Table of Contents
- Strengthening AFAD’s Unity…
- Years of Trials and Triumphs…
- NO political reform, NO hope for justice…
- Hunger Strike
- Indonesian Human Rights Movement…
- Crime and Punishment
- Anti-enforced Disappearance Bill
- A Life That is Never The Same Again
- Kashmiri families of missing person stage…
- Disappearances in Sri Lanka
Report on International Lobbying
- A Narrative of Contrast
- Where are They?
- Working Towards an African Network
- Reduced to Ashes: The Insurgency…
Mid Year Report
WORKING TOWARDS AN AFRICAN NETWORK
by Ewoud Plate1
Disappearances occur in many countries of the African continent. The relative weakness of the responses and protests by organizations and activists to the practice of these disappearances in Africa has however, led both African governments and the international community to pay less attention to this issue in the African context. With assistance of the existing regional federations of organizations of families of the disappeared of Asia (AFAD) and Latin America (FEDEFAM) and the project Linking Solidarity, a consultation process was conducted among a group of organizations in Africa, with the intention to allow exchange of experience and explore the options to promote NGO cooperation. The outcome has surpassed expectations. An African NGO Network Against Disappearances or
Réseau Africain contre les Disparitions Forcées (RADIF) is now a reality, even if it still has to acquire its means to function efficiently.
The Consultation Process
The consultation process involved about 50 persons from 25 African NGOs from the following countries: Cameroon, Congo Brazzaville, DRC, Western Sahara, Guinea, Senegal, Benin, South Africa, Namibia, Zambia, Malawi, Tanzania, Rwanda, Burundi, Algeria and Ethiopia. A series of three regional seminars (Cotonou in November 2002, Pretoria in February 2003 and Arusha in June 2003) were organized with the objective of identifying and designing modes of effective response by African NGOs to the practice and consequences of enforced disappearances. The participating NGO representatives from African regions and a few invited experts (ICRC staff, academic researchers of the Centre for Human Rights of the University of Pretoria, staff and members of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of South Africa, staff members of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda) analyzed the phenomenon of enforced disappearances in the context of their respective countries, the legal provisions for protection against disappearances in domestic and in international law and the means to implement these provisions. In particular, the seminars intended to discuss the possibility to create an African Network Against Disappearances.
In this consultation process, the experience and assistance of the existing federations of organizations of families of the disappeared from Asia (AFAD) and Latin America (FEDEFAM) have been of paramount importance. It not only illustrated the need for international solidarity, cooperation and assistance among NGOs of all regions and continents and provided practical experience on the plus-value of an NGO-network, but also focused on the difficulties to run such networks.
The discussions during the seminars brought to light the diversity of NGO actors involved in the struggle against disappearances. In some countries as South Africa, Western Sahara, Namibia or Algeria, the families of the disappeared have formed well-organized pressure groups. In a large number of countries however, the families of the victims rely on assistance of human rights NGOs with a broader approach and set of priority concerns.
The consultation has demonstrated that, due to a lack of communication resources, it is often difficult to reach out to the families in several countries. The choice for the consultation was made to approach those organizations that would be able to become a focal point in their respective countries. The obstacles of cultural, religious and linguistic barriers were easily overcome by the obvious wish of NGOs of all regions to exchange information and experiences with each other.
The discussions contained a wealth of information in the context in which disappearances occur in African countries; on means to react, to assist victims and families, to provide psychosocial assistance; to measure the effects of Truth and Reconciliation Commissions; to push for cases, to use the media and lobby for political and legislative measures against disappearances or in favor of the families. The presentations of the work of the NGOs that were present at the seminars can be read in the reports of these seminars.
All participants joined on a consensus about a wide range of matters. All agreed that the problem of disappearances in Africa was not getting the attention it deserves. They also realized that the level of protection against crimes of disappearances is very deficient in most countries of Africa. Moreover, they all admitted that the means of response by African non-governmental actors could be strengthened in many ways. Finally, they all concluded that much could be improved by joining forces, sharing information and experiences and through more intensive international networking.
The participants in the first seminar in Cotonou immediately undertook to establish a base for the creation of an African Network. The seminar that followed in Southern Africa confirmed the wish of NGOs from different African regions to cooperate with each other at the continental level and reach consensus on the common objectives shared by the
RADIF network’s member-organizations.
During the last seminar in Arusha, the invited Eastern African organizations joined in the
RADIF initiative, and an organizational structure to be molded in the statutes of the
RADIF network was discussed. The participants also decided to name a committee that will ensure the implementation of all the next steps towards the operational launching of the
RADIF network. A number of activities aiming at empowering the network or at starting its activities will be presented in a preparatory project soon.
The RADIF Network
As conceived by the founding organizations, the RADIF network will establish the following structure: A Congress, a Council of 12 members of whom 5 will constitute the Board that will ensure the liaison with the Secretariat.
The objectives of RADIF are:
1. Conduct research about disappearances and establish the fate and whereabouts of the disappeared;
2. Promote, protect and defend the rights of victims, families, friends, defenders as well as prevent future disappearances;
3. Seek justice and compensation and end impunity;
4. Raise awareness, build solidarity and forge linkage with other organizations;
5. Support victims’ families and associations (including rehabilitation);
6. Build capacity of member- organizations;
7. Exchange information and share experience;
During the period that still separates us from the operational launching of the
RADIF network, a committee of 6 members will be responsible for the realization of the activities of the preparatory project 1.conduct a comparative research on enforced disappearances in Africa; 2. finalize the organizational structure and procedures for the establishment of the network; 3. ensure a broader participation of other like-minded organizations ; 4. create an information and documentation center that should also be accessible via internet ; 5. give a place to
RADIF in debates at international level ; 6. organize the Founding Congress, etc…
Need for International Solidarity and Assistance
The emergence of RADIF owes a lot from the efforts and the support of AFAD and
FEDEFAM. It is certain that the experience of these federations will greatly help in overcoming the difficulties of
RADIF in initiating its activities. All the African organizations have praised the inspiration provided by the Secretary General of AFAD, Mary Aileen Diez-Bacalso and by Patricio Rice, Adviser to
FEDEFAM, and are hoping for their continued encouragement and assistance.
The Project “Linking Solidarity”.
Linking Solidarity is a programme of the Dutch human rights organization HOM (Netherlands Humanist Committee on Human Rights), a sister organization of HIVOS. The programme focuses on the issue of enforced disappearances, and one of its aims is to assist in the establishment of autonomous organizations in different parts of the world that tackle the issue of disappearances. After having provided some assistance to the emergence of AFAD, attention has been focused on Africa during the last 18 months. With support from the Belgian and Dutch governments, Linking Solidarity conducted a consultation process among about 50 African organizations that led to the creation of the African network,
In a next phase of its activities, Linking Solidarity intends to pursue the following objectives:
provide support to the newborn African network, RADIF ;
Continue building bridges for regional NGO cooperation in regions where NGOs and families are still very isolated in their struggle (Balkan, Middle East and Central Asia);
Facilitate the cooperation and exchanges among regions and continents, in particular in their dialogue with the United Nations.
1Ewoud Plate is the Coordinator of the Project Linking Solidarity at the Netherlands Humanist Committee on Human Rights since May 2002. With a broad experience as a human rights worker both with NGOs as with intergovernmental organizations in various parts of the world, he has dedicated this last year to the organization of exchanges and cooperation among NGOs acting against enforced disappearances, mostly in Africa.
VOICE September 2003