IEC Chief warns against absence of laws promoting access to information on the African continent

This year, 34 students from 19 countries are enrolled for the LLM programme. The programme is coordinated by the University’s Centre for Human Rights. The Centre for Human Rights was awarded the 2006 UNESCO Prize for Human Rights Education.

Now in its 10th year, the course is presented in partnership with eight other universities in Africa representing all the sub-regions: American University in Cairo (Egypt), Addis Ababa University (Ethiopia), Catholic University of Central Africa (Cameroon), University of Ghana, Makerere University (Uganda), Universidade Eduardo Mondlane (Mozambique), the University of Mauritius, and the University of the Western Cape.

Advocate Tlakula told the audience (comprising students, parents, staff and members of the diplomatic community) that without information, it is impossible for the citizenry to access and enjoy other rights.

“Access to information promotes transparency, accountability and good governance. Needless to say, corruption thrives where the right to freedom of expression is muzzled and access to information is not guaranteed,” she said.

Advocate Tlakula added that the absence of laws promoting access to information was precisely the reason that the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights had adopted The Declaration of Principles of Freedom of Expression in Africa. This Declaration inter alia provides that public bodies hold information not for themselves but as custodians of the public good.

“The absence of access to information laws on the continent has prompted me, as the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression and Access to Information in Africa to prioritize the adoption of access to information laws as one of my areas of focus,” she said.

In 2007, the University of Pretoria’s Centre for Human Rights offered Advocate Tlakula a group of LLM students to conduct research for her as part of their clinical work. The research that the students conducted formed part of the report that she submitted to the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the state of the adoption of Access to Information laws on the continent.

As part of this year’s opening ceremony of the LLM Programme, the Centre for Human Rights presented the Vera Chirwa Award for 2008 to Mr Julius Osega (posthumously). The award was received by his widow, Mrs Tagane Osega. Julius Osega was working in the Police Department of Uganda. He was killed in July last year (2008) during a peacekeeping mission in Darfur (Sudan).

The Vera Chirwa Award is presented each year by the University’s Centre for Human Rights for the alumnus or alumna who best furthered the spirit of the programme in their subsequent career. Dr Vera Chirwa is a human rights activist from Malawi and former Special Rapporteur, African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights.

The LLM programme is sponsored by the European Commission, the Embassy of Finland, the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD), and the Royal Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

This year’s students come from the following countries: Finland, Mozambique, Ethiopia, Kenya, Nigeria, Uganda, Zambia, Mauritius, Rwanda, Cote d’Ivoire, Zimbabwe, Lesotho, Swaziland, Tanzania, Burundi, Cameroon, Malawi, South Africa, and United States of America.

Click here for the full address by Advocate Pansy Tlakula – Chief Electoral Officer of the IEC.

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