AU body has vital role to play

Wednesday, 27 May, 2009 - 08:10

For a more proactive response to conflicts in Africa, proximate as well as structural and long-term conflict prevention must be stressed and mechanisms such as the African Commission should be actively involved in peace and security strategies

It is less onerous to prevent conflicts than to attempt interventions aimed at resolving them once they have erupted.

This is more so on our continent, where the under-equipped African Union/United Nations hybrid mission in Darfur, Sudan, remains deprived of much-needed logistical support.

This is also the case in Zimbabwe, where external donors are still reluctant to fully bankroll a fledgling government of national unity, and support the country's uncertain recovery.

Since 2000 and the defeat of a proposed constitution, Africa and the international community have witnessed Zimbabwe go through a series of economic, political and social choices that have infringed on the liberties of a large part of the population.

By adopting the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights in 1981, African governments explicitly committed to respecting and fulfilling international human rights obligations.

The African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights is the main body established to monitor the implementation of the rights proclaimed under its charter, to promote and protect human rights.

The commission also endeavours to regularly scrutinise the situation in countries such as Ethiopia, Chad, Mauritania and Sudan. Thus, in the case of Zimbabwe, why the apathy by many African leaders to condemn the human rights abuses that led to the post-election violence and social crisis in that country?

Human rights violations are among the root causes of most violent conflicts across the globe.

The human rights records of countries singled out by monitoring bodies such as the African Commission can therefore be used as a conflict early warning indicator by political organs of the AU and sub-regional organisations such as the Southern African Development Community.

In fact, the crisis in Zimbabwe, or protracted conflicts in several countries, could have been attended to, mitigated and quite possibly prevented, should the African Commission's conclusions - establishing cases of limited political participation, exclusion of "minorities" from governance, socio-economic deprivation and limited access to resources - been given more attention by African leaders.

For a more proactive response to conflicts in Africa, proximate as well as structural and long-term conflict prevention must be stressed and mechanisms such as the African Commission should be actively involved in peace and security strategies.

Mireille Affa'a Mindzie is a senior project officer in the Conflict Intervention and Peacebuilding Support Project (CIPS) at the Centre for Conflict Resolution. This article was first published in The Sunday Independent and is republished here with permission from the author.

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