The ratification of legal instruments and legislation with regard to people with disabilities and older persons in Africa has come under scrutiny at the Pan-African Parliament (PAP) with calls for governments to ratify the relevant instruments.
This came to the fore at the joint sittings of the Committee on Gender, Youth, Family and People with Disability, and the Committee on Health, Labour and Social Affairs at the PAP headquarters in Midrand, South Africa. Sittings of the Permanent Committees of the PAP began on 6 March and will run up to 17 March under the AU theme of the year "The Year of AcFTA: Accelerating the Implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Area."
Speaking at the capacity building workshop for the continental Parliamentarians, Senior Social Welfare Officer at the African Union Commission, Mr Lefhoko Kesamang said it is paramount for African countries to address disability within a dedicated framework of legal and institutional provisions.
"It is important to come up with a policy to define the parameters of the rights expected. You are lawmakers and as lawmakers, you make laws within the parameters provided in the legal framework. When we ratify these laws, we are building The Africa We Want. The protocol needs to come into force and enforce the rights of people with disabilities," said Mr Lefhoko Kesamang.
The instruments under discussion were the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and People's Rights on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, the PAP Model Disability Law, Plan of Action on Ending Attacks and Discrimination against People with Albinism, and the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and People's Rights on the Rights of Older Persons in Africa.
Cognizant of the central role played by the PAP in advocacy for the ratification of the Protocols, Chairperson of the Committee on Gender, Hon Dao Gabala Mariam proffered:
"Disabled persons are human beings just like all of us, they ought to be integrated into our societies. To this end, the PAP developed and adopted a Model Law on Disability. It is key that our nations ratify and domesticate a continental legal framework for the promotion and protection of disability rights. Let the advocacy and lobbying work start with all of the Members of Parliament here present. We should carry this message back to our national Parliaments."
Dr Tavengwa Nhongo, Director of the Africa Platform for Social Protection unpacked the Protocol on the Rights of Older Persons in Africa specifically on the access to justice and equal protection, provision of adequate social protection, protection against discrimination in employment, and protection in conflict and disaster situations by ensuring access to assistance during rescue efforts. He said the Protocol relating to older persons had 20 signatures appended, 10 ratifications and 10 countries have so far deposited with the African Union.
"After this meeting, we are hopeful that we will get 5 more ratifications that we need for this protocol to come into force. Our goal is that every AU member state adopts this protocol so that our older persons are adequately protected by law," said Dr Tavengwa Nhongo.
Participants in the capacity-building workshop agreed that there is a need to intensify advocacy initiatives, engage all stakeholders and encourage their participation in the campaign for ratification of these protocols.