Students hold key to the realisation of the African dream

Public Protector Adv Thuli Madonsela has urged senior law students from all over Africa to work hard towards ensuring that the continent is governed accountably, with integrity and in manner that is responsive to the needs of its people.

She was addressing a function at the University of Pretoria on Friday, marking the commencement of a yearlong Masters Degree programme in Human Rights and Democratisation in Africa. About 30 law graduates from several countries in the continent are enrolled for the programme annually.

The Public Protector said young people had a responsibility to take Africa to the heights envisioned by its erstwhile leaders, who confronted colonialism and related oppression of the continent’s inhabitants.

She said those leaders dreamt of a continent that was characterised by inclusiveness, peace, stability and sustainable development, with democracy and respect for human rights at the centre of the renewed continent. “But that African dream has proved elusive. In recent years we have seen primitive accumulation of wealth through state power become endemic. For this and other reasons, once in power, leaders found it hard to relinquish power,” the Public Protector said.

“For those outside, access to state power began to be seen as proximity to resources for self enrichment and once more instability became an endemic challenge and so did the rule of law. The ideal of an inclusive continent rooted in accountability, integrity and responsiveness to the people was under threat.”

The Public Protector, who is also the Secretary of the African Ombudsman and Mediators Association (AOMA), a body that brings together institutions such as her office across the continent, said the students could contribute to Africa’s development by ensuring that such institutions were established and strengthened in other African countries. Currently, only 36 of the continent’s 56 countries are members of AOMA. Some of the non-members have ombudsman or Public Protector offices in their countries while others do not.

“It is my sincere belief that building and strengthening strong institutions that support democracy is one of the pillars that will ensure that the African dream is never again derailed and deferred,” she said. The Public Protector added that the potential of institutions such as her office had not been fully explored in the continent. She called on academics to do more scholarly work on the institution, particularly in so far as it related to finding lasting solutions to Africa’s challenges.

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Published Date: 
Friday, February 10, 2012