Paralegal Alliance Network (PAN) would like to join the rest of Zambians in expressing profound gratitude to His Excellency the President of the Republic of Zambia for pardoning 2,054 inmates as a way to commemorate the African Freedom Day. This is a great move as it has reduced the congestion in our correctional facilities from over 25,000 inmates. Overcrowding in our correctional facilities has been a huge problem for a long time and such actions by His Excellency to pardon inmates is a commendable move. PAN demands that government ensures that the Judiciary utilizes the Community Sentencing service so as to help reduce further the numbers of inmates in correctional facilities. PAN also take this opportunity to thank the many brave African sons and daughters who lost their lives during the struggle to free the African people from the yoke of colonialism apartheid, humiliation and oppression. The founding fathers of our continent such as Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana, Modibo Keita of Mali, Gamal Nasser of Egypt, Jomo Kenyatta of Kenya, Ahmed Sekou Toure of Guinea, Patrice Lumumba of Congo, Ahmed Ben Bella of Algeria, Julius Nyerere of Tanzania and our own Kenneth Kaunda of Zambia had this burning desire to see a peaceful, prosperous and democratic Africa in which her daughters and sons would live in peace and harmony despite their many divergent views and differences which they hold.
Africa attained its political freedom but it is still a long way off in abstaining true freedom that demands the formulation and implementation of legal frameworks that protect human rights. While civil and pollical rights have come a long way and are being protected, economic, social and cultural rights are still a long way off. In many parts of Africa, these are not justiciable. PAN calls upon all African states to take the necessary stapes to make these rights justiciable. This will make this year’s theme come to fruition. “Strengthening resilience in nutrition and food security on the African continent” is an appropriate theme when the world is faced with looming hunger due to food shortages and high prices as a result of COVD-19 and the war between Russia and Ukraine. This is the time for Africa to step in and achieve within a short time, strengthened agro-food systems, health, and social protection systems for the acceleration of human, social, and economic capital development in Africa. There is not community that can make any economic and technological advancement if it is not able to feed itself. Over the last decades, Africa has been slowly losing its capacity to produce and feed itself. It has become more dependent on imported agricultural goods and food staff. But Africa can reverse this. Using the correct way of growing food and focusing on production at the household level for the rural communities, food and nutrition security can be reached. The looming food crises that have been triggered off by the impact of COVID-19 pandemic and the war in Ukraine is a stark reminder that we Africans must take responsibility to feed not only our populations but also the world. This is the time for Africans to develop resiliency in the health and social protection sectors, by promoting long-term solutions to Africa’s food sovereignty. Eating nutritious uncontaminated food is good for human health. As we seek to increase our food production in Africa, we should be aware that human intervention in today’s world is continuously making our earth less rich and beautiful, ever more limited and greyer, even as technology advances and consumer goods continue to be abundant. The violence present in our hearts, wounded by sin is also reflected in the symptoms of sickness evident in the soil, in the water, in the air and in all forms of life. (Pope Francis, Laudato Si,2016). There are ecological sins being committed in the world. Pollution, land contamination, destruction of ecologically sensitive areas. All these actions directly affect our own human existence, and true freedom, as we depend on our natural environment for survival. Secondly, the protection and respect of Human dignity must take a center stage in every developmental action. This is because human life is a gift which must be defended from various forms of debasement. Human dignity is linked to the inalienable fundamental human rights such as the universal right to clean water, which is a common good, the rights of workers the right of the poor to own land in perpetuate under customary laws.
– Where is human dignity when we breath in toxic air that impairs lung functions?
– Where is human dignity and right to life when we don’t know whether we are consuming food or chemicals?
– Where is our human dignity when we are all quenching our thirst with water laden with micropollutants that have serious health implications?
Furthermore, political leaders in Africa must respect the fact that Africa is essentially a shared inheritance whose fruits are meant to benefit everyone. Both politics and economics should be at the service of the common good. This common good extends to future generations. Interdependence obliges us to think of one world with a common plan, but is there any common good on a polluted planet? Our rivers are being polluted, our soils are being killed, our trees being cut away leaving bare land. Our actions are causing environmental malfunctioning that causes climate change as experienced in extreme weather and temperature changes. As a result, new diseases are emerging as we further unravel and disseminate ecological balances. How can we produce safe food in such a situation?
Paralegal Alliance Network believes in true democracy where leaders are chosen from the true will of the people and the people are able to speak freely without intimidation and hold their leaders accountable. We believe in the values of transparency and accountability as key pillars of true democracy where the media operates according to their professional standards and not according to directives of those who wield power. The product of a true democratic culture is freedom. Freedom of assembly, speech, movement, conscious and freedom to keep and exchange our own indigenous seed and food systems. No one should be allowed to dictate to us what to grow and what kind of food we should eat. In the absence of true democracy, Africa will continue to lag behind.
Paralegal Alliance Network just like Nelson Mandela, believes that “As long as many of our people in Africa still live in utter poverty and are hungry; as long as children still live in the streets; as long as many of our people are still without jobs, as long as children are still being married off, no true African should rest and wallow in the joy of freedom.”
To “Strengthening resilience in nutrition and food security on the African continent” we need to promote agroecology. This will allow us to grow safe food at each household for those with land. Household food and nutrition security will translate into national and continental food and nutrition security. We call upon all governments in Africa to embrace agroecology for resilience in nutrition and food security. Our forefathers fought for the land that was taken away from them by force and this was the basis of the struggle, but this same land is now again going back to the very same people who oppressed us only this time through the carelessness of some of our leaders, government officials, head persons and some Chiefs. As they greedily grab land from the poor small-scale farmers, they should remember that one day the poor shall reclaim what rightfully belongs to them. This is the new struggle in Africa, the struggle for the land! If Africa has to feed itself, it must not sell its land to the highest bidder. Paralegal Alliance Network calls upon all well-meaning Africans to protect our culture by returning all land to ourselves, the rightful owners. It is treacherous for us to hide our heads in the sand and believe that industrial agriculture will save us from hunger. We must learn from the past. In Zambia in the 80s, there were tractors everywhere even in the villages, but today, none exist and small-scale farmers are back to what they know best. So, the fight for freedom must go on; until our continent is truly free from exploitation, diseases, hunger, corruption, land grabbing and theft of public resources.
Given to the press on this 25th day of May, on the occasion of the Africa Freedom Day!
PAN Board Chairperson