It is with great happiness and deep appreciation that we celebrate this day every year. (Satire intended) Cheers to the United Nations for setting aside this day to emphasise the need to respect the rights that are inherent and for which each human being ought to be guaranteed.

“If I fight for the human rights of random individuals or of enemies of the Lord but do not have loyalty to the benevolent dictator, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.”

Satirical excerpt from Becoming Nigeria by Elnathan John

I must say that since November 25th, with the celebration of the International Day For The Elimination Of Violence Against Women that sparked off the 16 days of activism; continuing the conversation on ending sexual and gender based violence across the globe, a lot has been said in webinars and newspaper articles, but the real question is, have the responsible persons listened?

Every year, we celebrate days and embark on campaigns time and again, but the transformation is trivial. We sing about human rights violations and the need to put stringent measures for the respect of the same, but year in and out, we witness the same violations and the same celebrations happening. What an oxymoron!

Before I made the decision to join Law school, I was an idealist. As I shared in a guest post I had a while back about the dreams of Law school versus their reality, I had a dream to change the world. A dream to ensure that the rights of all persons are respected as guaranteed under the Law and that the perpetrators would be apprehended for the human rights violations. Little did I know, that my little world of idealism and a perfect judicial system would be crumpled the second I signed up to study the Law.

Over time, the realist school of thought has hit so hard, and now that I’m done with my undergraduate, I keep asking myself whether these battles can be fought without a whole army.

The dream to make an alteration in a system that has been so deep-rooted over the decades, needs a whole load of guts to step out and break. It took Nelson Mandela over 30 years of his lifetime to fight for the liberation of South Africa, it took Gandhi most of his lifetime to liberate India from British rule and it will take added insurmountable energies to break the system of human rights violations in African countries and to speak out on the same.

A futuristic image of myself amongst these great men!
A futuristic image of myself amongst these great men!

See, when the Universal Declaration Of Human Rights was drafted in 1948, I’m sure the drafters objectives were to protect the freedom of existence of every human being and to protect their rights to access food, an education, right to vote and the right to basically have the bare minimum for a meaningful living and stay here on this planet, to be guaranteed by their governments and various state actors.

We have beautifully coloured and crafted Laws, Conventions and policies that lay out the various rights that each person is entitled to both nationally and on at the International level. The sad part is that they’re all written and not in practical. The idealist school of thought would believe that the mere existence of these Laws, would guarantee that each individual enjoys their right and the violation of which would lead to repercussions. And as the positivists believe that the violation of the Law always has consequences; a command backed by a sanction they say. But then again, that’s not the utopian state we live in. Not all people that violate the Law are punished.

The realism school of thought however proves that what is on ground is never what is reflected on those sheets of paper.

How many times has the state violated our freedom of speech through restrictions or communication breakdown? How many times have we been denied the right to freely vote and exercise democracy? How many times have we been pushed to the corner despite the fact that we were within our legal precincts?

I can’t put a finger to those number of times.

As we celebrate Human Rights Day, we need to have an assessment of whether as citizens of our different countries, our rights are being respected or trampled upon.

Do we even know what our rights are?

Have there been steps taken to enlighten you about your rights and are they being respected?

This is a call to all the stake holders concerned to not only live out the promises that were made in the preamble to the 1995 Constitution of Uganda, but to also respect the rights that the drafters of the Constitution as well as the signers of the International Conventions, saw as befitting for the wellbeing of their citizens to have a full and complete life.

It is not rocket science for us to arrive at an utopian state. We just have to definitely be the change we want to see.

Happy International Human rights day!

Lawyer, Bibliophile, Book Reviewer.

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