Wednesday 25 May 2022

Plot No 37A Elm Road Woodlands, Lusaka, Zambia Phone: +260956396085, Email: Celebrating Africa Day 2022 Perception from the Disability Rights Lens By Wamundila Waliuya Executive Director 25 May, 2022 Persons with Disabilities continent-over are celebrating the Africa Day which falls on 25th May, 2022. As much as the day is important to all Africans, it is equally important to persons with disabilities in Africa. Africans with disabilities have got key milestones to fully celebrate and “dance to” in the development and recognition of them as equal habitats of this beautiful continent. Persons with disabilities in Africa have also seen developments in the recognition of their human rights through the African Union (AU). This article attempts to draw attention to the human rights milestones persons with disabilities must recognise and therefore demand for their respect and fulfilment at country, regional and continental levels. Particular attention will then be drawn to the Zambian situation. We presume the Africa Day is well known by every person, including persons with disabilities. Nevertheless, it is of no major harm to briefly describe the important day. Africa Day is the annual commemoration of the foundation of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) on 25th May 1963. The OAU is now the AU. It is celebrated in various countries on the African continent, as well as around the world. Africa Day is commonly known as the Africa Freedom Day. It is also formerly referred to as the Africa Liberation Day. Africa Freedom Day and Africa Liberation Day are apparently politically satisfying for all those States persons who struggled for the independence of African States. We pay great tribute to them and some of them are persons with disabilities. The continent of Africa is an integral body of the global world when it comes to the recognition, promotion and protection of human rights through the AU. In view of this, the AU adopted the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights (ACHPR) in June, 1981. This milestone in the quest to recognise Africans, including all Africans with disabilities, as equal citizens of the world who must enjoy their human rights and fundamental freedoms as proclaimed by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948) should never be under-estimated at all. It stands out key in the strengths of persons with disabilities and their representative organisations in articulating their rights and advocating for the specific frameworks that outlines their rights. The Charter, in its Article 66, provides that special protocols or agreements, if necessary, may supplement the provisions of the African Charter. The Charter, in its Article 18(4) further provides that persons with disabilities shall have the right to special measures of protection in keeping with their physical or moral needs. These Articles of the ACHPR form the basis for the growth and development of specific human rights frameworks within the African perspective. This has been further strengthened specifically by paragraph 20 of the AU Kigali Declaration on Human Rights of 8 May 2003, which "calls upon States Parties to develop a Protocol on the protection of the rights of the elderly and persons with disabilities". This is an important milestone in the background of the recognition of specific “Africanised” rights and fundamental freedoms for persons with disabilities. It is therefore essential to note that this background was amidst the fact that there was the absence of a substantive binding African normative and institutional framework for ensuring, protecting and promoting the rights of persons with disabilities, according to the preamble of the African Disability Protocol. This raised the need to establish a firm legal African Union framework as a basis for laws, policies, administrative actions and resources to ensure the rights of persons with disabilities. This recognition made persons with disabilities through their representative organisations raise their heads and voices to call for the adoption of a specific Protocol to address their rights from the African perspective. Therefore, the AU, in January, 2018, adopted the Protocol to the ACHPR on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in Africa also referred to as the African Disability Protocol (ADP). This adoption should be treated as a quantum leap in the promotion and protection of the rights of persons with disabilities by the AU. It is therefore worth celebrating as persons with disabilities join the rest of Africa in commemorating the Africa Day. The purpose of the ADP is to promote, protect and ensure the full and equal enjoyment of all human and people's rights by all persons with disabilities, and to ensure respect for their inherent dignity. In many instances, persons with disabilities have been calling for the strengthened promotion and protection of their rights without realising that this goes with the respect for their inherent dignity. The respect for the dignity of all persons with disabilities is non-negotiable and must always be adhered to by all African States. African States struggled for the independence of their citizens to restore the dignity they had seemingly lost through colonialism. So goes with the adoption of the ADP. It stands to emphasise the respect for the inherent dignity of all persons with disabilities which had been “seemingly” eroded by a selective number of African traditions, customs and beliefs among the actual colonialism. Africans with disabilities should therefore be visible and outstanding when celebrating the African Day! Persons with disabilities in Africans are Africans. Proud Africans to be Africans with Disabilities! This means that Africans with disabilities should be visible in the public and political spaces and corridors of Africa at country, regional and of course continental levels. This opportunity is being promoted by the ADP in its Articles 19 and 20. Article 19 of the ADP promotes equal participation of persons with disabilities in public and political life while Article 20 calls for self-representation of persons with disabilities. This is key to note and uphold for all persons with disabilities and their representative organisations. Persons with disabilities must now be seen to tighten up their belts, if they still have strong belts that may not snip as they tighten them amidst tough and aggressive economic conditions in Africa. Persons with disabilities must also be seen to be pulling up their socks, if their socks are still intact, in this post_Covid 19socio-economic situation aggravated by the Russia-Ukraine war. Visibility and recognition as viable contributors to social and economic development of Africa and their countries through full and effective participation in public and political life is a matter of emergence action. Persons with disabilities should be counted in the global promise of leaving no one behind. They must not let themselves be left behind! Full and effective participation of persons with disabilities in public and political life is the unlocking of all doors that have been apparently locked for a long time. Persons with disabilities require to hold key decision making positions within their government structures, within all regional bodies and of course at continental level within the AU structures. Then, commemorating the African Day would be worth celebrating with wet throats behind smiling and shiny lips rather than with very dry throats behind folded and cracking lips on frowning faces. This should never be the case among true African citizens with disabilities. It should never be the case. Persons with disabilities must actively claim their space within the political spheres of all States, African regions and the AU itself. Africans with disabilities must without any form or sign of apologetic approaches strive to “hold the handles” they need to hand on for effective self-representation in all decision making bodies of Africa at all levels from the community to the great Commissions of Africa. This is a call for this 2022 commemoration of the African Day by persons with disabilities and their representative organisations! Nobody will stand out for persons with disabilities apart from themselves! Truly, there is nobody in this Africa. This is the time for persons with disabilities through their representative organisations to strengthen their efforts and advocacy for the ratification of the African Disability Protocol by their governments. This is the time to hold accountable their governments when it comes to full and effective inclusion in all developmental actions. The ADP calls for the recognition of women, children, youths and elders with disabilities in all spheres of economic, social, political, cultural and civil rights. The ratification of the ADP by all African States must be taken as a life and rights saving matter for persons with disabilities. As we commemorate the 2022 Africa Day we should immediately realise that the 2023 commemoration of the Africa Day will mark 60 years of the founding of the then OAU and now AU. This will be a year of jubilation for all Africans because 60 years of enjoying human rights and freedom from discrimination is a huge mark for exhibiting what may seem to be the ‘last dance’ in one’s life. What will be there for persons with disabilities to celebrate and dance for? Persons with disabilities, through their representative organisations should begin to aggressively call for the ratification of the ADP by all African States by 25th May, 2023. Africans with disabilities should further demand for the domestication of the ADP by their governments through enacting laws that protect their rights and fundamental freedoms at home. Persons with disabilities through their OPDs should then launch and highly amplify their voice for the adoption of community based inclusive development strategies towards their full and effective participation in all speheres of human development within their States. In the long-run, children, youths, adults and the elderly with disabilities must live a fulfilled and enjoyable life on an equal footing with other citizens. 2023 Africa Day should be a fulfilling day for Africans with disabilities. Let persons with disabilities not lose this great celebration! Persons with disabilities in Zambia are part of the African Community and part of the ACHPR. They must be seen to be aggressive when it comes to strategic advocacy for the ratification of the ADP by their government. While Zambia ratified the ACHPR as a Member State of the AU, it has not yet ratified its disability rights specific Protocol, the ADP. Therefore, persons with disabilities and their OPDs must throw off that warm blanket of untrue comfort and be out to call for the immediate commencement of the legal processes to ratify the ADP by the New Dawn Government. The New Dawn Government is clear and explicit in promising to uphold human rights and democracy and to promote inclusive development in which all citizens are equal. The time is NOW! Persons with disabilities and their OPDs should strengthen further their strategic advocacy efforts to government to develop policies, laws and take administrative measures that recognize, promote and protect the rights of persons with disabilities with the adoption of the peculiar Zambian perspectives of local socio-economic situation, local beliefs, cultures and traditions while upholding the Constitutional National Values and Principles. So, this should be core to OPDS to ensure the ratification and domestication of the ADP is adopted as an essential undertaking by the Government in order to emphasize its standing on the upholding of democracy, human rights, inclusion and the principle of leaving no one behind, with a strong anchor on the Constitutional National Values and Principles. Again the time is NOW! May, 2022