Firstly let me thank all who are reading and commenting on my column both positively and negatively.I love your comments as the purpose of this column is to stimulate debate and whether we agree or disagree we must co-exist as God’s children. One of the many assignments God has given me is to stand boldly for the weak regardless of the pressure. We are living in a society that oppresses, abandons and margnalizeses the weak. My column is not for the sake of appeasing or demeaning anybody, that has never been my policy, as you read see God’s Glory, that I stand again to contribute to a better society.
Last week I went through a SADC NGOs statement on the SADC Tribunal. We know SADC leaders including most of other African leaders have been resistant to be questioned on how they manage their people. The establishment of SADC Tribunal therefore was an opportunity to seek redress to SADC citizens whose rights have been violated and abused by governments as one of enhancing accountability.
Unfortunately this Tribunal was frustrated by President Robert Mugabe backed by SADC leadership because it ruled against his anarchic land policy. But interestingly Mugabe was among the leaders who sanctioned the establishment of the tribunal to ensure the adherence of the members to the SADC treaty, which includes article 4, article that obliges them “to act in accordance with human rights, democracy and rule of law”. It is the same article that was used against Mugabe in his land grabbing project. Mugabe rejected the tribunal ruling and its jurisdiction and convinced others for the tribunal to be suspended. This decision to suspend the tribunal has not only left SADC citizens with no recourse to justice when they are abused by their own governments but also left corporations unprotected.
Honestly we cannot deny African leaders have not promoted accountability and have accused the west of using the International Criminal Court (ICC) for unfairly targeting Africa. Their argument is the west is using ICC as a vessel for oppressing African again. Of course taking African leaders to court is not easy as national courts are often unwilling to prosecute Heads of States. In Africa national courts are not always independent and impartial in some cases unwilling or unable to take up cases against governments. They fail to make decisions against their governments for fear of repercussions. This is Africa!
The NGO statement therefore is very relevant but it is time the civil society take the Tribunal issue to the masses. Civil society should abandon the elitist’s advocacy approach of speaking without effective action from the corridors of their offices or capitals. They have to aggressively interface with the grassroots. You will agree with me the SADC masses are so empty on the benefits and advantages of the Tribunal as citizens. Enlightening and empowering them is very key in pushing our governments otherwise it will be the same old stories of voices in wilderness.
- Undule Mwakasungula, the former director of Center for Human Rights and Rehabilitation (CHRR) and now a human rights columnist on Nyasa Times