The Government of Rwanda has signed the African Union Protocol on the Rights of Older Persons and signaled a significant commitment to protect and promote rights of older people in Rwanda.
While attending the Lobbying and Advocacy Campaign Workshop by the African Union in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, the Rwandan Ambassador to AU, Honourable Hope Tumukunde Gasatura also signed the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in Africa. It may be noted that a large number of older people have various forms of disability and therefore, Rwanda’s signing of the ‘AU protocol on disability’ is a significant progress.
Reacting to the news, Elie Mugabowishema, the CEO of the Nsindagiza, a civil society group in Rwanda that advocates for the rights of older persons and a network member of the HelpAge International Global Network termed the move as timely.
“We now have hope that the government will follow this up with the ratification and domesticate the provisions of the Protocol into our national laws,” he said.
Dr. Prafulla Mishra, Regional Director, HelpAge International said Rwanda has done the right thing for its older population. He said this year has seen quite a number of governments in the region signing the protocol. The signing by Rwanda brings to 14 the number of African countries that have signed the Protocol.
Dr. Prafulla noted the ongoing discussions between the governments and stakeholders in Tanzania, Kenya and Uganda all of who have in place the protocol ratification road maps. Ratification of the Protocol will ensure a member state has domesticated the Protocol within their national laws and policies.
Benin (West Africa) and Lesotho (Southern Africa) remain the only countries to have ratified and domesticated the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Older Persons.
The continent will benefit most if the countries that have already ratified the protocol could rally other member states that have not signed and ratified to do so, in order that the target threshold of 15 could be reached for the protocol to come in force.
Adopted in January 2016, the Protocol on the Rights of Older Persons is the product of many years of consultations and brought to the fore commitments made by African States in the 2002 African Union Policy Framework and Plan of Action on Ageing. In Africa, older people have always played an important role in the community through their contribution to a number of areas such as caring for orphaned grandchildren and providing much needed household income.
“The ageing of the world population is progressive and rapid. It is an unprecedented phenomenon that is affecting nearly all countries of the world. As long as fertility continues to fall or remains low and old-age mortality keeps on declining, the proportion of older people will continue to increase, and Governments and societies will need to look at ways in which the needs and well-being of older people is taken care of, while at the same time adjusting to the changing population demographics” noted Dr. Prafulla.
The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) estimates the population of people above the age 60 in Africa at 65 million today but says that this will reach 220 million by 2050.