The “African Charter on Human and People’s Rights” recognised and set out rights and duties that Africans are entitled to and gave Parliamentarians the starting point to protect rights of Africans in Diaspora, including in Articles 10 and 11 which entitle individuals the rights to associate and assemble freely, thus entitling Africans in the Diaspora the right to form Diaspora interest groups and branches of the political parties of their choice.
Further, Article 12 grants Africans “the right to leave any country including his/her own, and to return to his/her country,” in fact creating the necessary environment for the African Diaspora to continue maintaining political, social and economic ties with their countries and the African continent in general. Lovemore Moyo
This, said Zimbabwe’s Speaker of the House of Assembly, Lovemore Moyo - addressing the SADC Parliamentary Forum of the Global African Diaspora Parliamentarians Summit in Midrand, was a healthy start for the Continent, but national legislators and the Diasporans themselves have to also work to make these rights a reality.
He acknowledged the origins of the African Diaspora - from the slave trade to more recent economic migration in search of more rewarding opportunities by some of Africa’s skilled and non-skilled personnel, and forced migration resulting from political disturbances and political persecution, as well as forced human trafficking, particularly of women and girls.
Growing migration to Europe, the Americas, Australia and Asia from SADC made it imperative for African Governments and Legislatures develop a clear understanding of the African Diaspora and its impact on the development of the African continent, he said.
Of note was Diaspora citizens’ attempts to contribute to the growth of the continent through direct remittances to their families in Africa in order to improve their quality of life, and their participation in the economic growth of their countries through meaningful investment in businesses, the stock market, industrial projects and housing projects which in turn create employment opportunities.
In the case of Zimbabwe some are political refugees due to political instability and persecution and some of them belong to political parties represented in the country, thus contributing to shaping the politics of the country by lobbying for their own civil and political rights and freedoms, said Moyo.
The African Union recognises these various roles played by Africans living outside the continent and adopted the definition of the “African Diaspora” as far back as 2005, then began to consider how to include the participation of the African Diaspora in the affairs of the continent, pursuant to Article 3(q) of the Constitutive Act of the African Union that invites the African Diaspora to participate as an important component in building the African Union.
His own Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) was quick off the mark in 2006 by recognising its Diaspora structures which were incorporated into its Constitution at its 2006 Congress.
Africans in the Diaspora, he said, should be involved in the processes of developing their Continent at all levels and by all means, and Parliamentarians, he said, could assist the AU by implementing the decisions of its Organs through enacting enabling national, regional and continental legislation that contributes to creating an appropriate environment for participation by Africans in the Diaspora.
Moyo said he was however concerned that that several African countries had laws that denied their citizens living abroad the rights and freedoms as articulated in the Charter.
“For instance, in some countries dual citizenship is outlawed. Consequently, if Africans living in the Diaspora take up citizenship of another country, he/she is no longer a citizen of his/her country and therefore cannot participate in the general elections,” he said.
In Zimbabwe Zanu (PF) is resisting the granting of dual citizenship rights which is supported by the MDC. The parties ended up compromising by giving Parliament the final say in the draft Constitution which apparently Zanu (PF) still wants to be revised.
Moyo said legislators had a responsibility to see to the enactment of national legislation that protects the rights of Diaspora citizens, as enshrined in the African Charter.
“Our National Parliaments must lobby the very Governments who adopted this Charter to amend and/or enact legislation that will protect the rights of Africans in Africa and in the Diaspora.
“Next, as leaders of Regional and Continental Parliamentary Bodies, we must lobby our respective Economic Communities to sign treaties that give force to these rights, then lobby our National Parliaments to ratify and domesticate the treaties,” he said.
For the avoidance of doubt, Moyo said: “As Parliamentarians we must continue to support the AU in its efforts to include the African Diaspora in its structures and decision-making processes. It is our hope that this spirit of inclusion at continental level will permeate down to our regional and national parliamentary structures, thus achieving the aspirations of our forefathers as articulated in the (African) Charter.
A senior law lecturer Dr Alex Magaisa, who has been involved in organising Diaspora movements, said: "It is encouraging that we have the framework for Diaspora inclusion clearly spelt out in the African Charter and that we have a Speaker of the House of Assembly who supports action to make this a reality.
“What we now need is for citizens in the Diaspora themselves to get more organised to lobby these MPs to put their money where their mouths are and enforce their rights."