From Rhetoric to Action Seven Recommendations to the 27th Summit of The African Union (10-18 July 2016)
The year 2016 has a particular significance for human rights in Africa. It marks the 35th anniversary of the adoption of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, the 30th anniversary of its entry into force, and the 10th anniversary of the establishment and operationalization of the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights. Given the convergence of these auspicious anniversaries, the African Union (AU) Assembly meeting at its 25th ordinary session in June 2015 in Johannesburg, South Africa, declared 2016 the “African Year of Human Rights with Particular Focus on the Rights of Women”.1 This declaration was greeted with optimism and celebration amongst human rights actors on the continent as it marked the first time in history that the AU decided to place human rights as a theme of its calendar year. A concept note developed by the AU Commission envisaged that the declaration of 2016 as the year of human rights would offer the opportunity to “consolidate gains already made over the years, ensure better coordination of human rights bodies on the continent, and move towards the establishment of a true human rights culture on the continent”.
The launch of planned activities in celebration of the year took place on 30 January 2016 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. The planned activities include construction of an AU human rights memorial, launch of the Pan-African Human Rights Institute, organization of thematic human rights conferences, and compilation, in a single published volume, the decisions and judgments of the regional human rights treaty bodies. More importantly, African heads of state and government are expected, at their upcoming 27th Ordinary Summit, to be held from 17 to 18 July in Kigali, Rwanda, to adopt a declaration on the theme of the year spelling out their commitments on various aspects of human rights. During the Summit, the heads of state and government are also expected to elect and appoint the chairperson and deputy chairperson of the AU Commission. They are also expected to appoint the commissioners of the AU Commission after they have been elected by the Executive Council.
In advance of the 27th AU Summit, Amnesty International is calling on African leaders to seize the opportunity presented by this year to move from rhetoric or symbolic gestures to concrete actions that will see the continent begin to move more rapidly towards a true human rights culture. In this regard, the organization outlines seven priority recommendations for the AU Assembly and member states. The organization also calls on the next leadership of the AU Commission, who stand to be appointed during a year dedicated to the theme of human rights in Africa, to consider these seven recommendations as priority issues for the AU Commission.