Human Rights in Africa - The Basics
Africa.com recently interviewed Zimbabwean lawyer and human rights activist Arnold Tsunga at the Human Rights Summit in Washington D.C. In a current climate one international human rights activist called a “global backlash against civil society”, we asked Arnold about the situation in Africa.
I heard you met with President Obama this morning. How did that meeting go?
It was a very good meeting, very positive. He is inspiring. He started by outlining America’s policy, which was very well received. It centers on strengthening multilateralism - a new US policy approach to ensure that complex global challenges are resolved through collective processes rather than through unilateralism. We as human rights defenders feel that any weakening of multilateral institutions like the UN, as well as the regional systems, poses a particular danger to our work. So his words resonated with us. One way he pushes this agenda is to always emphasize to other governments that human rights do not rank second or are inferior to other American interests in bilateral affairs. He also makes a point to have high level meetings with civil society as well as government. This does not make many governments happy, but he thinks it is important that America begin to relate with the world in a way that reflects American core values.
How would you characterize the state of Human Rights in Africa?
There is still a lot that needs to be done. Civil and political rights are on the same pedestal as economic, social and cultural rights because matters of very basic human necessities – food, accommodation, living free of disease – those are as important to Africans as the issues of free expression.