East African Legislative Assembly, Geneva, Switzerland: 27 October, 2016: EALA Speaker, Rt Hon Daniel Fred Kidega wants global Parliamentarians and Parliaments to take the lead in reversing the ever-increasing human rights abuses in the society. He says legislators must rise up to the occasion, accept responsibility and diligently play their roles to avoid been roundly condemned for doing too little or nothing, in stopping such abuses.
The remarks are contained in a speech delivered on behalf of the EALA Speaker by Member, Hon Taslima Twaha, yesterday at the 135th Meeting of the Inter-Parliamentary Union currently underway in Geneva, Switzerland.
The theme of this year's Assembly is "Human Rights Abuses as Precursors of Conflict: Parliament as Early Responders". Over 700 delegates and about 30 Speakers are in attendance at the congress.
The EALA Speaker told the meeting of the strong interdependence between human rights violations and intractable conflicts and warned of its disproportionate impact to women and children, especially the girl child. He stated that lack of free, fair and credible elections remained a catalyst in the long run, leading to instability, conflicts and therefore human rights abuses. The Speech cited Parliaments as first responders in resolving the violations and called for passage and enactment of relevant pieces of legislation, enhanced budgets and better oversight on matters of human rights abuses.
EALA has passed two key related pieces of legislation the EAC Conflict Management Act, 2012 and the EAC Human and Peoples Rights Bill, 2011. "The enforcement of regional and national legislation is absolutely fundamental", Hon Taslima added.
The legislator said the region had not been spared and it remains prone to conflicts that affect the citizens of the EAC as in other parts of the globe. This is despite efforts by the founders of the EAC towards underscoring human rights and democracy at inception of the EAC.
"The unrests in some Partner States are still a big challenge to the Community today leading to cases of human rights abuses. The region and specifically, the Republics of Kenya and Uganda have also borne the effects of the Al-Shabaab, with hundreds of lives lost to terrorism and property damaged", he said.
"Internationally, the Syrian Crisis in Aleppo is getting to very alarming heights. Documented cases of human rights abuses have been brought to the fore", the legislator added.
The 135th Meeting of the IPU commenced on Monday this week. In attendance are delegations of legislators from the globe. The EAC region is well represented. They include, Speakers from Kenya (Senate), Rt Hon Ekwe Ethuro, Parliament of South Sudan, Rt. Hon Anthony Lino Makana and Rt Hon Rebecca Kadaga of the Parliament of Uganda. The delegation of the Parliament of Rwanda is led by the Vice President of the Senate, Hon Harerimana Fatou while the 2nd Vice President of the Burundi National Assembly, Hon Edouard Nduwimana leads a team from Bujumbura.
Meanwhile, the Inter-Parliamentary Union's (IPU) 135th Assembly is urging all relevant parties to bring an end to Syrian war. They also called today for the immediate, unimpeded and permanent humanitarian and medical access to the civilian population in Syria in order to ensure that supplies reach over 550,000 people in besieged areas, deprived from almost all humanitarian aid.
In an emergency resolution adopted by consensus, the IPU urged parties to the conflict to reinstate the ceasefire agreement of September 2016 and to ensure the security and freedom of movement of humanitarian personnel.
Acknowledging that over 11 million people have lost their homes in Syria, 6.5 million of whom are internally displaced, and that 4.8 million have had to flee abroad since the outbreak of hostilities, MPs addressed the war and the severe humanitarian situation in Syria, particularly in Aleppo.
In other news, Speaker of the Parliament of Uganda, Rt Hon Rebecca Kadaga, was elected Chair of the African Geo-Political Group. Africa's Geo-Political Group consists of 50 Parliaments from the Continent. Each geopolitical group plays an important role in the functioning of the Inter-Parliamentary Union. Each group decides on its own working methods that best suit its participation in the activities of the Union, its composition and its Rules of Procedure.
On other related matters, a new study released by the IPU reveals that harassment and violence against women MPs are global problems that impede gender equality and undermine the foundations of democracy. IPU's study is based on in-depth interviews with 55 women MPs from 39 countries covering five regions of the world. It shows troubling level of psychological, sexual and physical violence.
The study reports that 81.8 per cent of survey participants have experienced some form of psychological violence. Among them, some 44 per cent said they had received threats of death, rape, beatings or abduction during their parliamentary terms, including threats to kidnap or kill their children.
"This is a survey of a small percentage of women MPs, but it makes clear that the problem is much more widespread and under-reported than we realize. The Parliamentary community must speak out against sexism and harassment and make clear that it cannot be tolerated as the price to be paid for women's political involvement," a statement by IPU Secretary General Martin Chungong said in part.
The Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) is the global organization of national Parliaments. It works to safeguard peace and drives positive democratic change through political dialogue and concrete action. To that end, IPU fosters contacts, co-ordination, and the exchange of experience among Parliaments and Parliamentarians of all countries. IPU also contributes to the defence and promotion of human rights - an essential factor of Parliamentary democracy and development. EALA is an Associate Member of the IPU.