ARTICLE 19 welcomes the finalization of the consideration of country review reports for Kenya, Senegal, Djibouti, and Senegal by the APR Panel under the Africa Peer Review Mechanism (APRM) 2nd Generation Review Process.
In this review cycle, Kenya is under its second review while three other countries have just undertaken their first reviews.
“These reports are critical in foregrounding important deficiencies in state’s compliance with many African and international human rights standards with a critical assessment of the status of democracy and political governance in AU member countries. It is therefore laudable that in this review cycle, the reports have been shared with the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights (ACHPR). None of the reports reviewed under the 1st Generation Review process were submitted to the ACHPR” saidHenry Maina, Regional Director ARTICLE 19 Eastern Africa.
During the January 2017 Assembly of Heads of State and Government meeting in Addis Ababa, the African Union (AU) extended the mandate of APRM giving it the task of monitoring the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and Agenda 2063.
“We would like to reiterate the centrality of freedom of expression and access to information in the APRM review process to make particular recommendations with regard to the countries under review. Being that Kenya enacted an access to information legislation last year, we call on the Kenyan state to fast track the implementation of the Access to Information Act 2016. We call on Chad, Djibouti, and Senegal to expedite the enactment of right to information laws in line with their constitutional provisions on the same” added Mr. Maina.
Freedom of expression and access to information rights are not only fundamental but also instrumental in the achievement and enjoyment of other rights. Countries that have created an enabling freedom of expression environment for the media and its citizens and adopted robust access to information laws have been observed to perform better as far as democracy and governance is concerned.
Amongst the four countries, Djibouti and Chad are ranked lowest in the World Press Freedom Index (172 and 121) respectively. Senegal is among the better performing countries (58) while Kenya, due to its recent shrinking civic space has declined to 95 from 71 in 2013.
African Union bodies should work in a more contiguous manner to ease access to its resources for the purpose of enhancement and safeguarding of human rights in the continent. States like Djibouti, Chad, and Senegal are in different stages in the enactment of an access to information law can utilize the Model Law on Access to Information for Africa launched by the ACHPR in 2013.
If gotten right, the APRM process can be a vital complementary tool in assessing states’ compliance with continental human rights standards like the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance that as of March 2017, had only been ratified by 29 AU member states.
Over the years, the APRM has been criticized of failing to overcome challenges of lackluster levels of awareness on the review process amongst ordinary Africans. Additionally, there have been calls for rethinking of the 14 year old mechanism to make it less elitist and state-centric.
To overcome these, the body has to forge more connections with non-state actors like CSOs, journalists, and community based organizations across the continent in its review processes as a way of getting a more concrete appreciation of the human rights terrain at the ground.
ARTICLE 19 acknowledges that since President Kenyatta of Kenya took leadership of the body as Chair in 2015, there have been particular developments that will go a long way in making the review process more relevant.
The assessment methodology has been reviewed to make it more cost efficient. There has also been an increase by more than 10 in the number of states that have made financial contributions to the body. As a capacity building strategy to be able to fulfill its mandate exhaustively, the APRM has also signed agreements with the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) and the African Capacity Building Foundation (ACBF).
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For media interviews please contact: Sandra Musoga, Senior Programme Officer, Access to Information, ARTICLE 19 Eastern Africa Email: email@example.com or call on +254 20 3862230.