6th African Citizen's Conference called AU to put Eritrean human rights situation on its Agenda
Convened by Centre for Citizen Participation at African Union (CCPAU) the 6th African Citizens’ Conference was held between 21st to 23rd January 2016 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, under the theme “African Year of Human Rights, in particular, with focus on the Rights of Women”. The Eritrean Movement for Democracy and Human Rights (EMDHR) facilitated the participation of Eritrean delegation composed of five activists.
The conference deliberated extensively on the current state of governance and human rights in Africa. The focus was on the achievements and challenges facing Africa in this respect. The conference underlined the normative and practical progress made so far by African Union in the areas off governance and human rights. Notable are the mechanisms put in place by the African Union, such as the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, related protocol for the establishment and functioning of the AHPR Commission as well as the Protocol for the Establishment of African Court of Justice. With respect to governance the adoption of African Governance Architecture and related institutions and legal provisions, such as the Pan-African Parliament and the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Good Governance, are recognized an significant progress made by the African Union. However, the implementation in the sense of adherence was identified as a major shortcoming. The Conference noted that non-compliance of member states with the commitments they made at African Union is not only indicative of the ambivalence of member state with the Africa project, but also a factor contributing for continued widespread impunity and mal-governance in the continent.
As cases in point, the Conference specifically discussed situation in countries, such as Eritrea and Burundi. Sponsored by EMDHR and the Southern African Civil Society Solidarity Team a parallel workshop was convened dedicated to human rights situation in Eritrea with the title “We are not heard, We are not heard from: Human Rights Situation in Eritrea”. Two presentations were made in this workshop. One was by Dr Bereket Berhane Woldeab wwho briefed the participants on general political situation and the wide spread and systematic human rights situation in Eritrea and its implication on the Eritrea, its people and the regional at large. By making reference to the findings of the UN Human Rights Commission of Inquiry, Dr Bereket expressed his observation about the absence of African solidarity on with the Eritrean people. The second presentation was by a young Eritrean woman refugee who recently fled from the country risking her life. The young woman narrated her personal experiences and ordeals at the hand of the dictatorial regime which touched the participants deeply. As a daughter of former top official of People’s Front for Democracy and Justice who is now in unknown prison, the young woman explained how the regime consistently and vengefully victimized the entire family, including herself, in terms of taking away all the family possessions to deny the family any livelihood means; how she was dismissed from a tertiary institute where she was studying for a degree.
In its final communique the 6th African Citizens’ Conference adopted a resolution in which the African civil society called upon the African Union to put human rights situation in Eritrea on its agenda and endorse the report of the UNHR-COI report as its own and up on the AHPR Commission to refer Eritrea to the African Union Summit. The conference also urged up on African Civil Society to lend their unwavering support and solidarity to Eritrean human rights activists in the continent. Furthermore, participants of the conference made a number of recommendations that would be undertaken by a number of civil society organizations that is aimed at raising awareness of Africans on the situation in Eritrean and engage their respective national governments on the matter in collaboration with Eritrean civil society.
The Eritrean delegation was made up of Mr Bashir Ishaq Abdalla, Dr Bereket Berhane Woldeab, Mr Nasreldin Ahmed Ali, Young Eritrean woman refugee, Ms Khadija Khalifa Mahmoud and Dr. Adane Ghebremeskel.
Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
24th January 2016