Lecture given at the University of Agriculture of Malawi for the Month of Human rights


Every month of March, we are celebrating the South Africa month of Human Right. This special month was set to commemorate the 21st March 1960 when 69 people were cowardly killed for claiming their most basic human rights. This kind of celebration is extremely Relevant in a world where anti-human rights forces are fighting every day against human rights forces.

The theme presented this month of March 2019 is the following:

“What responsibility does the youth have in ensuring that Human Rights Culture Thrives in Society?”

What should we discuss this month?

In this subject 05 Words stand out clearly: Responsibility, Youth, Human Rights, Culture and Society ». First of all, let’s define these words and rephrase our subject to finally make it more understandable.

According to the African Union and the Constitution of Malawi and all African states that have signed the Charter of African Youth, is young anyone whose age is between 15 and 35 years.

What is human rights? Human rights are all rights, regardless of race, sex, nationality, ethnicity, language, religion, or any other status. Human rights include the right to life and liberty, freedom from slavery and torture, freedom of opinion and expression, the right to work and education, and many more.

Culture? Culture is defined as our way of life. It encompasses our values, beliefs, customs, languages ​​and traditions. It reflects our history, our heritage and our way of expressing ideas and creations. It governs every aspect of our lives and yet most people do not know

The society? Social science refers to a group of individuals who share norms, behaviors, and culture, and who interact cooperatively to form a group or community.

The responsibility? Social responsibility is the subjective impact of a decision in society. It generally refers to the potential consequences of the actions or inaction of individuals, groups or businesses.

If we must rephrase our topic of the day we will say that we must answer the following question: “Why today’s young people should contribute to build a societal culture based on human rights?” and “How the young people can contribute to build a societal culture based on human rights?”

Let answer this fundamental questions through 5 key points:

  1. Historical Background of Human Rights. A long way to freedom
  2. Situation of Human Rights in Africa
  3. Declaration Human Rights
  4. Answering of the questions
  5. Conclusion


The first thing we need to understand is that this debate is not new in Africa.

From the African perspective, we can clearly distinguish 5 major dates in the march of humanity towards more human rights:

We usually think of the Magna Carta as the first document to encapsulate any sort of human rights. However, the “KURUKAN FUGA CHARTER” also known as the “Manden Charter” may be predate it. In 2009, this charter was added to UNESCO’s Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.

This charter was not written down. Instead, it was passed down orally from one generation to the next. This went on for centuries, illustrating West Africa’s rich oral tradition.

This may sound like news because most social studies and history programs teach so less about the kingdoms of Africa. Of course we know about ancient Egypt – one of the most influential civilizations in history. But not much is said about the great kingdoms of sub-Saharan Africa such as the kingdom of Kush, the kingdom of Axum, the Land of Punt, the Mali Empire, the Songhai Empire, and the mysterious Zimbabwe kingdom-of which little is known.

But let’s go back to our chronological history of Human rights in the world

1222: The Mandingo Charter Declaration or the “KURUKAN FUGA CHARTER” made by the new Emperor of the Malian Empire, Soundjata Keita

1297: The Magna Carta. 467 years later

1689: English Bill of Rights, Then 567 years later

August 1789: the Declaration of the rights of man and the citizen made by the French revolutionaries at the time of their accession to power

Then 724 years after the KURUKAN FUGA CHARTER

December 1946: Universal Declaration of Human Rights made at the United Nations after the devastating Second World War.

As you can see, the desire to promote homogenous and common human rights is not new. Several peoples across time and geographical space have come together with more or less fortune.

And now, 797 years later, we are still there, tried to promote human rights yet acquired but not always respected around the world.

All these declarations pose in principle the respect for human life, individual freedom and solidarity. It affirms total opposition to slavery, torture and respect for physical integrity.

Let’s make a small comparison between the KURUKAN FUGA CHARTER Declaration of 1222 and that of the United Nations of 1946:

The KURUKAN Declaration have 7 keys chapter

  1. Respect for a life: Every human life is a life. It is true that one life appears before another, but a life is not older, more respectable than another life. No life is better than another life.

The UN Human Rights declaration supported this right in Article: Equality of Humankind Article 3: Right to life, liberty and security, Article 7: Equality before the law

  1. Repairing wrongs: All life being a life, all wrong done to another life requires reparation. Therefore, let no one take his neighbor for free, let no one harm his neighbor, let no one martyrize his neighbor.

The UN Human Rights declaration supported this right in Article 7: Equality before the law

  1. The family spirit and the importance of education: Let everyone watch over his neighbor, let everyone venerate his parents, educate his children, and provide the needs of his family members.

The UN Human Rights declaration supported this right in Article 16: Right for the family and education and Article 26.1. Right for education.

  1. Homeland: Let everyone watch over the land of their fathers (…) because any country, any land that would see men disappear from its surface would experience decline and desolation.


  1. Ban Servitude and Famine: Hunger is not a good thing, slavery is not good either. There is no worse calamity than these things in this world. Famine will not kill anyone in the Manden (…), the war will never destroy villages to take slaves. This means that no one will now place the bit in the mouth of his fellow, to sell it; no one will be beaten in the Mande any longer, because he is the son of a slave.

The UN Human Rights declaration supported this right in Article 5: No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment and in Article 4: No one shall be held in slavery or servitude

  1. Rejection of the war: The slavery is abolished this day from one wall to another in Mandé. The raids are banned from this day in Mande, torments born of these horrors will disappear from this day in Mande.

The UN Human Rights declaration supported this right in Article 4: No one shall be held in slavery, servitude and Article 3: Right to life, liberty and security

And finally:

  1. The freedom to act, to speak: Man as an individual, made of bone and flesh, marrow and nerves, skin covered with hair and hair, feeds on food and drink. But his “soul”, his spirit lives on three things: See who he wants to see, Say what he wants to say and do what he wants to do. If only one of these things were to be lacking to the human soul, it would suffer and surely fade away.

The UN Human Rights declaration supported this right in Article 1: All human beings are born free and equal and Article 3: Right to life, liberty and security; also right for freedom of expression (article 19); freedom of movement (Article 13.1)

This African document which has also been called a “Constitution” contains a preamble and seven chapters. It speaks on social peace, the sanctity of human life, women’s rights, the right to an education, food security, and even to self-expression. The charter gave equal rights to citizens including women and slaves. The aim was to provide peace and social stability. It advocated diversity and spoke of abolishing slavery.

Historians generally places the Manden Charter at 1222. This predates the English Bill of Rights (1689) and France’s Declaration of the Right of Man and of the Citizen (1789). Most scholars today don’t believe that it predates the Magna Carta (1215-1297). But some do, including French anthropologist and ethnographer Jean-Loup Amselle.


Africa has experienced one of the most massive and long-standing human rights violations in the history of mankind. More than 500 years of human rights violations. And even after the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1946, Africa continued to suffer human rights violations by those who had just signed this declaration.

This ambiguity between strong statements and actions is at the very heart of human rights issues. Internally in our Africa continent we have many human rights violations. And they are so many than they look part of our daily life and we even come to consider them as acceptable.

Let have a deep look on 2017-2018 Africa Human right violation presenter by Armistice International in their report.


Crackdown on protest

In over 20 countries, people were denied their right to peaceful protest, including through unlawful bans, use of excessive force, harassment and arbitrary arrests. The right to freedom of assembly was the exception rather than the rule.

Use of excessive force and other abuses to disperse peaceful protests resulted in deaths, injuries and unlawful arrests in many countries.

Attacks on human rights defenders, journalists and opposition activists

Widespread repression of dissent also manifested itself through attacks on human rights defenders, civil society organizations, journalists and bloggers.

Emerging regressive laws and shrinking political space

Some governments moved to introduce new laws to restrict the activities of human rights defenders, journalists and opponents.

Media freedom

In at least 30 countries – more than half the countries monitored – media freedom was curtailed and journalists faced criminalization.

Political repression and violations in the context of elections

Fear, intimidation and violence marred presidential elections. Police used excessive force against opposition protesters following the elections leaving many dead. Senior ruling party officials repeatedly threatened the independence of the judiciary after the Supreme Court annulled the election results.

Armed conflict and violence

Although the nature and intensity of Africa’s conflicts varied, they were generally characterized by gross human rights violations and violations of international humanitarian law – including acts constituting crimes under international law.

Abuses by armed groups

Armed groups including al-Shabaab and Boko Haram perpetrated abuses and attacks against civilians in countries including Cameroon, CAR, DRC, Mali, Niger, Nigeria and Somalia. In some cases, the attacks constituted serious abuses of international humanitarian and human rights law.

Torture and other ill-treatment

Torture and other ill-treatment was reported in several African countries.

People on the move

Protracted conflicts, along with recurring humanitarian crises and persistent human rights violations, forced millions to flee their homes in search of protection. Refugees and migrants faced widespread abuses and violations. Millions of refugees hosted by African countries were inadequately supported by the international community.


Failure to ensure justice, redress and the holding of suspected perpetrators to account remained a key driver of human rights violations and abuses in a wide range of contexts and countries.

Investigations into violations committed in the context of protests in various regional states.

International Criminal Court

Burundi became the first State Party to withdraw from the Rome Statute of the ICC in October.

However, developments in Africa suggested a tempering of the rhetoric calling for withdrawal from the ICC. The AU adopted a decision in January, which despite its misleading title, outlined plans for engagement with the ICC and other stakeholders.

Gambia’s new government revoked its withdrawal from the Rome Statute, while Botswana’s Parliament passed a bill incorporating the Rome Statute into domestic law.

Discrimination and marginalization

Discrimination, marginalization and abuse of women and girls – often arising from cultural traditions and institutionalized by unjust laws – continued in a number of countries. Women and girls were subjected to rape and other sexual violence, including in the context of conflicts and in countries with large numbers of refugee and internally displaced populations.

Pregnant girls continued to be excluded from school in some African countries.

Gender-based violence against women and girls was prevalent in several countries.

People with albinism

Superstitions about the magical powers of people with albinism fueled a surge of attacks against them; they were abducted and killed for their body parts.

Rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people

LGBTI people faced discrimination, prosecution, harassment and violence

Right to housing and forced evictions

Amid increasing urbanization, unemployment, poverty and inequality, many countries failed to ensure accessible, affordable and habitable housing.

Business and corporate accountability

In different part of Africa, children and adults risked their lives and health working in various mines for less than a dollar a day.

At the same time, there were growing signs of public pressure, action and demands for corporate accountability in various countries.


The Universal Declaration of Human Rights grants us the following rights:

Article 1 All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and must act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.

Article 2 Everyone may avail himself of all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration without distinction of any kind, including race, color, sex, language, religion, political opinion or other opinion of national or social origin, fortune, birth or any other situation. Moreover, no distinction shall be made on the basis of the political, legal or international status of the country or territory of which a person is a national, whether that country or territory is independent, trusteeship, non-autonomous or subject to any limitation of sovereignty .

Article 3 everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person.

Article 4 No one shall be held in slavery or servitude; slavery and the slave trade are banned in all their forms.

Article 5 No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.

Article 6 everyone has the right to recognition everywhere as a person before the law.

Article 7 All are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to equal protection of the law. All are entitled to equal protection against any discrimination that violates this Declaration and against any incitement to such discrimination.

Article 8 everyone has the right to an effective remedy before the competent national tribunals for acts violating the fundamental rights granted him by the constitution or by law.

Article 9 No one may be arbitrarily arrested, detained or exiled.

Article 10 Everyone has the right, in full equality, to a fair and public hearing of his case by an independent and impartial tribunal, which shall decide either his rights and obligations or the well-foundedness of any charge in criminal matters against her.

Article 11 1. Everyone charged with a penal offense has the right to be presumed innocent until proved guilty according to law in a public trial at which he has had all the guarantees necessary for his defense.

  1. No one shall be condemned for acts or omissions which, at the time they were committed, did not constitute a criminal offense under national or international law. Similarly, no greater penalty will be imposed than the one applicable at the time the offense was committed.

Article 12 No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to attacks on his honor and reputation. Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks.

Article 13 1. Everyone has the right to freedom of movement and to choose his residence within a State (any state?)

  1. Everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own, and to return to his country.

Article 14 1. In the face of persecution, everyone has the right to seek asylum and to benefit from asylum in other countries.

  1. This right cannot be invoked in the case of prosecution really based on a crime of common law or on acts contrary to the purposes and principles of the United Nations.

Article 15 1. Everyone has the right to a nationality.

  1. No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his nationality nor denied the right to change his nationality.

Article 16 1. Men and women of full age, without any limitation due to race, nationality or religion, have the right to marry and to found a family. They have equal rights with respect to marriage, marriage and dissolution.

  1. Marriage can only be concluded with the free and full consent of the future spouses.
  2. The family is the natural and fundamental element of society and has the right to the protection of society and the state.

Article 17 1. Everyone has the right to own property alone as well as in association with others.

  1. No one may be arbitrarily deprived of his property

Article 18 Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right implies the freedom to change one’s religion or belief and the freedom to manifest one’s religion or belief, alone or in common, both in public and in private, through teaching, practice, worship and religion. Fulfillment of rites.

Article 19 Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression, which implies the right not to be disturbed by his or her views and to seek, receive and disseminate information and ideas by any means of expression whatsoever.

Article 20 1. Everyone has the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association.

  1. No one may be compelled to join an association.

Article 21 1. Everyone has the right to take part in the conduct of public affairs of his country, either directly or through freely chosen representatives.

  1. Everyone has the right to equal access to public service in his country.
  2. The will of the people is the foundation of the authority of the public authorities; this will must be expressed by honest elections which must be held periodically, by equal universal suffrage and by secret ballot or by an equivalent procedure ensuring the freedom of the vote.

Article 22 Everyone, as a member of society, has the right to social security; it is entitled to the satisfaction of the economic, social and cultural rights essential to its dignity and the free development of its personality, through national efforts and international co-operation, taking into account the organization and resources of each country .

Article 23 1. Everyone has the right to work, to free choice of employment, to just and favorable conditions of work and to protection against unemployment.

  1. All are entitled, without any discrimination, to equal pay for equal work
  2. Everyone who works has the right to just and favorable remuneration ensuring for himself and his family an existence worthy of human dignity and supplemented, if necessary, by any other means of social protection.
  3. Everyone has the right to form trade unions with others and to join trade unions for the defense of his interests.

Article 24 Everyone has the right to rest and leisure, including reasonable limitation of hours of work and periodic holidays with pay.

Article 25 1. Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and his family, including food, clothing, housing, medical care and services. social needs; she has the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or in other cases of loss of her means of subsistence as a result of circumstances beyond her control.

  1. Motherhood and childhood are entitled to special assistance and help. All children, whether born in or out of wedlock, enjoy the same social protection.

Article 26 1. Everyone has the right to education. Education must be free, at least as far as elementary and basic education is concerned. Elementary education is compulsory. Technical and vocational education should be generalized; access to higher education must be open to full equality for all according to their merit.

  1. Education shall be directed to the full development of the human personality and to the strengthening of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. It must foster understanding, tolerance and friendship among all nations and all racial or religious groups, as well as the development of United Nations peacekeeping activities. 3. Parents have the right to choose the kind of education to give to their children.

Article 27 1. Everyone has the right freely to participate in the cultural life of the community, to enjoy the arts and to share in scientific progress and the benefits derived from it.

  1. Everyone has the right to the protection of the moral and material interests resulting from any scientific, literary or artistic production of which he is the author.

Article 28 everyone has the right to a social and international order in which the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration can be fully realized.

Article 29 1. The individual has duties to the community in which only the free and full development of his personality is possible.

  1. In the exercise of his rights and the enjoyment of his freedoms, everyone is subject only to the limitations established by law exclusively to ensure the recognition and respect of the rights and freedoms of others and to satisfy the just requirements of morality, public order and general welfare in a democratic society.
  2. These rights and freedoms shall in no case be exercised contrary to the purposes and principles of the United Nations.

Article 30 Nothing in this Declaration shall be interpreted as implying, for a State, a group or an individual, any right to engage in any activity or to perform any act aimed at the destruction of the rights and freedoms therein are stated.

These are Human rights granted to all of us. But as you already realize we have some challenges to respect them, to enforce them, to implement them. These are 07 close and local examples who show you the violation of Human Rights in Malawi:

  • Killing albinos violation of articles 3 and 5
  • People who prevent political rallies: violation of articles 18, 19, 20
  • 50/50 campaign came to fight against the none implementation of article 23.1 and 2
  • Defilement in violation of article 5
  • The hidden handicapped in violation of articles 1, 13.1
  • The situation of refuges in Malawi article 13.1, 14.1
  • Women’s low wages in violation of article 23.1 and 2


what are at the root causes of these violations?

Several elements can be quoted which make it possible to understand why these rights are violated:

  1. The lack of enough knowledge of these rights
  2. Ignorance of these rights
  3. The deliberate will to violate them, because we want to impose our self or impose our regime or our interest
  4. Indifference to violations of these rights
  5. The fear of defending one’s rights or those of others


Finally, before answering these questions, let answer this fundamental question of “Why are Human Rights so important for the society?”

  • Human rights contribute to democracy:

Respect for human rights allows a better democratic expression. Freedom to express oneself, to create, to come and go, to hold leaders accountable or to be a candidate and to participate in the life of society.

Several development models are currently in use throughout the world. But the democratic system has emerged for many countries that have adopted, despite its own weakness, as model ensuring good economic, social, cultural and individual development.

  • Human rights contribute to Economic, social, and cultural Development:

Human rights have, as their ultimate ambition the fulfillment of man and society. We know that men who are fulfilled, secure, in peace and well educated, deploy unprecedented energy and creativity. They invent, develop, and invest all possible fields of creativity and innovation. They are able then to create wealth for the nation.


  • Human rights contribute to peace, security and freedom

All revolutions and so-called liberation wars have been the result of human rights violations (dictatorships, famines, etc.). Unable to express themselves otherwise than by force and wanting to live differently, men and women took up arms. Respecting human rights, leading human beings to feel at peace, respected and protected, they are less sensitive to calls for war, revolution, riots.

  • Human rights contribute to personal development and happiness

When you are not afraid anymore, when you are free and not full of fear for your physical integrity and your family. When you are able to work and receive a fair wage. When you are protected by the State and by a performing welfare system; when you are able to marry and to practice in peace the religion of your choice and finally if you can have your property protected by the law … A men can really be happy. A un happy man is unstoppable.

“Why today’s young people should contribute to build a societal culture based on human rights?”

It is important to understand that the present in which we live has been dreamed up, prepared and implemented by the young people of yesterday, that is, our parents and their generation.

Young people need to understand that tomorrow’s society will be organized by them today. If today they are ignorant of human rights, tomorrow in power or in positions of responsibility, they will find normal to violate certain human rights: sexual harassment, child labor, and low wages for women, corruption…

It is therefore important early that young people engage massively not only in the protection of human rights but also in their promotion. They should urge governments to make human rights education a part of all school curricula and in all civil servants, police and military training programs.

Your ultimate ambition should be that human rights values ​​are an integral part of the values ​​of our African cultures. And that is not copying Western cultural values. The history of the Malinke constitution that I counted to you above and which also instituted human rights in the Malian Empire shows that the research and the rooting of human rights is not a Western fad, but a research of all humankind.

  1. “How can today’s young people contribute to build a societal culture based on human rights?”

If young people really want to build a new culture of society built on respect for human rights values, they will have to travel extra miles

Among the things to do for young people we have

  1. To really know human rights. Not approximately but really on the fingertips. So there is a real effort of personal education to make.
  2. Then it will be your duty to share this knowledge with other generations. And ask that these values ​​be disseminated by the state to all layers of society.

Knowledge is important, it is an undeniable strength.

  1. Young people will have to learn to defend their human rights but also to defend those of others
  2. They will have to engage at all levels of society to uphold human rights.
  3. To develop and promote a culture that accepts human rights. Even though these can sometimes be in contradiction with some parts of our traditional values. Culture, depending on the environment and the realities of the moment, can also change and must adapt.
  4. And finally the young people will have to remove all the obstacles that prevent you from defending human rights: indifference, individualism, selfish ambition, and especially FEAR.


In conclusion, let us remember that if some people fight for human rights, other people, for economic, financial, political or absolute powers, work tirelessly to reduce these human values.

Pastor Martin Luther King Junior said, and I quote: “What frightens me is not the oppression of the wicked, it is the indifference of the good. In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silences of our friends. “

And from the lands under oppression of South Africa, the Reverend Desmond Tutu added: “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor”

I leave these two quotes to your reflection

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