The second thing we have done is to form a committee on human rights, which is headed by a well-known political scientist who is now a minister in the current government in Kenya. He was unable to come to this meeting, so the African Academy ended up sending me as its representative, a medical person.
The third thing we have done is to set up the Special Commission on Africa within the African Academy of Sciences. The Special Commission deals with each and every issue in Africa, including human rights abuses. A lot of efforts have been made in this direction. For example, some three years ago, the African Academy of Sciences organized a meeting to be attended by all the warring parties in the Southern Sudan, including the Sudanese government. We were able to speak freely about various abuses. This was very useful because the information was then published and made available to all concerned people globally.
The next issue is to raise three or four of the most prominent problems related to science and human rights in our country. Of the human rights abuses that we see in Africa that I would like this Network to address, I would include female genital mutilation (FGM) which, as you know, the World Health Organization has taken up. We, as scientists in Africa, especially the medical scientists, have always argued against FGM, and it has been a human rights abuse for a very long time. I’m glad the World Health Organization is taking this up.
The second problem in Africa is corruption. Perhaps to a European, corruption does not appear to be an abuse of a human right, but it depends on the details and the facts. The type of corruption that you have in Africa also involves Europe, because a lot of the money that is stolen is actually taken to a few European countries. Some Europeans in those countries assist the corrupt in Africa and try to simply keep the loot. How does a network like this get concerned about this issue? There is no way that the Network can work in isolation, because it is a human rights organization addressing human issues. Corruption affects human health, for example. If I see a patient or a child who is anemic and very malnourished, it is because the parents are poor, there is no job for them, and the economy is bad because of corruption. Ultimately it has health dimensions.
It took us a decade to tell our politicians that HIV is not just a health problem, but also a human rights issue. Some of the patients have a right to be given drugs; drugs should therefore be available, and the various ministries should be given enough money to provide them.
Corruption in Africa is an issue that both Europeans and Americans should be concerned about. It will not do to keep quiet about this and say that it is a political issue that has to be sorted out. No, there are many dimensions to it. If everybody is talking about it, that is when a solution may be reached.
The third problem of human rights abuse in Africa is civil strife. Some of this is flagrant human rights abuse—denying people their civil rights. Take for example the case of the Ivory Coast. The current government is formed by people from the south, and therefore nothing is allowed to go to the north. There is constant civil strife, resulting in a very large number of