News feature: Whither Africa's common values?

Addis Ababa, Ethiopia (PANA) - The freedom struggle in pre-independence Africa was fuelled by common values of the people under colonial domination to underpin Pan-Africanism that reaffirmed human dignity, irrespective of colour or creed.

Deservedly, anthropologists have acknowledged Africa's contribution to human history, especially the civilised art of peaceful life in small societies before the creation of states.

But it now boggles the mind to see the same Africa, where the roots of mankind lie, being labelled as the continent where genocide, rape and all sorts of human rights violations are still being perpetrated with impunity.

This paradox will come to the fore this weekend, when African leaders gather in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, to reflect on shared values of the African population, a move that raises hopes of many people on this continent, who have seen peace, social and economic wellbeing
among other fundamental human rights eluding them.

The present picture of the continent shows that a lot has gone wrong with Africa's traditional values of love and respect to human life and dignity.

Should external influences be blamed for the injustices committed by Africans in position of power against fellow Africans? Then what did self-governance mean?

Shared values of African people are not reflected in mass protests, conflict, gender-based violence and wars but in mediation, counselling, conflict resolution, collaboration and good governance with respect to the rule of law.

After their deliberation on how to move the continent towards greater unity and integration through shared values, the African leaders must make sure that shared values are, indeed, translated into action in all areas at national and local levels, especially when governments have to yield to the will of the people.

In some of the countries taking part in this Summit, the silence of the authorities with regard to human rights violations is very deafening.

Their failure to prevent breaches or punish perpetrators of injustice calls into question not only their political will to comply with several human rights treaties and protocols their governments ratified or acceeded to, but also their credibility to hold power.

In Zimbabwe, one of the countries that have had an unenviable share of political, economic and social turmoil in recent years, transparency in elections is a great concern of the public, according to human rights lawyer Rangu Nyamurundia.

"Zimbabwe has an inclusive government that is soon coming to an end and this brings about an important issue: How are we going to move from an imposed unity government to a democratically-elected government?'' he wonders.

Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) is one of the civil society organisations in the southern Africa country that are calling for a clear road-map to the forthcoming elections and have urged the AU to maintain greater oversight on the process.

"The AU should make Zimbabwe an example for Africa about this transition," said Nyamurundia at a civil society meeting, held here on the sidelines of the AU Summit.

He noted that the process of a having a  legitimate constitution ahead of the polls has been flawed by violence and human rights violations, as many people lost their lives and livelihoods.

"How can you have a free and fair election when people are still afraid. The army, police and security service have been involved in the violations. They must not be involved in any election ... a lot of eligible voters were denied the right to vote in the past poll," Nyamurundia said.

As gatekeepers of Africa's shared values, African leaders at this summit must affirm the AU commitment to make sure violence does not flare again and ensure smooth polls in Zimbabwe.

But Zimbabwe is not the only African nation where such a commitment to avoid violence, and indeed war, must be made.

Post-election conflict in Cote d"Ivoire threatens to plunge the West African country into a bloody civil war as incumbent President Laurent Gbagbo and his supporters refuse to relinquish power.

"The situation in Cote d'Ivoire is very serious. The civil society was closely involved in the election process. It was well organised but ended with having two heads of state," said Nathalie Traore, deputy chair of the West African Civil Society Organisation.

According to Traore, UN peacekeepers in the country were being attacked by the population that is  manipulated by the [Gbagbo] regime, while the media is still misinforming the public.

"The big issue is about the army that supports the old regime in Cote d'Ivoire. We need to stand firmly on the question of fair elections in Africa," she added.

Abdel Bagi Jibril from Sudan said shared values of African peoples were often distorted by dictatorial regimes.

He said the recent referendum on the future of South Sudan was smooth and widely acceptable, except for a few minor clashes which could not affect the result.

"The sudanese people are prepared to accept the result of the referendum when it is declared. If the people in the south decide to have a separate state, that state will be born on 10 July 2011 and we will have an additional state on the continent. The picture is very rosy but we need to be vigilant and respect the decision of the South,'' Jibril said..

However, he said conflict in Sudan "is still very much alive especially in Darfur'', and noted that the government has expelled so many international humanitarian agencies from the region and the people are suffering.

''As we speak now, three of our colleagues are in detention for being human rights activists," he added.

Though the AU has played a big role in continental efforts to stem the tide of conflicts, Prof. Mabassa Fall of the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) said that the organisation's credibility was at stake because of the current situation in Cote d'Ivoire, Sudan and Tunisia.

"There was no reaction from the AU on Tunisia. Only [Libya leader Muammar] Kadhafi reacted but in support of the deposed president. It was like a democratic revolution in Tunisia and we need to stand firm and support these people," said Mabassa.
-0- PANA AR/SEG 27Jan2011

By Anaclet Rwegayura,
PANA Correspondent

27 Janeiro 2011 14:29:25

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