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Advocate Thuli Madonsela calls on law students to strengthen democracy in Africa

By Ryan Kilpatrick

Posted on 13 February 2012

South Africa's Public Protector, Advocate Thuli Madonsela
South Africa's Public Protector, Advocate Thuli Madonsela

South Africa’s Public Protector, Thuli Madonsela, addressed aspiring human rights lawyers from across the continent at the opening ceremony of the Master of Laws (LLM) in Human Rights and Democratisation in Africa, a programme of the Centre for Human Rights in the Faculty of Law at the University of Pretoria.

The ceremony, held on Friday 10 February 2012, was attended by nearly 200 people, including representatives of the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, members of the diplomatic corps and members of the senior management of the University of Pretoria.

In her speech, Advocate Madonsela urged the students to remain vigilant to the needs of Africa’s peoples. She noted that many people in Africa had been let down by post-colonial governments that quickly descended into dictatorships characterised by primitive accumulation of riches by their leaders. She indicated that even in present-day Africa, many of the ills that were experienced in the immediate period after colonialism persist.

"While a lot of progress has been registered since Africa was emancipated from the clutches of colonialism,” said Madonsela, “a lot more still needs to be done in the areas of democracy and human rights." Despite the introduction of new institutions such as the African Union and the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD), much remains to be done to improve the lot of Africa’s people. Madonsela indicated that ‘accountability, integrity and responsiveness’ to the people was still lacking.

Advocate Madonsela reminded the students that human rights and democracy must be at the forefront of a new Africa. She called on them to become ethical and informed leaders after they complete the programme. She noted that it is through a programme such as the LLM in Human Rights and Democratisation in Africa that she and others have hope for the future of the continent.

"It is my sincere belief that building and supporting strong institutions supporting democracy is one of the democracy pillars that will ensure that the African dream is never again derailed or deferred."

Advocate Madonsela called on the students to avoid being part of maladministration upon completion of the programme. She asked the students to become ethical leaders who play an important role in ensuring that the needs of Africa’s people are met, and their rights protected. She noted that if they observed these tenets, they will lay a stone for future generations to live in peace and prosperity.

The occasion also marked the launch of the Human Rights Resource Centre, situated within the Oliver Tambo Law Library at the University of Pretoria, and sponsored by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Regional Office for Southern Africa. Ms Yanine Poc, Regional Representative of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in Southern Africa, indicated that the UN Human Rights Resource Centre will enable researchers, including the LLM students, to easily access UN material in the area of human rights. The head of the OR Tambo Law Library thanked the UN for selecting the University of Pretoria to be the host of the important collection.

The 2012 LLM in Human Rights and Democratisation in Africa class comprises 18 women and 12 men from 17 countries. The students were admitted to the programme following an intensive selection process. The approximately 360 alumni of the LLM programme, which began in 2000, serve critical roles in international organisations, NGOs, academic institutions, government offices and civil society organisations in their home countries and across Africa.

Follow the Centre for Human Rights online at www.chr.up.ac.za, on Facebook at www.facebook.com/CentreforHumanRights and on Twitter at @chr_humanrights.

Speech:

  • Download Advocate Thuli Madonsela's keynote address, delivered at the LLM Opening Ceremony

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