The idea of an African passport and the freedom of movement of persons in the continent: Only wishful thinking?

cristiano_dorsiAuthor: Cristiano d’Orsi
Post-Doctoral Researcher and Lecturer, Centre for Human Rights, Faculty of Law, University of Pretoria (South Africa)

“Hail! United States of Africa-free!
Hail! Motherland most bright, divinely fair!
State in perfect sisterhood united,
Born of truth; mighty thou shalt ever be.”

This is the incipit of the poem Hail, United States of Africa, composed in 1924 by M.M. Garvey, a famous Pan-Africanist leader.

This poem is considered to have initiated the concept of United States of Africa (USAf), a federation, extensible to all the fifty-four sovereign states, on the African continent.

In 2002, at the launch of the African Union (AU), President T. Mbeki, its first chairman, proclaimed that: “By forming the Union, the peoples of our continent have made the unequivocal statement that Africa must unite! We as Africans have a common and a shared destiny!”[1]

After that occasion, the concept of USAf has been highlighted in a more concrete way by other African leaders, such as A.O. Konaré in 2006,[2] M. Gaddafi in 2009 –the first to mention the possibility to issue a unique passport for the entire continent-[3] and, more recently, by R. Mugabe.[4]

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Crusade to root out homosexuality like malaria

satang_nabanehAuthor: Satang Nabaneh
Lecturer at the Faculty of Law, University of The Gambia.

The Gambia is largely Muslim-dominated, with about 95 per cent of the population being Muslims. It is also highly traditional. Thus, Islam significantly influences people’s ways of lives. In the recent years, there has been much discussion, in the media and political fora, about homosexuality and homosexual rights in The Gambia. The attitude of the ordinary Gambian towards homosexuals is outright hostile, fanned by the extreme condemnation from both political and religious leaders. People are made to believe that homosexuals are cursed and support for homosexual rights would spell doom for Islam and Gambian culture, whatever that means. Due to this charged hostility towards homosexuals, there are only few lone voices that dare to challenge current beliefs about and hostility towards homosexuality or campaign to hold the state accountable for the respect, protection and fulfillment of the sexuality rights. The criminalisation of homosexuality provides the state with an opportunity to violate the rights of homosexual with impunity and absolute disregard for the rule of law.

The arch opponent of homosexuals and their rights is the president of The Gambia. During the recent celebration s to mark The Gambia’s independence celebration, on 18 February 2014, President Yahya Jammeh stated that his government “will fight these vermin called homosexuals or gays the same way we are fighting malaria-causing mosquitoes; if not more aggressively”. He further noted that The Gambia would not spare any homosexual, and that no diplomatic immunity would be respected for any diplomat found guilty or accused of being a homosexual. The next day, United States’ Secretary of State John Kerry denounced the President Jammeh’s comments, calling on the international community to send a clear signal that statements of this nature are unacceptable and have no place in the public dialogue.

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Right to stand for elections as an independent candidate in the African human rights system: The death of the margin of appreciation doctrine?

adem_abebeAuthor: Adem Kassie Abebe
Post-doctoral Fellow, University of Pretoria

Although the right to stand for elections is recognised as an essential aspect of the right to political participation, international human rights law does not specifically address the right of individuals to stand for elections as independent candidates, for example, without being a member of and sponsored by a political party. In fact, the only implied reference to independent candidacy is to be found in General Comment No 25 of the United Nations Human Rights Committee, the organ in charge of monitoring compliance with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, on the right to participation. The Committee observes that “[t]he right of persons to stand for election should not be limited unreasonably by requiring candidates to be members of parties or of specific parties” (paragraph 21). What constitutes an “unreasonable” limit to the right of persons to stand for election is not apparent. As a result of the lack of a clear rule, the law and practice in relation to independent candidates varies across borders. In some countries, individuals must be members of political parties to be able to stand for election. In others, they may stand for elections as independent candidates. In some others, independent candidates are allowed in relation to local elections but not in relation to parliamentary and presidential elections.

It is within this context of uncertainty that the African Court had to decide whether the ban on independent candidacy in Tanzania was compatible with the right to equality, the right to political participation, and the right to association in the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (Tanganyika Law Society and The Legal and Human Rights Centre and Reverend Christopher Mtikila v The United Republic of Tanzania, Applications 009 and 011/2011). This case is interesting in many respects. Firstly, the case presented the African Court the first opportunity to address the margin of appreciation doctrine. Secondly, the application presented a test case to evaluate the trajectory of the African Court towards the jurisprudence of other international and regional human rights organs on similar issues. Thirdly, Tanzania is not the only African country that bans independent candidacy. The decision of the Court therefore has consequences for many other African countries.

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Multinationals and land grabbing in Uganda: A business human rights perspective

samuel_matsikoAuthor: Samuel Matsiko
Lawyer, International Justice Mission, USA

On 11 May 2012 the Committee on World Food Security endorsed the Voluntary Guidelines on the Responsible Governance of Tenure of Land, Fisheries and Forests in the Context of National Food Security to promote secure tenure rights and equitable access to land. These Guidelines offer a framework through which multinational investors may acquire and manage land without affecting the rights of local communities. However, this remains on paper while in practice the narrative is different.

In Uganda, land grabbing involves large scale land acquisitions by multinational and domestic investors either through buying or leasing large pieces of land. A study by the National Association of Professional Environments indicates that communities in the oil rich region of Bulisa in western Uganda, Kalangala Island in the Lake Victoria region, Mabira forest in the central region, and Luwunga forest reserve in Kiboga district have been affected or are yet to be affected by the land grabbing phenomenon.

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