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‘The press is muzzled and intimidated’

Nov 25, 2010, 11:28 AM | Article By: Sainey MK Marenah

The acting Chairperson of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, Commissioner Mumba Malila, has opined that the press in the African continent “is muzzled and intimated, while the judiciary is undermined”.

Commissioner Malila made these remarks at the closing of the 48th ordinary session of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights held at the Sheraton Hotel from 10 to 24 November 2010.

The session, convened every six months, was meant to assess and review the continent’s human rights situation.

It brought together state delegates, human rights defenders, civil society organisations, journalists and other delegates.

Commissioner Malila said: “As we all know, in many parts of our continent today, some of those who wield political power choose to misapply and abuse it. Elections fraud and intimidation are the order of the day, dissenting opinions are suppressed for nothing better than political expediency, the press is muzzled and intimidated, the judiciary is undermined.”

According to him, there is absence of democratic governance and the rule of law in most parts of the continent.

“Regrettably, the rule of man is the norm in some countries in our beautiful continent. Absence of rule of law is a perfect recipe for anarchy, and the continuing threats to the enjoyment of human rights,” he added.

Hon. Malila told regional delegates that the protection and promotion of human rights are cardinal virtues to democratic governance and sustainable development on the continent, and these are integral parts of the African Union’s core values.

The African Commission’s acting chair is of the conviction that the consolidation of democratic governance and the promotion of constitutional rule and human rights demands that “we always have a climate of legality about us”.

He stated: “If as we sometimes see in some African countries, those with executive authority violate the law with impunity, disregard court orders and impose their rule against the will of voters, are in the front line in the open raping and plunder of state resources for personal gains, a climate of illegality prevails.”

The African continent, Hon. Malila further stated, has witnessed decades of immense human rights challenges, resulting from a diverse range of factors including civil wars, poverty, corruption and autocratic governance.

“The situation of human rights in Africa, unfortunately, continues to be of grave concern in spite of the existence of the charter and the implementing organ it creates, the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights,” Malila further noted.

Declaring the session closed, Edward Gomez, Attorney-General and Minister of Justice, reminded the session of the enormous task they are performing in curbing the sporadic human rights violations in the African continent, adding that the Commission has to fulfill various tasks on human rights.

He spoke at length about the violations of human rights in the African continent, while applauding the work of the Commission in the promotion and protection of human rights.

“You have embarked on a noble and great task, and I entreat you to continue the noble task. Africa is a great continent,” Gomez added.

According to Minister Gomez, the African continent is the richest continent in the world, but there are pending issues that needed to be tackled.

Despite all these, he said, the continent remains the poorest in the world.

He urged the commission to eradicate evil acts in the society, which, he added, is not limited to the violation of human rights.

At the closing of the session, a communiqué was released outlining concerns raised and recommendations made during the session.