The Centre for Human Rights, University of Pretoria (UP) through its Advanced Human Rights Courses (AHRC) and the Disability Rights Unit is currently hosting the annual Disability Rights in an African Context course.

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The course is attended by 49 participants from all over the world, with 21 African countries represented. This year, participants included students on the LLM/MPhil (Human Rights and Democratisation in Africa) and LLM/MPhil (Disability Rights in Africa) programmes. Representatives from various National Human Rights Commissions, civil society and academia were also in attendance.

Professor Frans Viljoen, the Centre’s Director, welcomed the participants to the course and was followed by Ms Innocentia Mgijima Konopi, Manager of the Disability Rights Unit, who gave an overview on the course objectives.

Dr Iize Grobbelar Du-Plessis, Senior Lecturer, Department of Public Law at UP, presented on the historical development of disability rights. She highlighted that perceptions of disability are largely determined by attitudes toward disability and that society needs to change in order to be more accommodating.

Ms Diana Msipa, from the Centre’s Disability Rights Unit, led a discussion on appropriate terminology in the context of disability rights. She illustrated that language has a direct impact on perpetuating discrimination against people with disabilities.  

"Words or names used to refer to the persons with disabilities are not mutual, they are loaded with meaning. Words used to refer to the persons with disabilities are attached to different and negative connotations and this is what perpetuates discriminations and stigma.” - Dianah Msipa, Disability Rights Unit, Centre for Human Rights, University of Pretoria

Dr Iize Grobbelaar Du-Plessis, introduced the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) while Professor Serges Kamga, Thabo Mbeki African Leadership Institute (TMALI), University of South Africa (UNISA), spoke about the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in Africa (African Disability Protocol). 

“African states are not keen to ratify this Protocol, due to the lack of political will, as well as the unwavering ignorance of the rights for persons with disabilities in the region.” - Professor Serges Kamga, TMALI, UNISA

Participants were tasked to devise strategies to encourage African states to ratify the African Disability Protocol. This session was led by Professor Serges Kamga Serges and Mr Dagnachew Wakene from the African Disability Alliance, Ethiopia. The reluctance of African states to ratify the African Disability Protocol was juxtaposed against the high number of ratifications of the CRPD.

“Above all, it should be accepted that after all it can never be a one fit all approach and we still need to find other ways on of how we could get our countries to ratify the Protocol at least to bring it to force.” - Ms Innocentia Mgijima Konopi, Manager, Disability Rights Unit, Centre for Human Rights

Mr Nyabeni Dvhana, Institute for International and Comparative Law in Africa (ICLA) at UP, briefed participants on moot court competitions, the moot court process, the hypothetical case and participants were divided into teams. The course will continue until Friday 13 March 2020 when it will end with a moot court competition in the Moot Court, Faculty of Law, UP.

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