There is no secret that for some time now the world has been facing a pandemic, that of COVID-19, which has totally disrupted and affected our societies at all levels. The effects of this pandemic are just as real elsewhere as in Africa. These effects are both economic and social, with the closure of the majority of businesses in all countries of the world and in Africa for an indefinite period to date.
In this situation, all the institutions of the African States are also affected; both the political and legal systems. There is real need for civil society to remain active in these times, do more in terms of advocacy and monitoring cases of human rights violations. This period of uncertainty should in no way be an excuse for the neglect of the fundamental rights of people and populations on the African continent. These crucial rights, the first to be safeguarded at this time of year are the right to life and adequate health care.
The African Commission on Human and People Rights being the Continental Body for the promotion and preservation of these rights, should take effective actions promoting States and Governments engagement in the fight of this disease, and also the sustainability of human rights achievements. Because, especially in this period of lockdown, African populations are facing multiple challenges.
There are specific issues that people in Africa are currently facing in lockdown situation such as supporting themselves for those forced to stop working, the lack of awareness on the disease itself, the difficulty to access internet in some parts of countries, the situation in prisons or the people who find themselves stranded in unknown countries because of border closure, to name a few.
Taking into account all these emerging challenges, we, as Civil Society actors, need to ask ourselves the questions that will help address the issue of fighting this disease in a holistic manner while ensuring the preservation of human rights on the continent; namely :
- How can we keep the ACHPR engaged as human rights violations are still happening?
- What is the Commission adapting to still do its job in these challenging times?
- How are we documenting cases of violations?
- As CSOs what can we recommend to the Commission in regards to its work?
We therefore recommend that States maintain micro-committees made up of public health specialists, members of civil society and human rights defenders within the various key players in the fight against this pandemic in order to ensure that each crisis decision is taken into account the uphold of the populations´ health rights in their fight against COVID 19.
After the passage of this storm, we suggest the organization of a Forum during which we could share the risks and lessons learned of this situation and how we prevent the violations, which occurred. This would be the opportunity to share relevant data and the way forward innovative practices of promotion of human rights throughout the continent.