The human rights activists from East African call on the member states without specific laws on Access to information to adopt immediately these to accelerate the sustainable development of these countries through the culture of building strong transparency and accountability in the African continent.
This call was made this week during a workshop organized by the Africa Freedom of Information Centre (AFIC), a pan-African membership-based civil society network and resource center promoting the right of access to information, transparency, and accountability across Africa.
Mr Gilbert SENDUGWA, the executive director of AFIC said that only 26 African countries have adopted respective national access to information laws.
These 26 countries are Niger, Tunisia, Sierra Leone, Sudan, Nigeria, Morocco, Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Ethiopia, Tanzania, South Sudan, Mozambique, Angola, South Africa, Malawi, Zimbabwe, Seychelles, Nigeria, Guinea, Liberia, Corte d’Ivoire, Burkina Faso, Benin, and Togo.
Mr Gilbert SENDUGWA said, “We are concerned that 29 African Union Member States are yet to enact specific laws on access to information, a lack of commitment to the realization of SDG 16.10.2 and violating the six African Union treaties that guarantee the Right to Information”.
In Eastern Africa, 7 countries have specific laws that guarantee citizens’ rights to access information, including Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda, South Sudan, Ethiopia, and Seychelles. Therefore, leaves 5 Eastern African countries without specific laws on access to information, including Djibouti, Eritrea, Comoros, Madagascar, and Mauritius.
It is time for these 5 Eastern African countries to pass access to information laws and implement them,” said Mr Gilbert SENDUGWA, the executive director of AFIC.
Amb. SALAH S. Hammad, the head of the AGA-APSA secretariat in the African Union Commission said that Access to information is thus not only important for individual dignity but also for participation, accountability, and democracy. Violations of freedom of expression often go hand in hand with other violations, notably the right to freedom of association and assembly.
“The Right to Information as an African shared value is enshrined in many African Union Instruments aimed at protecting and promoting human rights as a key for sustainable development in Africa. The principles and objectives of the AU’s Constitutive Act of 2000 emphasize the need to promote and protect human rights on the Continent. In fact, Article 9 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights provides that ‘Every individual shall have the right to receive information” said Amb. SALAH S. Hammad.
The Right of Access to Information has long been recognized by International and Regional Human Rights Instruments like the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and Six treaties of the African Union, including the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights.
The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development plan of action adopted by all 193 United Nations (UN) member states to protect the planet and improve the lives and prospects of everyone recognizes public Access to Information within Goal 16 that covers the need to promote peace and inclusive societies (target 16.10.2).
Acknowledging that key stakeholders, represented during the 3-day training workshop have on this 19th August 2021 committed to promoting the adoption and implementation of the Right of Access to Information, and collaborate in ensuring open governance and public access to and use of accurate information towards effective service delivery and value for money.
The virtual training workshop has been held from 17-19 August 2021 with the purpose of strengthening the capacities of the key actors on the promotion of knowledge society for the development of national information policies in Eastern Africa.
The workshop was organized in collaboration with UNESCO, the African Union Commission, Information Ethics Network for Africa, and the International Centre for Information Ethics.
One hundred forty-nine participants representing line Ministries, Parastatals, Agencies, Parliament, Private Sector, Civil Society Organizations, the Media, and the UN system gathered online to for a training workshop to train stakeholders from across Eastern Africa on the Promotion of Knowledge Society Policy in National Information Policies in Eastern Africa.
Some of the Civil society organizations representing Rwanda in this workshop was RJSD (Rwanda Journalists for Sustainable Development) and Legal Aid Forum.