AU embarks on human rights memorial project

Plans to construct the African Union Human Rights Memorial are at advanced stages as delegates from across the continent met in Kigali, yesterday, to discuss details of the memorial.
The AU site will supplement Kigali Genocide Memorial Centre. The New Times/ File.
The AU site will supplement Kigali Genocide Memorial Centre. The New Times/ File.

Plans to construct the African Union Human Rights Memorial are at advanced stages as delegates from across the continent met in Kigali, yesterday, to discuss details of the memorial.

The memorial, which will have the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi as a main feature, will be established in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa. It will also feature other African human rights abuses such as slavery, colonialism, South African apartheid, the Red Terror in Ethiopia, among others.

The idea of the memorial was floated by Rwanda at the 10th anniversary of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi. It was immediately adopted by the Committee of Permanent Representatives to the AU.

The foundation stone for the memorial was laid last year at the former Kerchele Prison, the central prison of Addis Ababa.

Prof. Joseph Nsengimana, Rwanda’s permanent representative to the AU, said the memorial will be a milestone in enhancing commitment to never again allow such barbaric acts to be committed against humanity.

“It is our precious desire to see the memorial reflect all realities of the Genocide against the Tutsi as well as other human rights violations across the continent,” Nsengimana said during the meeting that took place at the Kigali Genocide Memorial.

Takwa Zebulon Suifon, the head of post-conflict reconstruction at the AU Commission, said the continental body’s attachment to matters of human rights is demonstrated not only in the establishment of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, but also by the creation of the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights and the African Committee of Experts on the Rights and Welfare of the Child.

“This is in addition to the role played by other organs of AU to promote and protect human  rights on the continent and the adoption of various instruments aimed at ensuring that human rights abuses are prevented and perpetrators punished,” he said.

The AU resolution that directed the establishment of the memorial, also made the commemoration of the Genocide in Rwanda on April 7 an annual event in the AU calendar.

The resolution also listed slavery and apartheid among the ‘unprecedented’ tragedies in the history of Africa. 

At the opening of the Kigali meeting, Protais Mitali, the minister for culture, said it is important for governments, civil society organisations and survivors’ groups to work together to eradicate human rights violations in Africa and elsewhere in the world.  

He urged African states to strive for prosperity of their people as a way of averting conflicts.

“In some cases, poverty is root of conflict and instability,” Mitali said.

AU officials said consultations will continue in countries that host the themes that will feature in the memorial, and the final report will be ready early next year.

The report, the officials said, will inform the conclusive features that will make up the memorial.w

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