The Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST), Kumasi, has hosted the 32nd edition of the Christof Heyns African Human Rights Moot Court Competition. The competition, focusing on human rights issues, featured a hypothetical case centred on the theme, “The Africa We Want: Combating Discrimination, Climate Change, and Corruption.” Key topics included corruption, sexual minority rights, and harmful environmental practices and drew participation from Sixty-One (61) universities from Seventeen (17) African countries.
The participating universities were from Angola, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Cote D’Ivoire, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, DR Congo, Mozambique, Senegal, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.
The Christof Heyns African Human Rights Moot Court Competition, named after Professor Christof Hendrick Heyns, a Professor of Human Rights Law and Director of the Institute for International and Comparative Law in Africa at the University of Pretoria, is the largest gathering of students, academics, and judges around the theme of human rights in Africa.
In her welcome address, the Vice-Chancellor of KNUST, Professor (Mrs.) Rita Akosua Dickson, highlighted KNUST’s strong record in moot court competitions, particularly on the University’s achievements in the 31st edition of the Christof Heyns African Human Rights Moot Court Competition in 2022 in Egypt. The Vice-Chancellor expressed confidence in KNUST to maintain its championship legacy.
Speaking at the opening ceremony, the National President of the Ghana Bar Association, Mr. Yaw Acheampong Boafo, Esq., underpinned the relevance of moot competition as it helps students to inculcate all the habits and follow all the policies and procedures in legal proceedings in real court situations.
He called on all Africans to take a critical look at practices that harm the environment. “Also, Governments must invest in modern technology relative to food production so that arcane production methods like bush burning, and wanton destruction of forest reserves become a thing of the past,” he added.
The Acting Dean of the KNUST Faculty of Law, Dr. Chris Adomako-Kwakye stressed on the impact of corruption, which is detrimental to societal development, with mention of protocols established by regional bodies like Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), Southern African Development Community (SADC), and the African Union (AU) to combat it. Despite these efforts, corruption remains pervasive in Africa, and is described as “Africa’s undeclared pandemic.”
According to him, sexual minority rights emerged as a contentious issue in some African countries, as exemplified by Ghana’s draft bill on Proper Human Sexual and Ghanaian Family Values. The competition will recognise harmful environmental practices, such as deforestation and water pollution, as serious threats to Africa’s ecological systems and overall human well-being. As a result, the competition aims to explore this dichotomy and propose solutions within the context of law and culture, all in pursuit of “The Africa We Want.”
Representing His Royal Majesty Otumfuo Osei Tutu II, Asantehene and Chancellor of KNUST, Daasebere Osei Bonsu II, Mamponhene and the Occupant of the Silver Stool of Asanteman, suggested involving traditional rulers in future discussions on human rights issues, as their perspectives and cultural insights could enrich the dialogue and promote a more comprehensive understanding of the challenges at hand.
Justice Sophia Abena Boafoa Akuffo, Retired Justice of the Supreme Court and the Former Chief Justice of the Republic of Ghana, delivered the keynote address at the opening ceremony of the 32nd Christof Heyns African Human Rights Moot Court Competition, on the theme “The Africa We Want — Combating Discrimination, Climate Change, and Corruption.”
In her address, the former Chief Justice emphasised the importance of human rights protection in realising the African Union’s Agenda 2063. She highlighted that human rights are inherent to every individual and play a central role in creating a peaceful and stable Africa. Democracy and respect for human rights are essential, and mechanisms for the application and enforcement of these rights are crucial.
Justice Sophia Akuffo discussed the universality of human rights, with a focus on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) as a foundational document. She also highlighted the significance of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights in Africa, emphasising the duty of states to eliminate discrimination and protect human rights.
She examined the establishment of the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights as a vital continental judicial forum for enforcing human rights instruments. However, she noted the ongoing challenge of enforcement, which often relies on the political will of respondent states.
Justice Sophia Akuffo mentioned various regional and national mechanisms for protecting human rights, such as domestic legislation, constitutional provisions, and regional treaties. She stressed the importance of these instruments in ensuring the protection and promotion of human rights within African states.
She underlined the need to improve upon the existing human rights norms and institutions to achieve the “Africa We Want.” She called for a sustainable Africa that values core principles, environmental preservation, accountability, good governance, and justice.