African churches leader calls for a united voice on human rights

By Ecumenical News International
May 19, 2009

The leader of Africa's largest grouping of churches is urging faith communities and civil society on the continent to unite in a campaign for human rights - writes Fredrick Nzwili.

"As churches we acknowledge that we have often failed to speak with one voice for human rights and dignity in Africa," said the Rev Andre Karamaga, the general secretary of the All Africa Conference of Churches in a statement. It was delivered at a meeting of the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights that started on 13 May and finishes on 27 May at Banjul in Gambia, Africa's smallest country.

"There is [a]need to unite towards the goal of confirming human rights for all people and holding our governments accountable to their commitment," stated Karamaga, who comes from the Presbyterian Church in Rwanda.

The commission came into being in 1986 with a task to promote and protect human rights throughout Africa, which the AACC says are constantly violated by political turmoil, ethnic conflicts and civil and religious factions.

"We must take bold steps to end such hostility and establish justice and peace," said Karamaga, without specifying where such steps should be made.

The AACC leader, however, cited a resurgence of coups in Africa and "negotiated democracy" which he said is a response to immediate political needs, but that distances governments from the accountability to citizens, thereby risking corruption and impunity. "It must never be allowed to replace established electoral democracy," said Karamaga.

About 25 African states have ratified the charter that established the rights' commission and the AACC wants the remaining nations to ratify and honour the contract as a sign of their commitment to protecting human rights within their borders.

"It is not enough to say human rights in Africa have high importance, there is [a] need to demonstrate that commitment in practice," said Karamaga. "Many productive steps have been taken both to call attention to abuses as well as to delineate specific rights. This is excellent, but there is more work to be done."

[With acknowledgements to ENI. Ecumenical News International is jointly sponsored by the World Council of Churches, the Lutheran World Federation, the World Alliance of Reformed Churches and the Conference of European Churches.]

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