On Africa Day, Embrace Diversity and Democratise

ZIMBABWE Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) joins the rest of the continent in commemorating Africa Day with a call to the government of Zimbabwe to embrace diversity and fully democratise.

This year, Africa Day, which provides an opportunity to acknowledge the achievements of the peoples and governments of the continent for their efforts to build a better future, is commemorated under the theme “Silencing the Guns in Africa by Year 2020”.

The theme, which is a key pillar of Agenda 2063, seeks to achieve a conflict-free Africa, promote prevention, management and resolution of conflicts on the continent, prevent genocide, make peace a reality for all and rid the continent of wars, human rights violations and humanitarian disasters. It also requires African Union (AU) member states, including Zimbabwe to embrace and manage diversity, prevent and or address deficiencies in democracy.

The theme is apt in that silencing the guns is at the nexus of peace and development and it is not just about guns but it is about what drives people on the African continent to resort to armed conflict as a result of the underlying issues which African member states need to address.

In 2020, Zimbabwe joins the rest of Africa at a time when there are glaring deficiencies in democracy, and glaring intolerance to political diversity.

ZLHR remains concerned at the lack of political will by the state actors to fulfil the voluntary commitments made at the continental level as a signatory to a number of AU protocols and human rights instruments. Having accepted to be bound by the AU Constitutive Act, the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights and the Protocol on Women’s Rights to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, the government of Zimbabwe must play its part by respecting these treaty obligations to create a democratic society and contribute to ‘Silencing the Guns’ on the continent.

ZLHR remains concerned at the use of excessive force against unarmed civilians by security sector players, the continued perpetration with impunity of gross violations of civil and political rights. Equally disturbing is the lack of prioritisation and provision of adequate resources to ensure the progressive realisation of social and economic rights.

This is more compelling during this Coronavirus pandemic era, which brings to the fore the negation of investing in the health sector, education sector and social security, condemning the majority of citizens to perpetual poverty. Coronavirus is not only a threat to our health, but a human crisis of multiple dimensions and poses challenges for Africans including Zimbabweans in the common goal of ‘Silencing the Guns’ on the continent.

ZLHR is also concerned that government is lagging behind in ratifying, domesticating and implementing some crucial instruments which could help prevent conflict in the country.

For Zimbabwe, since signing the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Good Governance on 21 March 2018, government has not ensured that such a critical instrument becomes binding and is incorporated to become part of domestic law so as to promote democracy, good governance practice and a robust electoral process.

Apart from the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Good Governance, ZLHR remains concerned that government has signed and shelved domestication of other critical instruments including the Protocol to Establish the African Court of Human and Peoples’ Rights, which seeks to enhance the protection of human rights on the continent among other continental and international protocols.

As an organisation which seeks to foster a culture of human rights, ZLHR will continue to demand and push for domestication and implementation of instruments which strengthen peace, security and build a conflict-free Africa.

ZLHR calls upon the government of Zimbabwe to play its part focusing in particular on addressing the underlying root-causes of conflict, and take concrete steps to implement the much needed legislative, and institutional reforms to enhance democracy.

Source: Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR)