The African Democracy Forum (ADF) on Saturday concluded a two day High-Level Management meeting in Kigali at Umubano hotel. The meeting brought together management committee members from across the African continent including Rwanda, Zimbabwe, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Nigeria, Cameroon, Somalia and Mali to discuss pertinent issues of the forum including its operationalization, long-term strategic plan and registration of new members in Africa.
A regional network launched in Abuja, Nigeria in October 2000, ADF is comprised of civil society organizations, media institutions, Community Based Organizations, academic institutions and donor entities that work on democracy, democratic research, protection of human rights, upholding the rule of law and promoting good governance through the twin principles of transparency and accountability in Africa. ADF is also a platform for mutual support and sharing of resources for its members.
The African Democracy Forum was designed to strengthen democracy movements in Africa by benefitting from the wealth of experiences, expertise and knowledge among its members. “Strengthening democracy in Africa needs to be embedded in our culture, starting from our homes, communities, and Civil Society Organizations. At times people mistakenly think that democracy is only about electing a President or Member of Parliament. Yet elections are among the components of democracy. Democracy is indeed a culture that has to be transferred from one generation to another. Empowering African CSO’s and activists through the African Democracy Forum is therefore one way to achieve this,” Dr. Joseph Nkurunziza, Chairperson of Africa Democracy Forum.
Dr Joseph Nkurunziza, chairperson of ADF, speaking at the meeting
For the last one decade the forum has been a platform to organize and coordinate regional issues around building the culture of democracy, activism and practitioners; providing a platform to share ideas, experiences from the vast spread of continent-wide democratic evolutions and the intricacies of African governance dynamics as they unfold. The forum will play a critical role in building the capacity of CSOs, provide mentorship and a platform for them to share success stories.
ADF is composed of the General Assembly, the Management Committee and the Secretariat which is currently hosted by Never Again Rwanda (NAR) – a national peace-building NGO that is involved in peacebuilding and promotion of social justice in Rwanda. NAR aims at empowering citizens to be active agents of positive change in their communities.
Among the key resolutions of the meeting was the modification of the thematic areas of focus for the African Democracy Forum as follows: Elections and governance, Conflicts and violent extremism, Human rights/ Human rights defenders, Youth and women participation, and Anti-Corruption. The thematic areas may however be further modified as the committee members recommended that a consultant be recruited to improve on them in collaboration with the Management Committee members. The consultant would also be required to work on a resource mobilization plan.
The management committee members resolved that the African Democracy Forum will be registered as a Regional Non-Governmental Organization in Rwanda and the process will begin with immediate effect with the deadline set for September 2017. According to Dr Nkurunziza, the forum chose to register itself as an NGO because it is essential to empower the African CSO’s in championing the democratic principles and also facilitate a solid engagement with various African policy makers through a legal entity.
ADF management committee members following the proceedings of the meeting.
Under the operationalization of ADF, the meeting resolved that the Management Committee members will be the regional focal persons for the forum with additional national focal persons identified to assist in promoting the forum’s activities at their country levels.
With regard to membership, ADF membership policy would be developed by the end of May 2017 while existing applicants would be requested to provide additional information before final decision of acceptance by the Management Committee is made. Furthermore, it was resolved that there would be two categories for memberships available, that is, individual and organization membership as outlined in the ADF constitution. It was agreed that individuals would pay an annual membership fee of 50 USD while organizations would pay an annual membership fee of 100 USD.
The Management Committee resolved to have an elective General Assembly in 2019 as provided for in the constitution while the next African Democracy Forum Management Committee physical meeting will be held in October 2017. The location will be decided upon on a late stage. The Forum is currently supported by the National Endowement for Democracy (NED) which is US based nonprofit foundation dedicated to the growth and strengthening of democratic institutions around the world.
A group photo of the ADF management committee members
[This article was first published in Rwanda’s New Times English newspaper on 8-05-17]