President Zuma says the institution of the ombudsman can help resolve conflict in Africa

The African Ombudsman and Mediators’ Association (AOMA) on Tuesday launched the African Ombudsman Research Centre (AORC), a facility to serve as its focal point, at the University of KwaZulu-Natal’s Howard College campus in Durban.

The AORC is a resource of the African Ombudsman and Mediators’ Association (AOMA), a body made up of 36 ombudsman institutions that works to entrench good governance in governments, upholding of the rule of law and respect for human rights in the continent. This is achieved through supporting, developing and protecting the independence of ombudsman institutions.

Speaking at the launch, President Jacob Zuma said ombudsman institutions across Africa have a crucial role to play in helping resolve conflict and restoring peace in the continent.

He said bodies such as the African Human Rights Commission (AHRC) needed the assistance of ombudsman institutions to ensure that people’s human rights are respected.

“People are dying … Ombudspersons have a role in helping the African Human Rights Commission to protect citizens,” he said, referring to violent protests that marred Northern Africa recently.

“All African people want freedom, peace, stability, good governance, respect for their human rights, access to basic services, jobs and prosperity like all people in the world.”

President Zuma also said ombudsman institutions must also serve as avenues through which citizens can exercise their rights and hold government accountable. Such institutions also have a role to forge close relations between governments and the people, he said.

Apart from holding states accountable, President Zuma said, these institutions must also prioritise taking up cases that directly affect ordinary citizens.

Bringing it closer to home, President Zuma said people would have faith in the Public Protector if they know that the office will act impartially to protect their rights.

“Society needs to believe that the Public Protector will not be influenced by either the complaints … or individuals that are being investigated,” he said.

Speaking at the same event, AOMA Executive Secretary and Public Protector of South Africa, Adv Thuli Madonsela, said it was important for government not to see ombudsman institutions as adversaries.

“These institutions serve as buffers between states and citizens. They are the conscience of states and a voice for the ordinary people,” she said.

She added that the AORC would act as a brain trust that would propel AOMA through research, including the dissemination of jurisprudence emerging from various ombudsman institutions in Africa and courts about the power and functions of the ombudsman.

The AORC will be responsible for creating awareness about the existence of ombudsman institutions; generating, preserving and disseminating information on issues related to the ombudsman institution; and researching trends and practices that have to do with this institution in Africa. It will also provide training, research support and advocacy services to AOMA.

Issued by the African Ombudsman and Mediators Association

For more information, contact:
Oupa Segalwe
Manager: Outreach, Education and Communications
Public Protector South Africa (AOMA Secretariat)
072 264 3273

Published Date: 
Tuesday, March 15, 2011