Sensitization Exchange with key Ministries of the Government of the Gambia during The 79th Ordinary Session Of The African Commission, 01 June 2024 Banjul, The Gambia


(Vice-Chairperson and Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Women in Africa of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights)

Your Excellencies, Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen,

All protocols observed!

It is my great honor and privilege, on behalf of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (the Commission), to welcome you to this important event in my capacity as the Vice Chairperson of the Commission. We are deeply honoured and humbled by your presence here today, at this sensitization exchange between the Commission and the officials of the Government of The Gambia, our gracious host country. This event is part of the ongoing 79th Ordinary Session of the Commission, and it was initiated to heighten awareness about the Commission’s vital role in promoting and protecting human rights across the continent. As a Gambian, I feel honored to welcome you to YOUR commission, affectionately known as The Banjul Commission. 

The name “Banjul Commission” holds significance for the Government of The Gambia, as it reflects not only the city where the headquarters of the Commission is but also symbolizes The Gambia’s commitment to upholding human rights and fostering regional cooperation in Africa. 

As you may know, the first President of The Gambia, Sir Dawda Kairaba Jawara, was indeed one of the pioneers and founding fathers who played a significant role in the adoption of the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights, also known as the “Banjul Charter.”  The Gambia actively participated in the Charter's conceptualization, drafting, and negotiation processes, leading to its adoption by the OAU in 1981. Jawara’s leadership and advocacy for human rights principles contributed to the development and eventual adoption of this landmark document, which promotes and protects the rights of Africans. Therefore, it is unsurprising that The Gambia was one of the first countries to ratify the African Charter in 1983, two years after its adoption and before it entered into force in 1986. This early commitment also underscores the nation's dedication to upholding and promoting human rights, aligning with the African Union's vision of a continent where human and peoples' rights are fully realized. 

In 1987, the Commission was established under Article 30 of the African Charter, with a dual mandate to promote and protect the rights of African peoples. Despite the official establishment of the Commission, it initially lacked a permanent Secretariat. Consequently, its sessions and other activities were hosted by the OAU General Secretariat in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. However, in June 1989, the Gambia, yet again, demonstrated its commitment to upholding human rights by generously hosting the Secretariat of the Commission, which also became its headquarters. This significant step by the Gambian government highlighted their dedication to human rights and was a notable example for other states to consider hosting African Union organs. Furthermore, by hosting the Commission, The Gambia reaffirmed its dedication to advancing human rights principles and promoting peace and stability in the continent.

Since then, The Gambia has been instrumental in supporting the Commission in achieving its objectives and translating the provisions of the African Charter and its Protocols into the lived realities of the African people. On behalf of the Commission, I would like to express our deep gratitude to the Government and the people of the Gambia for their continued and unwavering support and dedication to our shared mission.

Your Excellencies and Distinguished Guests,

Despite the Commission in The Gambia having been in operation for over 35 years, we have realized that awareness about the Commission in general, and its mandate in particular, remains minimal. Thus, our engagement is needed today to raise awareness among government ministries and officials about the Commission. This initiative holds great significance for both the Commission and the Government of The Gambia for many reasons, including;
1.    Strengthening Collaboration: Strengthen, increase, and foster collaboration between Government Ministries and the Commission;
2.    Building trust and cooperation: Awareness fosters trust and cooperation between Government officials and the Commission, facilitating collaboration on Human Rights issues and enhancing the effectiveness of the Commission’s interventions within the country;
3.    Promoting Regional Leadership: As the host country, raising awareness about the Commission demonstrates The Gambia’s commitment to human rights and positioning it as a leader in advancing rights within Africa;
4.    Empowering Citizens: Informing citizens about the presence and mandate of the Commission in The Gambia empowers them to seek assistance and redress for human rights violations through the Commissions mechanism;
5.    Fulfilment of hosting Obligations: As the host country, The Gambia is responsible for promoting and supporting the Commission's work within its territories. Thus, this initiative will ensure that, as the host country, officials actively engage with the commission and facilitate its work;

Therefore, it is imperative for the Commission to continuously engage with key officials of the Gambian government, with today's sensitization meeting being one such opportunity. Today's gathering is a testament to the enduring partnership between the Commission, the Government, and the people of The Gambia. Our conversations throughout the day will enable us to share our collective vision and deepen our collaborative efforts to undertake our respective responsibilities better. As we embark on this familiarization and sensitization exchange, our goal is to enhance mutual understanding, exchange knowledge, and explore new avenues for collaboration.

We also aim to strengthen our partnership with key ministries and officials, making the Commission more visible to relevant stakeholders. We believe this will advance the country's human rights agenda and the broader African region. In this spirit of cooperation and shared purpose, this event provides an invaluable platform for productive discussions and meaningful exchanges.

As I conclude, I would like to reiterate that on behalf of the Commission, and in my capacity as Vice-Chairperson, it is my great honor to welcome you all to this momentous occasion.

I thank you!