Interviews

Interview – Yves

Integrating AU standards in Kenyan policy-making after the constitution was passed: Interview with Yves Niyiragira, Fahamu

 In 2012, the State of the Union coalition will powerfully hold Member States of the African Union accountable for the implementation of fourteen democracy, human rights and development African Union standards. The campaign will support Governments and citizens to understand and act to realize the freedoms and rights contained in the standards and legal instruments. At the beginning of the year, Pamela Inoti interviewed coalition leaders on their plans for doing so. For further information: www.stateoftheunionafrica.net

Yves Niyiragira is the Programme Officer, AU Monitor at Fahamu, a network for social justice organisation based in Nairobi, Kenya

 

Why did your organisation join the State of the Union coalition?

We joined the State of the Union coalition to push for implementation of AU standards. We see it as an extension of our work on the AU, which started in 2004 with the campaign on the AU’s Protocol on the Rights of Women in Africa.

 

How far has your organisation reached in terms of establishing the conditions for your Government to ratify and implement key AU standards and decisions?

Fahamu, together with a number of our partners, has contributed significantly towards the ratification of women’s Protocol. Kenya ratified the women’s Protocol as it was in line with the new constitution and it poses no political threat. We are working with other partners to push for the ratifications of the Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance. There is a lot more to be done towards Kenya ratifying the Democracy Charter.

 

What important trends and opportunities exist for the realisation of these standards and human rights instruments?

The drafting of the new Kenyan Constitution provides the primary avenue to push for ratification of all AU human rights instruments. The debate of the type of democracy and human rights that is appropriate for Kenya means that no longer can this be seen as an idea imposed by the West.

 

What are you planning to do to make Governments more open towards domestication of the pending relevant treaties?

We plan to raise awareness within the Government on what obligations that are contained in the AU Treaties and the importance of the Government to ratify and implement them. We also try to alleviate the fear that the Government associates with ratification by explaining that these instruments serve as guidelines or a citizen empowerment tool.

 

What are the two-three key challenges you are facing both internally and externally within the wider context that hinders your work?

Externally, there is the unwillingness of the policy makers to listen to us. The Government also has changing priorities in response to the unfolding events on the political scene. Internally, Fahamu lacks capacity to push for the ratification and implementation of all the ten instruments.

 

By the end of 2012, what do you want to have achieved in this area?

Firstly, we want to ensure a commitment from the Kenya Government towards the ratification of the Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance. Secondly, we want to ensure citizen awareness in what the Government has agreed to do and hold the Government accountable. We hope to encourage the Africa Division in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to upload on their website a list of AU instruments so that the citizens have easy access to that information. Thirdly, we seek to have more CSOs supporting us in the campaign.

To find out more about Fahamu’s work email: yves@fahamu.org or visit their website: www.fahamu.org, www.aumonitor.org, www.pambazuka.org

 

Interviews: Vera

Why the Banjul Charter on Human and People’s Rights recognizes the duty of citizens to pay taxes in the interests of society: Interview with Vera Mshana, Tax Justice Network

 

In 2012, the State of the Union coalition will powerfully hold Member States of the African Union accountable for the implementation of fourteen democracy, human rights and development African Union standards. The campaign will support Governments and citizens to understand and act to realize the freedoms and rights contained in the standards and legal instruments. At the beginning of the year, Pamela Inoti interviewed coalition leaders on their plans for doing so. For further information: www.stateoftheunionafrica.net.

Vera Mshana is the Policy and Advocacy Officer, Tax Justice Network- Africa (TJN-A), based in Nairobi, Kenya

 

 Describe who you are and why personally you are working in this field? What motivates you?
I am a lawyer with a personal interest in tax policy and advisory.  I am in this field because civil society is leading in challenging of the tax policy by reframing its design for development. CSOs assist in tax administration by calling for domestic resource mobilization is an opportunity to participate and advocate for the use of tax policy as a legal instrument to realise human rights for African citizens.

Describe what you are trying to achieve in Africa and in relationship to the African Union?
The Banjul Charter on Human and People’s Rights recognizes many rights, including peoples’ right to development as well as the duty of citizens to pay taxes in the interests of society. As a Pan-African civil society network, we recognize that the AU is a key institution that can set out norms and principles that impact on the development of tax systems in member states. Therefore, it is in our interest to influence how these norms and principles are set. For instance, the AU’s recent commitment to address illicit financial flows is a key example of an initiative spearheaded by our organization to detect sophisticated income tax evasion schemes. These schemes are usually cross-border and therefore require African countries to come together through the AU to mutually combat tax evasion.

What are the 2-3 key challenges you are facing both internally and externally within the wider context that hinders your work?
Firstly, tax policy is still largely perceived to be a ‘technical’ and expert issue; an expertise which civil society actors are not perceived to possess. As much as this perception is slowly changing, the space for civil society to engage on such matters is limited. Secondly, tax policy reform is inherently political and sometimes dangerous. Another challenge is that everyone sees the value in and enjoys public goods and services, but very few are willing to pay for them.

How well are you working with national organisations to hold their Governments accountable and to act in the area that matters to you? What challenges do you face?
Our main work is to amplify national level issues to the regional and global levels and ‘bring down’ global and regional level issues to the national level. For instance, whereas our work on harmful tax competition in East Africa needs to be addressed regionally (e.g. through the adoption of an EAC Code of Conduct), it is up to the Member States and partners to ensure that the reform of tax incentives regime forms part of the budget process at the country level. At the same time, we appreciate that the income taxation of the informal sector is a domestic issue that cannot be overlooked in our continental level campaigning.

One of the key challenges we face is that the concept of ‘tax justice’ is not a favourable term with many citizens. Given the legacy of taxation in Africa, many citizens either do not perceive of themselves as taxpayers, or have only negative experiences of it (particularly coercive tax collection methods). Therefore, citizens do not equate taxation as a basis for demanding improved public service delivery. As such, much of our time is spent mainstreaming tax justice issues and concepts to our members and more broadly (e.g. through media, our newsletter, and mailing list) so that they can use this as a basis to demand for change.

Are there success stories and lessons that you could share of work at the national level? At the continental level?

At the national level, since TJN-A’s inception, national tax platforms or reference groups have been developed in Ghana, Zambia, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Uganda, Cameroun, and Kenya. At the continental level, there has been increased institutional engagement of the tax issues identified by TJN-A, and the global TJN including the development the AU/ECA High Level Panel of Experts on Illicit Financial Flows.

To find out more about tax justice network, email: vera.mshana@taxjustice.net or visit their website: www.taxjustice4africa.net

 

 

 

Interview: Themba

Why ratification of AU instruments in the wider region is more paramount than focusing on South Africa alone: Interview with Dr. Themba Mhlongo, Southern Africa Trust.

 

In 2012, the State of the Union coalition will powerfully hold Member States of the African Union accountable for the implementation of fourteen democracy, human rights and development African Union standards. The campaign will support Governments and citizens to understand and act to realize the freedoms and rights contained in the standards and legal instruments. At the beginning of the year, Pamela Inoti interviewed coalition leaders on their plans for doing so. For further information: www.stateoftheunionafrica.net

Dr. Themba Mhlongo, is the Head of Programmes at Southern Africa Trust, an organization that influences policies to end poverty. It is based in Midrand, South Africa.

 

Why did your organisation join the State of the Union coalition?

We joined SOTU for two reasons: Firstly, SOTU takes issues of Government accountability seriously. As a Civil Society Organization (CSO), we can pressure the Government and demand accountability on behalf of the citizens. Secondly, it is about regional integration, a project that is dear to our organization.

 

How far has your organisation reached in terms of establishing the conditions for your Government to ratify and implement key AU standards and decisions?

We have developed and implemented a partner project. The approach of our organization is to emphasize on the establishment of a national platform to push the agenda forward. Bringing all stakeholders is crucial to achieve that goal.

 

What important trends and opportunities exist for the realisation of these standards and human rights instruments?

As a Trust, we have realized that focusing on South Africa alone is futile. However, through the avenue of regional integration, we can use South Africa to reach out to the rest of the region and emphasize on the important of the AU Charters and how they affect the daily lives of the citizens.

 

What are you planning to do to make Governments more open towards domestication of the pending relevant treaties?

As a CSO we need to get the facts right. We need to do research on why ratification of some treaties is still pending and come up with innovative proposals to drive domestication. CSOs need to know the “pressure points” on relevant treaties and have someone in an organization to own the process and drive it forward.

 

What are the 2-3 key challenges you are facing both internally and externally within the wider context that hinders your work?

We face the challenge of long-term sustainable resources. Externally, we are faced with the challenge to bring on board a variety of players with different skills doing different things to focus on the same goal of pushing for implementation.

 

By the end of 2012, what do you want to have achieved in this area?

We hope to have mobilised a popular movement of all stakeholders and the citizenry focused around issues that affect their lives. In this way we will capture the attention of the Government and relate these issues to the Protocols.

 

 

To find out more about Southern Africa Trust’s work email: tmhlongo@southernafricatrust.org or visit their website: www.southernafricatrust.org

 

Interview: Alexis

The formation of a Consortium to push for ratification of AU instruments in Rwanda: Interview with Alexis Nkurunziza, CLADHO.

 

In 2012, the State of the Union coalition will powerfully hold Member States of the African Union accountable for the implementation of fourteen democracy, human rights and development African Union standards. The campaign will support Governments and citizens to understand and act to realize the freedoms and rights contained in the standards and legal instruments. At the beginning of the year, Pamela Inoti interviewed coalition leaders on their plans for doing so. For further information: www.stateoftheunionafrica.net

Alexis Nkurunziza, is the Public Policy Advocacy Officer, Le Collectif des Ligues et Associations de Défense des Droits de l’Homme au (CLADHO), based in Kigali, Rwanda

 

Why did your organisation join the State of the Union coalition?

CLADHO is an umbrella of 8 human rights organizations in Rwanda. Our aim is to defend, protect and promote human rights and social justice by raising citizen participation in policy awareness. CLADHO shares the vision of the SOTU coalition.

 

How far has your organisation reached in terms of establishing the conditions for your Government to ratify and implement key AU standards and decisions?

We have and continue to rally the citizens to seek accountability from the Government. In 2010 we conducted a survey in 2010 on the ratification of AU instruments and Rwanda scored poorly. Soon after the release of this report, we were happy to see the Government ratified the Charter on democracy, elections and governance, one of the recommendations in our report. The Government has since become more proactive on such issues.

 

What important trends and opportunities exist for the realisation of these standards and human rights instruments?

The Government is keen on the process and has become involved in the coalition. In addition, other CSOs that are not part of the coalition are becoming more responsive towards our work. This has enabled us to share this cause with many stakeholders.

 

What are you planning to do to make Governments more open towards domestication of the pending relevant treaties?

We are seeking to embrace the Government’s responsiveness towards the domestication of other relevant treaties. With other CSOs, the Government and other stakeholders we will work to popularize domestication and domestication of all the Treaties.

 

What are the 2-3 key challenges you are facing both internally and externally within the wider context that hinders your work?

Firstly, there is a lack of citizen awareness about the AU Charters and their impact on the lives of the people. This is compounded by the restriction that the Government has placed on the media houses which makes it hard to use any media outlet to sensitive the people. Secondly, some senior Government officials are not sufficiently informed or sensitised about the AU charters.

 

By the end of 2012, what do you want to have achieved in this area?

We want to make sure that the established consortium is operational and in high gear. We seek to establish with Government an inter-ministerial committee to drive forward the domestication process. Secondly, we will have simplified and translated the key instruments into Kinyarwanda and make them easily understood. Afterwards, we will distribute the simplified version to teachers, churches, women councils and the youth to make sure they reach rural communities.

 

 

To find out more about CLADHO’s work email: nkuruflor@gmail.com or visit their website: www.cladho.org

 

 

Interview: Limbani Nsapato

On ensuring the 2nd decade on education in Africa is being observed: Interview with Limbani Nsapato, ANCEFA.

In 2012, the State of the Union coalition will powerfully hold Member States of the African Union accountable for the implementation of fourteen democracy, human rights and development African Union standards. The campaign will support Governments and citizens to understand and act to realize the freedoms and rights contained in the standards and legal instruments. At the beginning of the year, Pamela Inoti interviewed coalition leaders on their plans for doing so. For further information: www.stateoftheunionafrica.net

Limbani Nsapato is the Policy and Advocacy Manager, Africa Network Campaign on Education for All (ANCAFA), based in Lusaka, Zambia

Describe who you are and why personally you are working in this field? What motivates you?
I am motivated by the fact that I work in a field that is very critical to achieving one of the AU objectives; to have African countries prioritize the provision of compulsory and  basic quality education  (right to education for all). Since we are a Civil Society Organization, it is in our interest to inform and influence Government policy and implementation of the AU Protocols. Working with SOTU complements what we are doing.

Describe what you are trying to achieve in Africa and in relationship to the African Union?
Implementation of AU instruments in Member States has not been poor. As a CSO, we are working to ensure policies in education are supported by ensuring that countries take responsibility to implement education policy. We are also empowering citizens to demand for the right to education. This is the 2nd decade on education being observed in Africa where countries are mainstreaming their policy towards funding education.

What are the 2-3 key challenges you are facing both internally and externally within the wider context that hinders your work?
The first challenge is to identify the relevant AU structures and target the right people to push for implementation of education policy instruments. Secondly, lack of skills to translate structures into opportunities that can be harnessed to our advantage. Lastly, lack of financial means to follow up and ensure the right structures have been put in place within the Member States.

How well are you working with national organisations to hold their Governments accountable and to act in the area that matters to you? What challenges do you face?
We are mobilizing national education coalitions as an entry point. So far we have 35 organizations from 35 countries in Africa. We have strengthened their capacity through training campaigns on education financing and strategizing. The challenge comes when the implementation of policy requires domestic financing. At this point, the case of tax justice issues in member states begins to emerge complicating our mission.

Are there success stories and lessons that you could share of work at the national and the continental level?
At the national level, in terms of policy, we have managed to promote national accountability through budget monitoring and tracking. In so doing, we have created awareness on the need to increase education financing in countries such as Kenya, Malawi, Senegal and Ghana. At the continental level, we have mobilized CSOs to form national coalitions to engage their countries on education policy issues. The number of national coalition members in Africa has increased from 19 to 35. In addition, there is also an increasing awareness on AU education policies, especially observing the 2nd decade on education.

By the end of 2012, what results are you aiming to achieve in this area?
First, we would like to see that African countries offer better quality education and achieve higher levels of learning outcomes, especially in key reading and writing skills. Secondly, ensure compliance of AU education instruments to be domesticated and mainstreamed in national policies. Compliance is useless without implementation done by allocating adequate funds to support and improve the standards on service delivery.