A Pathway for Increased Human Rights Knowledge Generation in Africa

2022 Regional Africa Academic Network Conference: A Pathway for Increased Human Rights Knowledge Generation in Africa

A journey that begun in 2022 with a call for papers on Human Rights Adjudication in Africa, Challenges and opportunities within the African Union and sub regional human rights system culminated the same year in October when the Regional Africa Programme (RAP) in partnership with the University of Zimbabwe hosted the 2022 Academic Network Conference.

The conference, which was graced by Honorable Justice Garwe of the Constitutional Court of Zimbabwe and leading academics from Africa saw both early career scholars and seasoned scholars in Africa present their papers and discuss various human rights topics. The early career scholars benefitted from regular mentorship while developing their papers including a training on human rights research methodologies. Justice Garwe in his keynote speech highlighted the evolution of the constitutional court of Zimbabwe decisions on key human rights matters setting up the conference for rich deliberations on human rights in Africa.

Figure 1: Some of the young scholars mentored and trained on human rights research methodologies pose for a photo with Hon. Mr. Justice P. Garwe, Judge of the constitutional court of Zimbabwe, Prof Sithole from University of Zimbabwe,   Dr Innocent Maja, the dean, faculty of law,  university of Zimbabwe , Mr. Wonder Jekemu, Sida Zimbabwe,  Prof Joy Ezeilo, a representative of the Academic Network and RWI staff.

The research papers presented at the conference delved into various African regional human rights thematic areas such as emerging human rights jurisprudence of regional and sub regional courts, opportunities and challenges of implementation of the decisions of regional and sub regional courts, regional mechanisms engagement with post conflict societies, adjudication of environmental rights and gender sensitive adjudication in Africa.

Figure 2: Ms Ruth Okara addresses queries emerging after presentation of her paper. Also in frame is Prof. Annika Rudman and Ms Anisa Mahmoud who presented papers under the theme of gender sensitive adjudication in Africa.  The session was chaired by Prof Julie Stewart sited on the extreme left.

Timely conversation on various topics were explored and discussed.  For instance, on women rights, interesting perspectives were shared without shying away from the strides the regional and sub regional courts have made in the interpretation of the Maputo protocol especially where promotion and protection of women rights is concerned.  Particularly, institutional gaps and new platforms propelling Sexual, and Gender Based Violence (SGBV) e.g digital spaces were unpacked and concerns on the fairness of the judgment and reparation granted to SGBV victims raised.

Figure 3: Prof Sithole Niang from the University of Zimbabwe delivering her opening remarks at the 2022 Academic Network Conference.

Cognizant of those gaps identified and in line with Prof. Sithole Niang remarks during the opening ceremony where she noted, “Gender and rights of women are issues that should permanently remain on the agenda of human rights bodies so that women enjoy the full menu of rights and freedoms they are promised in the trailblazing Maputo Protocol.” The Academic Network is planning the 2023 conference centered around the theme of gender and vulnerabilities in Africa as the primary focus.  Papers presented in the 2022 conference will undergo double blind peer review process after which they will be published in a book set to be launched in 2023.  To facilitate knowledge sharing, the book is expected to be open access and thus a useful and accessible resource to regional and sub regional human rights mechanisms, researchers, students, human rights lawyers and human rights activists.

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