Centre for Human Rights Graduation Ceremony on International Human Rights Day

Posted on January 06, 2016

Since the inception of the LLM/MPhil in Human Rights and Democratisation in Africa (HRDA) programme in 2000, students annually graduate on International Human Rights Day (10 December). The graduation ceremony is a highlight on the calendar of Centre for Human Rights and last year an honorary doctorate was also awarded to Prof David Padilla, international civil servant, academic and human rights defender.

Over the years Prof Padilla contributed to human rights monitoring and protection, first as the Deputy Executive Secretary of the Inter-American Commission, during its founding years and later as academic and human rights litigator. He embodies the twin values of excellence and ubuntu and his significant contributions to the Inter-American human rights system, his academic offerings on international human rights law and his excellence, goodness and humanity are celebrated and recognised with this honorary doctorate. Prof Padilla not only taught on the HRDA programme but also represented one of the alumni of this programme in a case before the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights.

The Centre is honoured to have Prof Padilla as a colleague, mentor and friend and we salute him for his inspirational and founding role in the establishment of the HRDA and the African Human Rights Moot Court Competition. In his address Prof Padilla encouraged the graduates of the programme to make effective and frequent use of the complaints mechanism under the African Human Rights System.

During the 2015 graduation ceremony, 15 doctoral degrees within the Faculty of Law were conferred, 10 of which were supervised by academics in the Centre for Human Rights. The following Centre for Human Rights doctoral degrees were conferred: Patricia Okira Achan, Romola Adeola, Thompson Chengeta, Innocent Enga Kameni, Willem Hendrik Gravett, Faith Njoki Kabata, Mkhululi Nyathi, Azubike Chinwuba Onuora-Oguno and Jimcall Pfumorodze.

28 students on the HRDA programme graduated with Master’s degrees and four prizes were awarded to deserving students. The Kéba M’Baye Prize (for the student who obtained the highest percentage for the HRDA dissertation) was awarded to Ms Grace Mukulwamutiyo (Zambia). The Nelson Mandela Prize (for the best student on the HRDA programme) was awarded to Ms Nastasia Thebaud-Bouillon (France). The Ubuntu Prize (for the student who best embodied the values and spirit of ubuntu during the HRDA programme) was awarded to Ms Annalena Elisabeth Würz (Germany). The Victor Dankwa Prize (for the best student in the module ‘Human Rights in Africa’ on the HRDA programme) was awarded to Ms  Khuraisha Patel (South Africa).

The Vice-Chancellor and Principal of the University of Pretoria, Prof Cherryl de la Rey, who led the graduation ceremony, acknowledged the significance of this special graduation ceremony being held on International Human Rights Day and she congratulated the honorary doctorate, doctorate and master’s degree recipients.

During the second part of the graduation ceremony the Dean of the Faculty of Law, Prof André Boraine, awarded the annual Dean’s Essay prizes. Students were invited to write an essay on their experiences during the course of the HRDA programme. Khuraisha Patel (South Africa) won the first prize for her essay, while Henrietta Markfre Ekefre (Nigeria) and Geoffrey Ogwaro (Uganda) were awarded the second and third prizes respectively.

Prof Damalie Naggita-Musoke, the Principal of the School of Law, Makerere University, Uganda, and Chair if the Council of Directors (2015) delivered an address on behalf of the Council of Directors of the HRDA programme. Dr Geraldine Reymenants, the General Representative of the Government of Flanders (a principal donor of the HRDA programme) addressed the students about the challenges that exist for human rights defenders in the current global landscape. The class representatives for 2015, Ms Nastasia Thebaud-Bouillon (France) and Mr Chairman Macaulay Okoloise (Nigeria) addressed their fellow graduates and reflected on the challenges and accomplishments of the year while looking forward to the opportunities and undertakings that lay ahead. Ms Yolanda Booyzen, Communications and Marketing Manager of the Centre for Human Rights, awarded the first prize and the three runner-up prizes in the Human Rights and Democracy through Photography Competition. Ms Annalena Elisabeth Würz (Germany) was the winner of 2015’s competition with her entry titled ‘Shadow Man’. Mr Diakite Boubacar Borgo (Senegal), Ms Nastasia Thebaud-Bouillon (France) and Mr Geoffrey Ogwara (Uganda) received the runner-up prizes.

Every year, an alumnus or alumna of the HRDA programme is awarded the prestigious Vera Chirwa Award. Individuals who best embodied the principles of the programme in his or her subsequent career by making a difference to the protection of human rights or the strengthening of democratisation in Africa are nominated by their fellow alumni. Mr Adebayo Olayinka Okeowo, Alumni Coordinator of the Centre for Human Rights announced that the Vera Chirwa Award for 2015 would be shared by Prof Christopher Mbazira (2003, Uganda) and Ms Salima Namusobya (2004, Uganda) for their contributions to human rights in academia and in civil society.

Dr Orquidea Palmira Massarongo-Jonas from the Faculty of Law, Universidade Eduardo Mondlane, Mozambique paid tribute to the late Prof Giles Cistac, a human rights activist, academic and mentor to many of the Centre’s alumni. Prof Frans Viljoen, Director of the Centre for Human Rights concluded the graduation ceremony by announcing that Mr Edward Kahuthia Murimi (Kenya) was selected to pursue a legal internship at the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights. He also revealed that Mr Chairman Macaulay Okoloise (Nigeria) was selected to pursue his LLD degree at the Centre for Human Rights, where he will also serve in the capacity of tutor on the HRDA programme.

The Centre for Human Rights congratulates all the 2015 graduates and wishes them success in their future human rights-related work.


- Author Centre for Human Rights

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