President Yoweri Museveni has said Africa has more pressing challenges to even start bothering about human rights violations.
Museveni who was addressing the Convention of African Judiciaries on Human Rights in Munyonyo on Wednesday said the continent is currently grappling with two fundamental challenges related to the growth of economies, oppression of mankind by nature and the oppression of mankind by fellow man.
The three-day fourth African Judicial dialogue on the roles of the judiciary in tackling contemporary human rights issues in Africa opened at the Commonwealth Resort Munyonyo.
Museveni said that nature is oppressing mankind in terms of floods, droughts, earthquakes and diseases. According to Museveni, these issues should be at the heart of man’s priorities as opposed to human rights violations manifested through colonialism, dictatorship, slave trade and other forms of violations.
Museveni argued that human rights violations should be addressed under proper contexts which consider the fact that Africa missed the opportunity for growth in three past industrial revolutions.
"When you talk of rights, you must put whatever you’re talking about in the context of where we stand in that long journey of man battling with nature. The second problem of man is the oppression of man by man. All problems caused to man by other men - feudalism, the slave trade, colonialism, dictatorships, fascism, violation of rights which is the small subject you’re talking about here but it is within the bigger struggle." said Museveni.
He said the primary goal of African judiciaries should be in facilitating economic growth for job creation, integration, infrastructure and promotion and the protection of civic and economic rights to food, education, jobs and health.
"There is no way Africa is going to develop if we don’t solve the problem of integration because of modern economies ever since the industrial revolution. Industrial revolution meant mass production of goods and services. So the whole society including the judiciary must be aware that our prosperity is now based on the production of goods and services on a big scale and of good quality and that is how we shall ensure prosperity. That is how we can create jobs, that is how we can get revenue to build infrastructure, to pay salaries. This is the only way to do it, the countries that do it became prosperous. Those which don’t stagnate." he added.
In any case, Museveni said the legal system in Africa is merely transplanted from the West and therefore needs to be harmonised and aligned so as not to clash with traditions and culture.
"Some cultures have ignored existing laws, which shows that those who designed the laws never did enough consultation to put people’s cultures and norms into consideration because not all African practices are bad." he said.
Throughout Museveni's 48-minute speech, delegates listened attentively as the same message got translated into French and Portuguese with occasional clapping and cheering. He emphasized that some human rights issues should be treated as an opportunity cost for development to prevent impunity from thriving on the continent.
Ambassador Thomas Kwesi Quartey, the deputy chairperson of the African Union Commission said that as African judiciaries implement Agenda 2063 for creating the Africa we want, there is strong need to recognize the challenges faced by the continent.
“This requires us to focus our eyes on how best to advance rights that address underdevelopment, poverty, inequality, marginalization and exclusion in our continent as we make concerted efforts towards effective implementation of agenda 2063,” he stated.
Justice Sylvain Ore, the president of the African Court on Human and People’s Rights applauded the Ugandan parliament for leading the way in the promotion and protection of human rights through various legal instruments including the Prohibition of Female Genital Mutilations Act, Anti Money Laundering Act, Domestic Violence Act and the Equal Opportunities Commission Act among others.
Ore said the judicial dialogue is the most important judicial round table on the continent for sharing jurisprudence, experiences and interests in the common cause for human rights and democracy. Uganda’s chief justice Bart Katureebe said that the government is committed to building the judiciary into a beacon of justice and democracy for the protection and promotion of Human rights.
The dialogue is a biennial platform for African judiciaries to interact with each other, share experiences and discuss pressing contemporary issues affecting human rights on the continent.
This time, they are discussing the roles of the judiciary in Africa in tackling contemporary human rights issues such as migration, internal displacement and refugees, terrorism and protection of human rights, the right to nationality, statelessness in Africa, election petitions and human rights as well as development and the rights of indigenous people.
The three-day high-level summit brings together presidents of Supreme courts in Africa, chief justices, principal judges and Constitutional and Supreme court judges as well as members of parliaments, government ministers and the diplomatic corps from the European and American courts for human rights.
At the end of the meeting, an action plan for addressing some of the above issues will be adopted for implementation in the 33 member states that have ratified the protocol which established the African Court on Human and People’s Rights.