Is South Africa turning a blind eye to climate injustices?

Sandile-NhlengetwaAuthor: Sandile Innocent Nhlengetwa
LLB candidate, University of the Western Cape

Climate change is the greatest threat to mankind as it poses a major threat to the survival of humans on earth. It has a negative impact on the prospects of economic and social prosperity of any nation. South Africa has over the years witnessed a number of her citizens; particularly poor susceptible groups being severely affected by the impacts of climate change. Most recently, the Kwazulu-Natal floods did not only displace indigent people it also led to the loss of lives. The South African government turned a blind eye to this and has been the slowest to react. Two months after the floods occurred, the government is yet to allocate satisfactory financial and human resources to redress the situation. This can be partly linked to the absence of a legislative regulatory framework which provides for an effective, clear and comprehensive response to climate change in order to minimise its impact. Currently, climate change is regulated in a piecemeal manner. Since the Constitution was adopted, an overwhelming number of statutes of environmental nature were enacted including the National Environmental Management Act 107 of 1998 and the National Environment Management: Air Quality Act 39 of 2004. Though both these statutes do not refer to climate change in explicit terms they require the environment to be utilised in a sustainable manner that is not harmful to human beings and regulate the emission of greenhouse gases respectively. Worth mentioning, however, is the Carbon Tax Act 15 of 2019 as well as the Disaster Management Act 57 of 2002 both of which have a direct bearing on climate change. The latter Act is the legislative framework within which the government responds to the impacts of climate change. The former makes explicit reference to climate change in its efforts to avoid dangerous anthropogenic climate change by stabilising greenhouse gas emissions while also ensuring sustainable socio­ economic development.

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To whom it may concern: South Sudan may not be ready for elections, yet democracy cannot wait

Joseph-Geng-AkechAuthor: Joseph Geng Akech
Assistant Professor of Law, University of Juba, and independent researcher in human rights & constitutional designs

Introduction

Early this year, Yach Garang, political science PhD student at the University of Juba authored a blog piece asking ‘will South Sudan be ready for its first democratic elections come 2023?’ According to him, certain benchmarks are critical for South Sudan’s democratic election readiness. These include security stabilisation, enactment of electoral laws, adoption of a new constitution and conduct of population census. While I agree with his ‘benchmarks’, I contend that South Sudan may not be ready for elections, but it is imperative to note that democracy cannot wait for a perfect environment.

This piece, therefore, is addressing those to whom the democratic future of the country remains a priority.

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Regulating cryptocurrencies in the Central African Republic: Has the cart been put before the horse?

Rimdolmsom-Jonathan-KabreAuthor: Rimdolmsom Jonathan Kabré
Postdoctoral researcher, Centre for Human Rights, University of Pretoria

Introduction

On 22 April 2022, the Parliament of the Central African Republic (CAR) adopted the Law n°22.004 governing cryptocurrency in the Central African Republic (hereinafter the Law). This is the second time in the world, and the first time in Africa, that a country adopts cryptocurrencies as legal tender. Previously, some other African countries considered the issue of cryptocurrencies: In Algeria, for example, they are prohibited (see art 117 of 2018 Financial law). In Egypt, bitcoin transactions were classified as haram (in a non-binding religious decree of 2018) until the recent Central Bank and Banking Sector Law No.194 of the year 2020 which contains some rules regarding the use of financial technology. Nigeria has prohibited the trading of cryptocurrencies and launched its own digital currency called eNaira. In South Africa, the regulation of cryptocurrencies is imminent (see here and here).

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Women and Disability in Africa: African Disability Protocol to the Rescue?

Farirai-Sinothando-Sibanda

Author: Farirai Sinothando Sibanda
Master’s Candidate, Centre for Human Rights, University of Pretoria

It is a gross injustice that disability rights in Africa have previously not been prioritised given that 80% of persons with disabilities live in developing countries. However, this situation seems to be gaining some attention with most African states having ratified the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) with the exception of three, namely Cameroon, South Sudan and Eritrea. Following this trajectory, in 2018, the African Union (AU) member states adopted the African Disability Protocol which will enter into force after ratification by 15 AU member states. Despite its potential to enhance persons with disabilities’ enjoyment of their rights, as of March 2022, the African Disability Protocol has only been ratified by three countries namely; Mali, Kenya, and Rwanda which is disappointingly low.

The UNCRPD is a key instrument in advancing the rights of persons with disabilities, but it lacks the specificity to the African context. Due to poverty and other issues in Africa, the situation of persons with disabilities, especially women, differs radically from that in other regions. Article 6 of the UNCRPD addresses women in two general provisions by obligating states to protect them from discrimination, ensure enjoyment of their rights and empower them. However, it does not specify the actions that states must take to fulfil these obligations. Resultantly, the UNCRPD does not adequately address the unique situation of persons with disabilities in Africa.

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Climate change and internal displacement

Zanele-Christine-Fengu-Meron-Eshetu-Birhanu-Bernice-AsanteAuthors: Zanele Christine Fengu, Meron Eshetu Birhanu and Bernice Asante

“Internal Displacement and climate change are both highly complex phenomena. In the public debate we often hear about ‘climate-related displacement’ or even ‘climate refugees’, and very often this is done with a note of alert”.

The Global Classroom on Human Rights recently held its annual meeting, which was hosted by the Centre for Human Rights, University of Pretoria with Internal Displacement as its theme. The programme featured enlightening presentations from members across the world who reflected on legal and non-legal approaches to the matter. A key message which came from the engagement was the need to adopt a climate justice approach to climate change and how our legal frameworks could embody this principle.

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The place of liberal feminism in the struggle for gender equality in Kenya.

Davis-ThuraniraAuthor: Davis Thuranira
Student, Kenyatta University, Kenya

Major Premise

The framers of the constitution[1] provided adequate mechanisms to counter gender discrimination and foster equality among all sexes and gender in the country. As a matter of fact, several legal provisions incline to an ideology of equality that seeks to overhaul the existing societal structure which anchors discrimination and unequal treatment of women.

Equality, non-discrimination, inclusiveness and protection of the marginalized are among the key principles featured under Article 10[2]. The provision universally applies to all persons and demands compliance by the state, including its organs, while exercising its constitutional mandate. The state is required to invoke its authority by giving effect to the two-third gender rule. Additionally, these principles and others that support gender equality are emphasized in the constitution since such are the basis for any democratic society that the constitution envisions. The applicability of these principles is mandatory, and the courts have on several occasions emphasized that the principles are not aspirational as argued by critics but realistic, practicable and binding on everyone. In the case of Rono v Rono[3], the Court of Appeal authoritatively asserted that the Constitution shields women from customary succession laws that bar women from inheriting property. The Court held that both male and female children are treated equally before the law and that discriminatory rules are invalid and unconstitutional to the extent that it treats women as inferiors to men. Read the rest of this entry »


Juridical Implication of Article 12 of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Psychosocial Disability in the Health Sector of Ethiopia

Hawi-AsfawAuthor: Hawi Asfaw
Associate Human Rights Officer, Ethiopian Human Rights Commission

Recognition of legal capacity is inseparably linked with the enjoyment of rights in the health sector since it is a prerequisite for a person to fully control his or her health and to make a free and informed decision concerning sexual, reproductive, and mental health. Article 12 of the Convention on the Right of Persons with Disability (CRPD) to which Ethiopia is a party, provides that states should recognize the legal capacity of persons with disability and provide them with access to support in the exercise of their legal capacity which in no way amount to substitute decision making. Additionally, article 25(d) of the CRPD states that the right to health includes the right to health care on the bases of free and informed consent which presupposes the recognition and protection of legal capacity by the state for its enforcement. Read the rest of this entry »


Contextualising and Advocating for Sexual Minority Rights within Kenya’s Transformative Constitution

Laureen-Mukami-NyamuAuthor: Laureen Mukami Nyamu
Student, Kabarak University School of Law in Nakuru, Kenya

Human rights are inherent to all human beings regardless of race, ethnicity, nationality, religion or other status [1] moreover they are universal but the universality of human rights is not enjoyed by sexual minorities due to discrimination. This discrimination stems from religious, socio- cultural, institutional and discriminatory laws and policies. These factors hamper the full enjoyment of human rights by sexual minorities.

The Constitution of Kenya 2010 is transformative in the realm of human rights by recognising the bill of rights as an integral part of Kenya’s democracy, social, economic and cultural policies and by having an elaborate Bill of Rights that remedies the subversion of human rights which was a characteristic of the repealed constitution. [2] This article will contextualise and show advocacy of sexual minority rights within the constitutional framework and provide a way forward as regards sexual minority rights. Read the rest of this entry »


Inclusive national dialogue and accountability for rights violations can heal Ethiopia from a culture of impunity

DuniaMekonnenTegegnAuthor: Dunia Mekonnen Tegegn
Human Rights Lawyer and Gender equality advocate

On 3 November 2020, conflict broke out between the Tigray People Liberation Front and Ethiopia’s National Defense Forces when the Tigray People Liberation Front assaulted the Northern command. Due to the conflict in Ethiopia, women and girls continue to bear the brunt of the cruel and inhuman acts committed by all parties involved in the conflict for the last 17 months. Many have lost their lives, suffered sexual violence, been displaced, and starved. Young girls, women living with disability, older women, and refugee women have been the target of brutal sexual violence. These crimes are horrific in nature as they represent the level of vengeance and humiliation pursued by actors to the conflict. Reports have highlighted the extent of these violations and implicated all sides to the conflict in war crimes and crimes against humanity.     Read the rest of this entry »


Making sense of Africa’s massive abstentions during the adoption of the UNGA resolution on the Aggression Against Ukraine

Sa-Benjamin-TraoreAuthor: Sâ Benjamin Traoré
Assistant Professor of Law at the Faculty of Governance, Economics and Social Sciences of the Mohammed VI Polytechnic University, Rabat (Morocco).

Introduction

The ongoing Ukrainian crisis has shown profound divisions among African countries. The UN General Assembly’s voting on 2 March perfectly captures such a division. Resolution A/RES/ES-11/1, titled “Aggression against Ukraine”, was adopted by a vote of 141 in favour and 5 against, with 35 abstentions. Of these 35 abstentions, 17 were African states including Algeria, Angola, Central African Republic, Congo, Equatorial, Mali, South Africa, Tanzania, and Zimbabwe. This figure represents almost half of the abstaining states. Eight African countries did not even submit their votes (including Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Ethiopia, Morocco, and Togo) and Eritrea voted against the resolution. All in all, almost half of the African states did not vote in favour of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) resolution. The split between African states in the voting also reflects the divide in public opinion about the Ukrainian crisis across African countries. While the West has shown unfailing support for Ukraine, Africa and the rest of the world have adopted a more ambivalent position. The significant number of African abstentions has raised international concerns, especially in the West. This voting attitude of African states abstaining remained almost the same during the adoption of the UNGA resolution on humanitarian assistance to Ukraine on 24 March. South Africa had proposed a rival resolution that was not eventually discussed by the UNGA. On 7 April, more African countries abstained and many other voted against the resolution suspending Russia from the Human Rights Council. It is also well-known now that African countries have not adopted sanctions against Russia despite the avalanche of sanctions adopted by western countries.

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