disregard for the survival of native groups. Dozens of tribal communities are situated on land rich in resources such as oil, gas and trees which have in turn attracted corporations that see isolated groups as mere obstacles in the greater scheme of business.

The casual tourist is no less dangerous than the corporation. Many seeking to satisfy their curiosity have illegally ventured into tribal reserves – often with tragic outcomes. Tourists are occasionally met with aggression from tribal inhabitants, and tragedies are common when the no-go-zones are ignored. However, it is ultimately the tribes themselves who face the most significant threat from outside intrusion. Because they have never come into contact with diseases and illnesses (even as trivial as the common cold), isolated tribes have virtually no immunity thereof. Merely one interaction between an outsider and a tribe member could wipe out half of a tribe’s entire population. In 1987, a first-time interaction between an uncontacted people, the Zo’é, and members of an evangelical missionary group (The New Tribes Mission) exposed the tribe to disease which ran rampant through their community, decimating its population. Their numbers have reportedly since recovered, but the initial loss was gravely unnecessary and could have been easily avoided.

Given the severity of the threat from outsiders, protective legislation (and mechanisms to ensure compliance) is imperative. On the international plane, there are no legal instruments that bind the global community with regards to uncontacted peoples. Even UN declarations such as the 2007 Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples has failed to place an obligatory duty on countries to protect tribes within their borders. If given effect to, the Declaration would make it almost impossible to force isolated groups into modernity. For example, Article 8.1 of the Declaration states that “Indigenous peoples and individuals have the right not to be subjected to forced assimilation or destruction of their culture.” This is echoed in Article 10 which avers that “Indigenous peoples shall not be forcibly removed from their lands or territories. No relocation shall take place without the free, prior and informed consent of the indigenous peoples concerned and after agreement on just and fair compensation and, where possible, with the option of return”. In a perfect world, these provisions would guarantee the continued survival of native peoples – as well as the environment they inhabit. Sadly, however, to the international community, these are mere guidelines with no binding effect.

Many have speculated that the only way uncontacted indigenous groups will survive is through public pressure to demarcate land for them and create mechanisms to prevent outside intrusion. As an example, Colombia maintains armed patrols around tribal reserves – something that could be mirrored in other countries to achieve relative success. However, as it stands, no blanket legal remedy exists to encompass all uncontacted peoples, and until one comes into existence, tribe related legislation and unprotected no-go-zones will likely remain ignored by companies and individuals alike.

The clock is ticking on the survival of uncontacted peoples, and we can only hope that the resounding legal failures in respect of their protection will be remedied before their time runs out.

About the Author

Ross Booth is a third year LLB student at UKZN studying towards currently seeking articles of clerkship for the year of 2022 and hopes to pursue a career in Corporate and Finance Law. He is a member of the UKZN Moot Club, Golden Key Honours Society and represents his class in several academic modules. Outside university, he enjoys athletics and is currently training towards running the Two Oceans in 2021. His interests include foreign affairs, politics and cinema. He is also a huge dog lover with a soft spot for German Shepherds.

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Promoting sexual and reproductive health and rights for women with albinism in Africa

Author: Satang Nabaneh
Post-doctoral Fellow, Centre for Human Rights, University of Pretoria

Discrimination and stigma relating to persons with albinism remain the norm in many Africa countries. Persons with albinism have been subjected to gross human rights violations. In some extreme cases, persons with albinism in the African region have been killed for rituals or subjected to other physical abuse. While attention has been given to the killings of persons with albinism worldwide, little attention has been given to other human rights violations they encounter while seeking social services, particularly health care services. Deep-rooted prejudices and stereotypes about persons with albinism tend to aggravate human rights violations they experience. Discrimination against persons with albinism can lead to deleterious health consequences and at the same time hinder access to care for them.

In essence, discriminatory practices against persons with albinism may aggravate their health condition and well-being and at the same time may predispose them to sexual and reproductive ill health. This is more so true for women  with albinism who are in a vulnerable situation. Women with albinism are vulnerable and exposed to multiple forms of discrimination and violations of their rights such as infanticide, physical attacks, lack of access to education, unemployment, sexual violence based on myths that having intercourse with a woman with albinism cures STIs or brings good luck and lack of access to health care. Being a woman with albinism can aggravate the situation as these women encounter multi-layer of discrimination in health care setting.

Twenty-five years after the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) Programme of Action called on states to provide to persons with disabilities in the exercise of their family and reproductive rights and responsibilities, women with albinism continue to encounter challenges with regard to their sexual and reproductive health. The needs of women with albinism often go unmet due to lack of access to information, communication barriers, lack of accessible services and equipment, inaccessible education on sexual and reproductive health, lack of empowerment and regulated autonomy.

In some situations, healthcare providers exhibit prejudices and hostile attitudes towards person with albinism. While the attitudes of healthcare providers limit access to health to persons with albinism in general it can lead to a more devasting effects for women with albinism seeking sexual and reproductive health services. They continue to face barriers to accessing safe motherhood and reproductive health service. Many healthcare providers also have limited knowledge on albinism which for instance results in mothers of new-born children with albinism not receiving sufficient information on how to care with their children with albinism.

Initiatives that tackle sexual and reproductive health and rights issues often neglect the needs of women with albinism, thereby making them particularly vulnerable. In communities where persons with albinism are isolated, women and girls with albinism find it difficult to seek information and services relating to contraception, unwanted pregnancies, or maternal care.

While no human rights instrument specifically relates to the human rights of persons with albinism, the existing provisions in international and regional human rights instruments are applicable to them. In particular, the provisions on non-discrimination, dignity and health recognised by the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, the Protocol to the African Charter on the Rights of Women in Africa (Maputo Protocol) and the Protocol to the African Charter on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities are relevant in advancing the sexual and reproductive health and rights of women living with albinism.

The African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights in recent times, has begun to develop important norms to clarify states obligations regarding provisions of the African Women’s Protocol. For instance, the Commission has issued two important general comments to clarify the content of article 14 of the Maputo Protocol. Although these clarifications relate to women in general, they remain very useful in advancing the sexual and reproductive health and rights of women with albinism in Africa. Both General Comments 1 and 2 emphasise the need for African governments to ensure access to sexual and reproductive health care services to all women on a non-discriminatory basis. Furthermore, they reinforce the importance of paying more attention to the health needs of vulnerable and marginalised groups in society such as refuge women, women with disabilities (including those with albinism) and women living with HIV. In other words, African governments are obligated to eliminate discriminatory practices in access to health care services for persons with albinism, especially women with albinism.

Failure by African governments to ensure access to health care services to women with albinism will amount to a violation of the right to dignity. Dignity requires that all human beings be treated with decency and respectability. The notion of dignity is an intrinsic part of every human being, which is not subject to variation or modification

In line with their obligations under international law, African governments are required to take appropriate measures to address discriminatory practices against persons with albinism in general and women with albinism, in particular. Inclusion of persons with albinism would require mainstreaming their needs in policies, and programmes relevant to sexual and reproductive health, and a disability-specific strategy that includes developing and implementing disability-specific laws, policies, and programme activities designed for the purpose of promoting the sexual and reproductive health and rights of persons with disabilities, particularly women with albinism.

This requires committing more resources to address the health needs of women with albinism. In addition, African governments must commit to training health care providers in order to meet the specific needs of women with albinism.

Note: This post is based on research that was published recently: E Durojaye & S Nabaneh & ‘Human rights and access to health care for persons with albinism in Africa’ 7 (2019) African Disability Rights Yearbook 35-58

About the Author:
Satang Nabaneh is a Post-doctoral Fellow at the Centre for Human Rights, Faculty of Law, University of Pretoria. She is the Programme Manager of the LLM/MPhil in Sexual and Reproductive Rights in Africa (SRRA) at the Centre. Satang holds the degrees LLD and LLM in Human Rights and Democratisation in Africa from the University of Pretoria and an LLB from the University of The Gambia. Her research interests include a broad range of issues related to international human rights, women’s rights, democracy, and constitutionalism.

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The ISIS threat against South Africa: preliminary questions, considerations and the potential for a regional response

Author: Marko Svicevic
Post-doctoral research fellow, South African Research Chair in International Law (SARCIL), University of Johannesburg


The recent threat issued against South Africa by the ISIS-affiliated insurgency in Mozambique has once again signaled a growing reality facing the country – an ever-increasing terrorist presence in the SADC region. While the insurgency in the Cabo Delgado province has been around for several years, it is the first time that South Africa has been the target of an open threat. Not unexpectedly, a number of questions have arisen. This post serves to highlight some preliminary questions and considerations relating to the insurgency in Mozambique and the potential threat to South Africa. These include among others: links the current insurgency holds with ISIS, the credibility of the threat issued against South Africa, probability and capacity for the insurgency (or ISIS) to follow through with the threat, and the potential for a regional response.


The insurgency in Mozambique began in October 2017 when it first targeted government buildings during a two-day period. Over the course of three years, it has decimated entire villages and continues to launch targeted attacks across Cabo Delgado – Mozambique’s Northern most province. In its most recent attack, the insurgency has reportedly seized the port town of Mocimboa de Praia. The insurgency has since become known as Ansar al-Sunna (Al-Sunna wa Jama’a), a militant Islamist group which, most reports suggest, is aiming to establish an Islamic State in Mozambique. Locally, the insurgency is referred to as al-Shabaab, although it is distinct from the terrorist organisation operating in Somalia. The exact links between Ansar al-Sunna and ISIS are however not entirely clear. What is known is that the insurgency arose independently and operated as such until July 2019 when it pledged allegiance to ISIS. Subsequently, ISIS has claimed responsibility for several attacks in Cabo Delgado. More so, the ISIS linked Amaq News Agency has begun incorporating video footage of several attacks launched by Ansar al-Sunna. Beyond this, there have also been reports that the insurgency has occasionally recruited al-Shabaab mercenaries from Somalia for training purposes. Whether there is any direct ISIS involvement however remains speculative. Consequently, the level of communication, coordination and any possible logistical or financial cooperation between ISIS and Ansar al-Sunna is open to question. At present, the AU considers the insurgency a terrorist organisation while the US Department of State considers it an ISIS-affiliated group. Additionally, the UN Security Council Committee concerning ISIS, Al Qaida and its affiliates has noted reports suggesting a unification of ISIS groups across the DRC, Somalia and Mozambique. It also confirmed that the Mozambique insurgency has been added to the Islamic State Central Africa Province, with one member state reporting that operations in Mozambique were ‘planned and commanded’ from the DRC.

Is the threat credible?

On 7 June, an editorial piece was published addressing the Mozambique insurgency under Al Naba (#241), the official newsletter of the ISIS central media office. It warned that should South Africa become involved in Mozambique; it may result in the opening of a fighting front within the country. While an open threat against South Africa was quick to make headlines, its credibility is not entirely clear. When one takes into account the ongoing situation in Cabo Delgado and broader ISIS activities, two considerations may inform the credibility of the threat. First is the intention behind the threat, which is also closely linked to the timing within which it was issued. Second is the capacity of Ansar al-Sunna to undertake actions against the South African state (in the case at hand, reprisals on South African territory).

Where the first consideration arises, the following may be noted. On the one hand, ISIS fueled online propaganda is not a new occurrence – and those suggesting the threat is part of its broader propaganda machinations raise valid points. Since the loss of territory and control in both Syria and Iraq in recent years, ISIS has increasingly resorted to online propaganda, including threats of domestic terrorist acts. Additionally, its online recruitment capabilities through well-orchestrated propaganda mechanisms have been well documented. On the other hand, it would be naïve to brush off or underestimate the threat for several reasons. Previous threats of retaliation by a number of extremist organisations have been followed through with on several occasions. Moreover, the threat seems to have been issued at a particularly noteworthy time. While the insurgency has been around for well over two years, its threat against South Africa was released some two weeks after Minister of International Relations and Cooperation Dr Naledi Pandor publicly confirmed that discussions were underway with Mozambique on how South Africa could provide assistance. Given the relationship between the two countries and their SADC membership, it is unlikely this development took Ansar al-Sunna by surprise. The insurgency must have at the least foreseen the potential for a broader or regional response. After all, there have been reports of at least two private military entities, Russia’s Wagner Group and South Africa’s Dyck Advisory Group having provided military assistance to Mozambique.[i] The threat against South Africa may therefore be an early attempt at mitigating further external involvement.

The second consideration behind the threat’s credibility concerns the insurgency’s capacity to retaliate. Phrased differently, is Ansar al-Sunna able to, as it has threatened, wage a fighting front within South Africa. This consideration brings about more questions. What kind of capacity does the insurgency currently possess? Is it at all able to (re)direct its capacity against South Africa? On the one hand, there are numerous reports which suggest the insurgency has coordinated large scale attacks (at least on a regional level). On several occasions, it has targeted a number of sites simultaneously. Additionally, in recent months, conflict levels in the province have increased dramatically. While this may be indicative of the insurgency’s capacities, its ability to wage conflict may in part also be attributable to a weak or deficient response from the Mozambican armed forces in pushing back the insurgency. Given however the increased level of conflict which the insurgency is currently engaging in, it may question to what extent it can re-direct available resources. To this end, it seems unlikely that the insurgency could undertake a large-scale offensive against either South African assets in Mozambique or the South African state.

On the other hand, the insurgency need not consider nor re-direct any capacity to follow through with its threat. It has been well pointed out that the threat may inspire retaliation that may take the form of a ‘lone-wolf’ terrorist attacker. It would also mean that any attack against the South African state need not necessarily emanate from the insurgency but may be planned and undertaken independently of it. Moreover, this line of reasoning gains strength if one considers the threat against South Africa originated from the ISIS central media office, and at least not directly from the insurgency in Mozambique.  Nonetheless, any attack may give the impression that the insurgency (or even ISIS) has ‘infiltrated’ South Africa’s territory, and bolster too perceived capabilities.  Whether that may warrant a military response from the South African state is debatable; but it would certainly increase political expectations on an appropriate response.

The potential of a regional engagement

As was noted above, South Africa has recently confirmed it is in talks with Mozambican authorities on how it could provide assistance. Whether such assistance would take the form of military support remains uncertain. Mozambique has in the meantime reportedly requested direct intervention from Zimbabwe. Although neither state has confirmed whether they will be providing military assistance, pressure is mounting on a regional response particularly from SADC. The SADC security framework is adequately comprehensive; providing for a range of actions to assist member states against both inter and intra state situations. Additionally, SADC maintains a standby brigade for purposes of peace support missions and deployments during times of crisis. South Africa may well consider that the most appropriate assistance to Mozambique should come from SADC. A regional response may also alleviate the financial and logistical burden on individual member states assisting by means of bilateral agreements.

At the same time, political dilemmas in individual member states and complex regional relations may render the organisation unable to act. For the time being, at its 40th ordinary summit, SADC welcomed Mozambique’s decision to bring to its attention the ‘violent attacks situation in the country, and commended the country for its continued efforts towards combatting terrorism and violent attacks.’  The summit also pledged support to Mozambique in addressing the insurgency. Whether that support includes military assistance is yet to be seen. It is worth noting however that a purely military response will not solve the region’s problems in addressing the insurgency. To this end, any response from South Africa or SADC will have to take into account wider humanitarian and post-conflict peace-building considerations.

[i] Some reports suggest that the Wagner Group has withdrawn from Mozambique entirely. Other reports indicate the group maintains a presence at its primary base of operations in Nacala.

About the Author:

Marko Svicevic is a Post-doctoral research fellow at the South African Research Chair in International Law (SARCIL), University of Johannesburg.

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Angola’s Law and justice Reform Commission: an opportunity for broader and more robust reforms?

Author: Eduardo Kapapelo
Centre for Human Rights, University of Pretoria

In May 2020 Angolan President Joao Lourenço through Dispatch 72/20 established the Commission for Law and Justice Reform (the Commission). The Commission has the mandate to reforming Angola’s law and justice institutions. At first glance the Commission is in line with achieving continental objectives such as the African Union’s Agenda 2063 which stresses that key to achieving Africa’s developmental needs requires ‘democratic values, culture practices, universal principles of human rights, gender, equality, justice and the rule of law are entrenched’.

The Commission has within its scope of work to reform Angola’s judicial system with a particular focus on amending the organic laws of the Constitutional Court, the Supreme Court, the Court of Auditors, the State House, the Attorney General’s Office and the Angolan Bar Association. The exact nature and concrete steps of such reform are still to be seen.

In the commission’s first meeting, Angola’s minister of justice and human rights Francisco Quiero who also serves as coordinator stated that, the establishment of the Commission attested the to the interest of ‘maintaining and reinforcing the institutional cohesion of Angola’s sovereign organs in the promotion of justice and in the construction of justice’. Ironically enough and though Angola’s law and justice reform is of vital importance, the approach in which such reforms are being proposed seem to raise a number of eyebrows.

A troublesome feature of the Commission can arguably be said to be in part in its objective of ‘reinforcing’ the organs of sovereign power as per the 2010 Constitution. Such approach of ‘reinforcing’ implies bolstering the already disproportionate power dynamics which exist between the three branches of government in Angola – in which the president already holds extensive powers as both head of state and holder of ‘executive power’. In addition, the Commission’s reforms would seem to have very little effect in changing the legal system as the major issues facing Angola relate to the nature of political power as provided for within the 2010 Constitution and the implications of such power both within the legal system and social life.

As opposed to ‘reinforcing’ the organs of sovereign power, the Commission might be better served in dealing with issues of constitutional imbalance seen through the 2010 Constitution. Imbalances which not only undermine human rights in Angola but also make it nearly impossible for the administration of justice to take place within the confines of what is generally understood to be a functioning constitutional democracy.

In its current form, and as it relates to political power, the 2010 Constitution creates a vertical relationship dynamic in which political power rests squarely within the hands of the president who rules through his auxiliary organs. Article 105 of the Constitution vests sovereign power on three institutions: (1) the President of the Republic, (2) the National Assembly and (3) the Courts. Theoretically, these institutions should be independent and inter-dependent of each other. In the case of Angola, this is not the case such relationship is rather hierarchical – with the executive being at the top followed by the National Assembly and then the Courts.

An interesting aspect within the Angolan Constitution which was carried over from Angola’s one party state system is the creation within the constitution of ‘auxiliary bodies serving the president’ in which according to article 14 of the Constitution include, the vice-president of the republic, the ministers of state and ministers, secretaries of state and vice-ministers.

In regards to the already skewed and imbalanced nature of power within the Angolan system is the fact that the national assembly has no oversight powers over the executive. A 2013 Constitutional Court decision read that: ‘to have powers to call on members of the executive would be the same as having the power to call on the President who is the head of government – and that is unacceptable’.  The Court further stated that it is unacceptable to call on ‘members of the executive; this then means that the national assembly in addition to not having the power to hold the president to account – it neither has the power to call on members of the executive, and in this case the ‘auxiliary organs’ of state serving the president. This has dangerous consequences for human rights and democratisation.

Any legal reform in Angola requires drastic change not only of the law itself but also the very nature of power, and how such power is wielded. There is also a need to take into consideration that within the Angolan constitutional framework there are no accountability mechanisms which would force those holding political power to account.

As Angola embarks on this journey of legal and judicial reform, it is not sufficient to only focus on the judiciary, but also in ways in which to dismantle Angola’s overly centralised state as seen through the 2010 Constitution. The current nature of Angola’s constitutional democracy poses a danger towards achieving what agenda 2063 describes as the need to establish institutions that are ‘at the service of its people’ and where citizens ‘will actively participate in the social, economic and political development and management’.

The Commission must also acknowledge the nature of the social and political dimensions of Angola’s post-war peace, through elaborating legal and transitional justice (TJ) mechanisms which would allow for victims and perpetrators to address past crimes. The simple minded ‘forgive and forget’ narrative and blanket amnesty for war crimes passed by the Angolan government at the end of its civil war poses a danger towards building a society which is at peace both with itself and its past. Past crimes and injustices must be identified, investigated and addressed.

Why deal with the past? and how can it benefit the future?

The World Report on Violence and Health (2002) defined violence as:

The intentional us of physical force or power, threatened or actual, against oneself, or another person, or against a group or community, that either results in or has a high likelihood of resulting in injury, death, psychological harm, maldevelopment or deprivation.

This definition is broad and associates ‘intentionally’ with the ‘committing’ of the act of violence itself, irrespective of the outcome it produces. Moreover, the use of the word ‘power’ as per the report broadens the nature of the violent act to include those acts that result ‘from a power relationship, including threats and intimidation’. Moreover, the use of ‘power’ also serves to include neglect or acts of ‘omission’. The report concludes that ‘the use of physical force or power should be understood to include neglect and all types of physical, sexual and phycological abuse, as well as suicide and other self-abusive acts’ (WHO Report 2002).

Such definition of violence fits well into identifying forms of violence within states that have experienced periods of violent conflict and forms of domination such as racial, religious, and ethnic just to mention a few. Moreover, and as per the definition, one can extrapolate that individuals who were violated and still face the psychological and the maldevelopment effects of the violence done to them continue to face violence even after the acts have been committed.

Incorporating this idea of violence to transitional justice might assist in not only creating a greater sense of urgency in dealing with past violence but also help societies emerging from violence understand the after effects and consequences of violence in building strong, viable and democratic societies.

The preamble of the Constitutive Act of the African Union (AU) acknowledges the threat posed by conflict and commits the organisation to promote peace and security, human rights and the fight against impunity. The significance of transitional justice within the AU is based on the acknowledgement that Africa’s history of upheaval through colonialism, wars of liberation and internal conflicts should be addressed within the context of states’ own experiences.

Having in mind such upheavals and its consequences on African States, as  they strengthen their political and social institutions the AU’s transitional justice approach was significantly captured through various initiatives: (1) the AU Transitional Justice Policy which acknowledges that transitional justice is ‘crucial for the promotion of human rights and justice, peace and security, good governance and development’ which links directly to Agenda 2063 on the ‘Africa we want’ and (2) the Panel of the Wise Report  on Peace, Justice, and Reconciliation in Africa which acknowledges that ‘justice and reconciliation are antidotes to impunity’.

The AU Transitional Justice Policy establishes the notion of justice in reference to the provision of ‘judicial and non-judicial measures that not only ensure accountability of perpetrators of violations, but also redress to individuals and communities that suffered violations’. The AU Transitional Justice Policy goes on to define transitional justice as ‘the formal and non-formal policy measures and institutional mechanisms that societies, through an inclusive and consultative process, adopt in order to overcome past violations, divisions and inequities and to create conditions for both security and democratic and socio-economic transformation’.

A major outcome of the Panel of the Wise Report was the recognition of impunity as a phenomenon which arises in the ‘absence of institutions that promote pluralism, participation, impartiality, accountability, and fairness’.

Addressing past and present impunity in post-conflict states like Angola is of vital importance as massive and widespread human rights violations have significantly influenced the relationship between trust, justice and the rule of law as the violations which occurred have effectively broken the trust between citizens and the institutions of the state.

As Angola works towards reforming its law and justice system, institutional impunity is a major obstacle which the Commission must tackle. Yet, as it addresses such issues transitional justice cannot be left out of the process, because dealing with transitional justice issues in Angola is directly linked to undermining the impunity culture which has been allowed to go unchecked since the one party state system in Angola which arose in the 1970s and continued onwards through the country’s near thirty year old civil war. Impunity is directly linked with institutional repression which is coupled with violence and rights violations – and as a result tackling such impunity in Angola requires a careful and intentional institutional investigation of past crimes and abuses.

Consequently, and in order to build trust and the legitimacy of institutions in the present, addressing past violations is vital and has two very specific benefits: (1) it will work towards reinforcing fundamental principles such as those of justice and the rule of law and (2) it recognises that only through addressing past violations can justice and the rule of law have real meaning in post-conflict states.

Addressing Angola’s forms of domination

Angola and its people have endured three forms of domination: (1) colonial rule (2) Angola’s violent and brutal civil war which resulted in massive and widespread human violations and (3) the stripping of citizens fundamental rights and liberties seen within the post-civil war period.

As the Commission works towards elaborating the scope of its work, and in particular regarding issues of law and justice, the Commission faces a singular and unique opportunity to work towards contributing to social and political stability through addressing Angola’s history of domination and with it set the country on a trajectory towards national reconciliation.

In light of such ‘triple domination’, the Commission should take into consideration both past and present forms of violence while looking at ways in which the legal framework may address both. The past violence, thorough appropriate transitional justice mechanisms and the present violence through the establishment of a justice system which will ensure that the Angolan people are never again subjected to violence and domination – least of all through the state and its institutions.

As a result, a human rights approach must underpin the work of the Commission while expanding its mandate to not only deal with past and present crimes against the Angolan people experienced during its civil war but also work towards reforming the justice system so as to address and prevent future rights violations.  In light of this, constitutional amendments must be strongly considered.

Amending the Angolan Constitution would aid in what constitutional scholars such as Meledje (2010) have argued would ensure ‘stability of institutions and relations between them, within the framework of the operation of the power of the State’, something which in its current form, the 2010 Angolan Constitution lacks. In addition, amending the Constitution would also work specifically towards addressing issues of impunity and past crimes and how in the case of Angola the two terms are mutually inclusive. Teitel (1999) noted in speaking about transitional constitution making argued that ‘transitional constitutionalism is also responsive for prior rule, through principles that critically refine the prevailing political system, effecting further political change in the system’.

Establishing a hybrid National Human Rights Institution

Human rights accountability bodies such as independent national human rights institutions (NHRIs) are vital within any constitutional democracy. In addition to Angola’s Constitution disproportionally centralising power within the executive branch, Angola has no national human rights institution which would at the very least work towards identifying rights violations.

The Paris Principles adopted in 1991 stressed that the establishment of national human rights institutions are vital towards the protection of human rights. It went further in noting that, ‘a national institution shall be given as broad a mandate as possible, which shall be clearly set forth in a Constitution or legislative text, specifying its composition and its sphere of competence’.

Angola is one of a few African countries which has still failed to set up a national human rights institution. Such failure further undermines not only the promotion and protection of human rights, but also hinders legitimate processes through which government action can be checked by an independent organisation out of the control of government.

Under the Paris Principles, NHRIs are required: (1) Protect human rights, including receiving, investigating and resolving complaints, mediating conflicts and monitoring activities and (2) promote human rights, through education, outreach, the media, publications, training capacity-building, as well as by advising and assisting government. NHRIs are also important because they play directly towards the promotion of a civic political culture which prioritises human rights as a vital pillar towards democratisation and state building.

The Paris Principles further identified five criteria that NHRIs should meet in order for them to be successful, (1) mandate and competence- their mandate should be based on global human rights standards, (2) autonomy from government- meaning that such institutions must not in any way be dependent on government and or influenced by government hence – the need for them to be constitutionally mandated, (3) Independence, plural in nature, (4) financial autonomy and (5) adequate powers of investigation.

The Commission in this regard, should consider working towards establishing a NHRI as part of the constitutional amendments which would work towards safeguarding rights and governance mechanisms. According to the Vienna Declaration and programme of Action, States have the right to choose the NHRI framework that best suits their contextual needs. An Angolan NHRI should then adopt a hybrid administrative mandate which would have the mandate to:

(1) promote and protect human rights and (2) address maladministration and institutional corruption.

Such a hybrid model would be a first step towards creating stability within the Angolan political and social system while serving as a constitutionally mandated accountability mechanism which would aid in supplementing Angola’s current democratic deficit. The transitional justice process would then be prioritised under the mandate to promote and protect human rights.


About the Author:

Eduardo Kapapelo is a Doctoral candidate and Project Coordinator at the Centre for Human Rights, University of Pretoria. His research interests include human rights and foreign policy, comparative constitutional law and normative political theory.

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COVID-19, Darfur’s food security crisis and IDPs: From ruins to ruins

300 000 people have been killed, and over 2.7 million have been forcibly displaced as a result of a genocide that has left the legacy of displacement and destitution. The war was initiated by the government-backed armed groups known as ‘Janjaweed’ militants in 2003, who have been accused of systematic and widespread atrocities, such as murdering and torturing of the civilian population, including raping their women and intentionally burning their villages.

In 2009, the Pre-Trial Chamber I of the International Criminal Court (ICC) issued an arrest warrant against Omar Al Bashir, the President of Sudan for his involvement in committing crimes against humanity (Article 7 of the Rome Statute) and war crimes (Article 8 of the Rome Statute) against the population including civilians in the 2003 conflict. A referral was issued through the mandate of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) Resolution 1593 vis-à-vis Chapter VII of the UN Charter read with Article 13(b) of the Rome Statute to open an investigation to crimes committed by Bashir’s regime.

However, there was little appetite to send the President to the trial, primarily because Sudan is not a party to the Rome Statute and even if it was, international criminal law is based on complementarity wherein a case is only admissible before ICC when it is proved that the state is unwilling or unable to prosecute the head of a state (Article 17). The new transitional military-backed government that ousted President Bashir on April 11, 2019, has assured that he will face trial in the state and in furtherance of their promise, the interim government charged President Bashir for his involvement in the 1989 coup d’état that dismantled the democratic government of Prime Minister Sadiq-al-Mahdi. Other charges against him concern corruption, financing terrorist organizations, including his involvement in the Darfur war.

Independence of South Sudan escalated violence and displacement in the state

The liberation of South Sudan in 2011 from the Republic of Sudan reflects the best of all times and the worst of all times. It was a moment of jubilation for the millions of people who have suffered during the vicious regime of the Bashir government. But the independence movement triggered widespread internal displacement of 825, 000  people, famine, and even ghastly chemical attacks on civilians and young children by the government in the Jebel Marra region of Darfur in 2016. More than 60% of the internally displaced persons (IDPS) were children.

Since its independence, the state remains riddled in conflict over its indigenous and ethnic issues even after it declared English as its national language, breaking away from the burden that the rest of the colonizer Sudan imposes in terms of diversity and culture. But it appears it cannot be detached from political unrest as the newest state broke into a civil war in 2013 killing almost 50, 000 people and approximately four million have been internally displaced and or fled to other regions across the border such as Chad and Uganda.

As the health crisis of COVID-19 impends over Sudan, more than 1.87 million IDPs  continue to undergo degrading treatment in the overcrowded and substandard camps in Darfur. The camps lack adequate resources to exercise social distancing measures and most of the IDPs are dependent on aid from civil society organizations.

International law specifies humane treatment for IDPs. The London Declaration is a non-binding international framework governing the rights of IDPs. The specific international framework concerning the rights and protection of IDPs in Africa is the Kampala Convention that defines IDPs under Article I(k)as persons who are forced to flee their habitual residence as a result of armed conflict, situation of generalized violence, violations of human rights, natural or human-made disasters and have not crossed an international border. The Convention duly acknowledges the nature of conflict in Africa and guarantees wide range of substantives rights including the duty of the state to not hamper the humanitarian aid received for the assistance of IDPs.  Sudan has not yet acceded to the Kampala Convention.

COVID-19 exposes real-life human tragedy in Darfur

According to the UN Officer for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), around 9.6 million people are at the brink of starvation. The pandemic has majorly affected young children and IDPs living in Darfur and South Kordofan. Darfur where conflict and killing never seem to end is facing a 99% surge in inflation rate which directly hampers the purchasing power of individuals. While the world is claiming the right to health as an irrefutable human right, the IDPs in Darfur are living in overcrowded shelters where they barely have access to one meal per day.

More than 5.5 million people lack access to potable water and hygiene. There are fears over health disaster in El Faser as people do not have adequate transport facilities to visit hospitals and moreover, hospitals cannot do much because of the ill-equipped health care system. A UN worker in El Fasher says, ‘You cannot stay at home because you need to eat and drink. But no one has food for five or even two days. They think if we are dying from not eating or drinking, then let coronavirus kill us.’ Unfortunately, delivering humanitarian aid to Sudan to date remains a herculean task as the armed troops constantly obstructs any attempts to provide assistance to IDPs and young children by the humanitarian aid workers.

Africa has a history of witnessiing collateral damage whenever a pandemic hits the continent. The 2003 Ebola saw an exponential high surge in mortality rate, collapse of the local and national healthcare systems in some countries, and more than 10,000 deaths. The ability of a community to fight back a pandemic depends a lot on their financial and economic stability, healthcare infrastructure, and systematic planning of the government to tackle the crisis which Sudan thoroughly lacks.


The 2019 paradigm shift towards a pro-democratic movement in Sudan now requires a proactive role of the government in first, extending protection to the civilian population, ensuring assistance such as health rights to the IDPs at the urgent basis, and arranging the return of those who were forcibly displaced during the conflict to different states. Adopting these measures would potentially place the government in a better position to request the United States to remove Sudan from its State-Sponsored Terrorist (SST) list, the designation which not only outcasts Sudan but also makes the request for humanitarian assistance difficult. Recently, the government in its attempt to prove their worth criminalized female genital mutilation and repealed the regressive Public Order Law (PLO) that restricted the rights of women in terms of their appearance and movement in public. It is high time the government ratify the Maputo Protocol concerning the Rights of Women and Girl Child in Africa as it guarantees substantive rights against a wide range of gender-based violence and discrimination. But concerns over the rise of inter-communal rebellion groups and its extremely weak health care system remain stagnant with no sign of improvement.

The current concern plaguing the state is the proposed withdrawal of 26,000 UN peacekeeping forces from Sudan. Jehanne Henry, East Africa director of the Human Rights Watch states that such a move is not advisable especially in Darfur that has a plagued history of state-sponsored violence on civilians. Removal of troops will not only jeopardize the civilian population but could expose millions of IDPs and other persons entirely relying on humanitarian aid either to starvation or another armed attack. Many refugees of the Darfur war still yearn to return home in search of their other family members and many IDPs have been waiting to live a normal day in properly built homes with three-square meals a day but for a state that has ingrained war and bloodshed, the roadmap of peace is yet to be drawn. Now more than ever, Sudan must live up to its responsibilities and protect and fulfil the rights of IDPs. Ratifying and domesticating the Kampala Convention will be a step in the right direction. The author hopes someday Sudan will find peace and security.

About the Author

Gursimran Kaur Bakshi is a student at the National University of Study and Research in Law, Ranchi, India.

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