Author: Cristiano d’Orsi
Research Fellow and Lecturer at the South African Research Chair in International Law (SARCIL), University of Johannesburg
In 2018 alone, hundreds of witnesses confirmed more than 1 000 migrant deaths on the African continent. But researchers estimate that these numbers represent only a fraction of the overall number of deaths of people on the move in Africa. According to the International Organization for Migration (IOM), during the first three months of 2019, 98 migrants died in Africa (28 in North Africa and 70 in the Horn of Africa, mostly from drowning in the Red Sea whilst hoping to reach Saudi shores). In 2018, the number of fatalities on the continent amounted to 1 401, mostly presumed to come from the Horn.
On May 8th, 2015 a press release revealed that the Tanzanian President, Jakaya Kikwete, has signed the controversial Cybercrimes Bill which seeks to criminalize acts related to computer systems and information and communication technologies and to provide for a system of investigation, collection and use of electronic evidence. The said law has serious implications for constitutional and international human rights, particularly freedom of expression and information online and the right to privacy. The most controversial provisions relate to criminalization of sharing of information, extensive police powers of search and seizure, surveillance without judicial authorization as well numerous vaguely defined offences.
It is important to note that that freedom of expression is one of the fundamental aspects of human life. As human beings, we need freedom to develop and share thoughts or ideas about things that happen and influence the way we live. Freedom of opinion, expression and information encourages free debate and plurality of ideas which is important for development of any society. More importantly, these rights are internationally recognised human rights. They are engrained in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights 1948 (art.19), the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, 1966 (art.19) and the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights 1981 (art.9), all of which have been ratified by Tanzania.
The globalisation of human rights and democratisation has gained significant momentum in the 21st Century. It has proved to be the linchpin of progressive and sustainable socio-economic and political development for other continental organisations such as European Union and Inter-American Organisation. It is unfortunate that the African Union (AU) has done little or nothing in the actualisation and application of these universal principles in its member states. There are plethora legal frameworks geared toward promoting and protecting human rights and democratisation in Africa. However, they have translated meaningless because their practical applications are neglected.
The establishment of the AU inter alia is anchored on the promotion and protection of human rights and democratisation in Africa. This is as a result of the inhuman and undemocratic experiences of the continent under the so-called colonial masters’ bad governance. In an attempt to correct the human rights catastrophes perpetrated by colonial institutions, the AU was created. Thus, the sole intent of the drafters of the Organisation’s legal framework and indeed the yearning and aspiration of the people of the continent was to create a continental institution to promote and protect human rights and democratisation which are essential for the development of Africa.
However, legally construing the AU Charter, it creates no legal binding obligation on state parties for promotion and protection of human rights and democratisation in Africa. Although, it requires member states to have due regard for human rights and democratisation as enshrined under international law; and also promulgated plethora continental laws aimed at mandating state parties to promote and protect these concepts.