May 10, 2013, 10:13 AM
The two-week long forum get underway a day after the closing of a three-day Forum on the Participation of NGOs in the 54th ordinary session of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights and the 28th African Human Rights Book Fair.
The NGO Forum, which brought together over 100 human rights defenders and activists, representatives of civil society organizations, UN and African Union officials, was aimed at fostering cooperation among and between NGOs, as well as with the African Commission, with the aim of promoting and protecting human rights in Africa.
In her official opening statement, Justice Mama Fatima Singhateh, Attorney General and Minister of Justice, said while many African countries are thriving even amidst the global economic crisis, as a continent, we are still facing a number of challenges that disrupt our progress towards peace and development.
‘‘Acts of terrorism against our populations and wars are still disrupting the lives of many of our brothers and sisters in Africa,’’ she stated.
Justice Singhateh told delegates that the Gambia government reiterates its support to the AU, its organs and the international community in their quest to end conflicts in our continent and also in the war against terrorism which unfortunately are becoming too frequent, not only in Africa but all over the world.
‘‘We have and will continue to advocate for the peace and security of our continent and its people.
‘‘Our citizens must enjoy their rights in Africa and not feel obliged to embark on perilous trips while searching for better lives on other continents. Just in the last quarter of 2013, the Mediterranean Ocean has become a cemetery for our beloved brothers, sisters and children who, swindled by unscrupulous individuals, embark on a one-way trip towards a dream life that sometimes results in the loss of their lives,’’ she stated.
Catherin Dupe Atoki, chairperson of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, said the 54th ordinary session offers them a framework, to collectively exchange on and evaluate the situation of human rights on the continent, and to review progress made in the implementation of the rights and freedoms guaranteed in the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights.
Commenting on the human rights situation on the continent, Atoki said the commission welcomed the positive gains that have been made in the democratic process in some state parties.
However, she added, the commission has noted with dismay that many of the gains that have been made in several parts of the continent are constantly being eroded, through the resurgence of conflict, terrorism, unconstitutional change of governments, gross human rights violations and the impunity that accompanies them.
‘‘While considerable efforts to improve the lot of the masses have been made by many state parties, millions of our people continue to live undignified lives, with many languishing in extreme poverty, without access to food, clean drinking water, proper healthcare, education and shelter,’’ she noted.