Pascaliah Nyaboke, Amnesty International Kenya Youth Delegate to Amnesty International Africa and Middle East Regional Forum

Voices of Change: Advancing Human Rights in Africa and the Middle East

As the sun sets over the bustling streets of Dakar, delegates from across the African and Middle Eastern regions gather at the Amnesty International regional forum; their voices echo a shared commitment to uphold human rights amidst myriad challenges. Against the backdrop of conflict, displacement, and authoritarianism, the forum serves as a beacon of hope, uniting advocates and activists in a collective pursuit of justice.

In exclusive interviews with Agnès Callamard, Secretary General of Amnesty International, and Deprose Muchena, Senior Director of Regional Human Rights Impact, the gravity of the human rights situation in Africa and the Middle East comes into sharp focus. Callamard highlights the “forgotten crises” plaguing the Democratic Republic of Congo, Sudan, Mozambique, and the Sahel. Here, conflicts ravage communities, leaving countless victims in their wake. She underscores the devastating impact of poverty, particularly on women and girls, amplifying their vulnerability to exploitation and abuse.

Muchena echoes Callamard’s concerns with the world’s forgotten crises. He emphasizes the staggering scale of displacement resulting from the Sudan, Ethiopia, and South Sudan conflicts. He laments the rise of authoritarianism and the erosion of human rights institutions, noting the weaponization of religion and the destruction of historical heritage as further undermining human dignity. He further adds that the destruction of cultural heritage represents a loss not only of physical artefacts but also of tangible values and connections that are fundamental to dignity and the well-being of individuals and communities.

When historical heritage is destroyed, it erases part of people’s connection to the past and diminishes their sense of belonging and identity.

Senior Director (Human Rights Impact) Amnesty International Deprose Muchena

Amidst these challenges, Amnesty International emerges as a steadfast advocate for accountability and justice. Callamard elucidates Amnesty’s multifaceted approach, which includes evidence-based reporting, coalition-building, advocacy campaigns, and lobbying efforts both nationally and at the United Nations Security Council. Muchena underscores the power of solidarity in generating leadership and action, affirming Amnesty’s role as a unifying force in times of crisis.

Muchena outlines five success indicators. They include a strong accountability mechanism, willingness to work hard, respond rapidly at the local point of rights violations and make tangible changes in people’s lives. He recounts the story of South Sudanese former death row prisoner Magai Matiop Ngong, whose life was spared thanks to Amnesty’s intervention. He highlights Amnesty Kenya’s collaboration with the Institute of Certified Public Accountants to protect anti-corruption whistleblowers as an example of the organization’s global impact.

Amnesty’s capacity to generate solidarity and apply international pressure has yielded tangible results from the Free Mandela campaign to the protection of protestors who rose to protect the Senegalese constitution and stop the illegal extension of a Presidential term for Maky Saal in Senegal. As Muchena aptly puts it, “Global solidarity is the currency of the oppressed to free themselves from oppression.”

However, the fight for human rights cannot be waged by organizations alone. Omar Cherni, a youth delegate at the forum, underscores the pivotal role of youth-led initiatives in driving change. Through innovative strategies and partnerships with established organizations like Amnesty International, young advocates amplify voices, mobilize resources, and foster solidarity across borders, ensuring a brighter future for generations to come.

Throughout the forum, delegates exchanged many other ideas, forged alliances, and renewed their commitment to the cause. In the face of adversity, Amnesty’s leadership in Africa and the Middle East remains unwavering in its belief that every voice matters and every action counts in the pursuit of a world where human rights are not just ideals but lived realities.

In the heart of Dakar, amidst the rhythm of drums and impassioned voices, the spirit of Amnesty International burned bright—a beacon of hope, justice, and human dignity for all.