Addis Ababa, Ethiopia (PANA) - With at least 25 general elections due to be held across Africa this year, various non-governmental agencies Friday challenged the African Union (AU) to boldly stand in defence of good governance in the continent, and to translate into concrete actions key decisions on peace and security.
This wake up call comes at a time of post-election violence in Cote d'Ivoire, and amid signs of potential tension in South Sudan, where the result of a self-determination referendum is due in the coming days.
Countries organising general elections this year include Nigeria, DR Congo, Egypt, Chad and Cameroon.
"Democracy as well as free and fair elections are a human right and, as such, should be valued by all," said Alioune Tine, chair of African Rally for the Defence of Human Rights (RADDHO), a continental human rights organisation.
Meeting here ahead of the 16th ordinary session of the AU heads of state and government summit, representatives of the human rights and humanitarian agencies said democracy, good governance and human rights are core values which should be shared by all countries in Africa for the benefit of all citizens.
The summit has chosen as its theme "Towards Greater Unity and Integration through Shared Values", as a basis for building alliances and ensuring their common goals for peace, democracy and human rights.
International agency Oxfam, which through its network of partners across Africa has always fought for these values, reaffirmed its commitment, stating "these values will remain central to its campaign and advocacy policy because Africans continue to be deprived of their civil rights."
Desire Assogbavi, head of Oxfam's liaison office with the AU, said his agency - with its partners across Africa - would continue to stand against injustice, political vote rigging and bribes as well as against any human rights violation, like in DRC where the Ugandan rebel group Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) still commits many atrocities.
"We have also the case in Somalia where there is a sense of powerlessness in front of the suffering civilian population. We are standing with women and children of Somalia. We are standing for women and children in the east and northeast of DRC, and we demand that the AU come boldly at this summit with concreterecommendations to give hope to African citizens in the field of good governance and democracy," said Assogbavi.
A consortium of 13 non-governmental organisations operating in Africa have presented to diplomats accredited to the AU a 'State of the Union' report on the implementation of the organisation's decisions at national level.
Researched in 10 countries, the report shows that only a limited number of the decisions taken by the continental body are implemented by its member states.
"We call on the heads of state to recommit to ratifying and implementing without further delay all outstanding legal treaties and policy standards with special focus on those that have the greatest promise for the majority of our people who are denied fundamental freedoms and basic human rights," said Assogbavi.
The NGOs emphasised that only an African Union that respects and implements its own decisions would meet the goal of an integrated and peaceful Africa.
"Without this," Assogbavi added, "the Union will shrink into an expensive club of leaders far from the realities of the majority of its citizens... It's now time to close the gap between promises and the realities of peoples' lives."
-0- PANA AR/SEG 28Jan2011