Source: Standard Media
Africa has made progress towards democracy, respect for the rule of law and human rights.
There is now greater knowledge and understanding of human rights resulting in increase in demand for accountability when violations occur.
Across the continent, countries have set up institutional and legislative frameworks for the entrenchment of good governance and democratic ideals; a clear demonstration of tolerance for pluralism.
Regional accountability mechanisms aimed at addressing Africa’s unique concerns and realities are now in place.
These mechanisms include the elaboration and adoption of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (the African Charter) in 1981.
They also include the establishment of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (the Commission), a quasi-judicial treaty body charged with the responsibility of promoting and protecting human and peoples’ rights on the continent.
Another mechanism is adoption of the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the establishment of an African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights (the Protocol) and the establishment of the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights (the Court) with the specific mandate of complementing the mandate of the Commission to protect human and peoples’ rights in Africa.
There’s also the adoption of the Protocol to African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa, which remains a ground-breaking instrument in the advancement of women’s rights in Africa.
During the 56th Ordinary Summit of the African Union in Addis Ababa, 2016 was declared the African Year of Human Rights.
The objective of the commemoration is to raise awareness on human and peoples’ rights - in particular, women’s rights - and take stock of progress made, including the major challenges and obstacles encountered.
The special focus on women and their contribution to human rights aims at strengthening their contribution to the sector. In Kenya, the year provides us a great opportunity to continue to resist human rights violations by stepping up the advocacy for human rights promotion.
Through these celebrations, we hope that we can influence national narratives on human rights and locate focus on them at the centre of the development agenda.
We have a human rights constitution that has specific provisions for the promotion and protection of human rights, an elaborate bill of rights and sets forth institutional frameworks for the enforcement of these rights.
Despite this, Human rights protection continues to face challenges.
These include conflicts, ethnic polarisation, growing insecurity, youth radicalisation, violent extremism, corruption and impunity, inequality, poverty and high levels of unemployment.
All this has significant impact on women, girls and other vulnerable groups due to lifelong disadvantages.
When they experience violations, often it is the difference between their survival and death.
Women human rights defenders are particularly vulnerable.
They operate in a field that is highly masculine, and at great personal risk where personal safety is not guaranteed and risks are much more grave.
Kenya National Commission on Human Rights has over the last two years focused on strengthening grassroots human rights defenders through programmes that focused on human rights defenders.
These efforts have gone a long way in strengthening the commission’s mandate of monitoring public and private sector compliance with human rights obligations.