A baseline survey commissioned by Network of African National Human Rights Institutions (NANHRI) says the main challenges faced by human rights activists in eastern Africa are mainly premised on conflicts faced over the years.
These conflicts, the survey said, are based on (disputed) elections, ethnicity, natural resources, power sharing concerns, armed conflicts, among others.
The report cites the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi, the 2007 post election violence in Kenya, the war against the Lord’s Resistance Army insurgency in Uganda, and resource dispute in Tanzania.
It is in this context that a meeting was convened in Kigali, last week, bringing together human rights activists from the East African Community, which aimed at coming up with strategies on what role they can play to avert these conflicts or managing them when they occur.
“Rights organs can champion for ratification of policies to address social and economic inequalities, advocacy for victims, conducting civic education, investigation mechanisms and also promote transitional justice, early warning mechanisms and facilitating mediation sides,” Gilbert Sebihogo, executive director of NANHRI, said.
He said the institutions agreed on strategies, including establishing a framework of information sharing and streamlining ways of receiving complaints.
Innocent Safari, the permanent secretary at the Ministry for East African Community affairs, said collaboration will help fight terrorism, human trafficking and promote good governance in the region.
The survey shows that in the area of conflict prevention, human rights institutions in the region fall short in such areas as synergy in addressing the conflict issues, common cross border approach to resolve related conflicts and meet limited skills and expertise in conflict management as they lack adequate formal training.
The report highlights that budgetary constraints remain a major challenge to the effectiveness and sustainability of conflict management and peace building.
The regional officials said since some of them almost entirely depend on governments to finance their activities, this may affect free expression on the rights issues.
“We have volunteers at the sector level who get trained twice a year for more capacity building. They give us monthly report on human rights violation cases which help us to evaluate and do investigations,” said Samuel Kanyemera Kaka, a commissioner with the National Human Rights Commission.