HARARE – Delegates from 32 countries in the four regions of East, Central, Southern and West Africa, covering Francophone, Lusophone and Anglophone parts of the continent convened in Harare last week where they successfully resuscitated and revived the African Democracy Forum (ADF).
Zimbabwe Human Rights Association (ZimRights) coordinated the meeting which culminated in an ADF General Assembly that saw the election of a new eight-member Management Committee chaired by Rwandese Joseph Nkurunziza, while Zimbabwe earned a representative among the three ordinary committee members outside the executive.
ZimRights executive director Okay Machisa said the Harare Assembly marked the gradual reincarnation of the ADF, which has seen periods of inaction since it was launched in Abuja, Nigeria in October 2000, as a continental platform for civil society to tackle issues of human rights and governance.
“From now on the ADF will act as the previously missing collective civil society voice on the African continent, including elections observation. The 32 African countries participating showed that they still considered democracy and human rights as fundamental pillars of society,” said Machisa.
He added that representatives deliberated on issues to do with human rights, elections, transparency and accountability.
“They resolved that non-governmental organisations and civil society should work as one so as to ensure that governments adopted international best standards of elections. In that regard, Africa will fight together wherever elections standards in the continent are not adhered to.
“The issue of transparency and corruption was dealt with extensively and focused mainly on the extractive industries.
“Human rights issues were discussed and the gathering looked at State repression across Africa — how it can be curbed as governments are notorious in unleashing unwarranted abuses on its citizens, especially those with opposing voices,” said Machisa.
Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission chairperson Elasto Mugwadi and Speaker of Parliament Jacob Mudenda also graced the occasion.
ZimRights provided secretarial services for ADF, working under the local Steering Committee led by Machisa, after he accepted the task at a meeting in Accra, Ghana in September 2015.
Machisa emphasised that the issues of human trafficking, elections, transparency, accountability in public contracting, illicit financial flows and terrorism were crucial focuses for civil society.
After the general assembly, Nkurunziza as the new ADF chairperson addressed a book launch by prominent human rights activist, Jestina Mukoko.
The book is titled, The Abduction and Trial of Jestina Mukoko: The fight for Human Rights in Zimbabwe, and recounts the sombre, but triumphant story of the activist’s forced disappearance by State agents in December 2008 which lasted 21 days.
Nkurunziza slammed the culture of forced disappearance in the country.