The Africa Freedom of Information Centre (AFIC) has hailed the Model Law on Access to Information for Africa recently launched by the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR). Gilbert Sendugwa, Coordinator and Head of AFIC Secretariat described it as a response to a felt need.
Apparently excited about the improvement in the access to information landscape in Africa Sendugwa believes that the addition of the model access law to the body of laws in nations across Africa marks an irreversible trend in the march towards making access to information a norm in the continent.
Sendugwa traced the origins of the model access to information law to the Africa Regional Conference on Access to Information organized by the Carter Center in 2010 where President Carter remarked that enabling people’s right to know was essential for a modern democracy built on an enduring relationship between the state and its people.
He said the statement by President Carter became the reason for the push for a model access to information law that brought about the adoption of Resolution 167 (XLVII) 2010 of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Right.
The resolution formed the basis for authorizing the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression and Access to Information in Africa to initiate the process of developing a model access to information legislation for Africa.
According to Sendugwa, the model law is a product of an inclusive process which included online inputs and physical regional consultations in East Africa, Southern Africa, West Africa, Central Africa and North Africa.
He said government and civil society leaders from around the continent appreciated the consultative process and were encouraged to make significant contributions to the draft of the model law.
Sendugwa believes that the model law is already making impact as its consultative process was also used to canvass for the ratification of the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance, which eventually led to the ratification of the Democracy Charter by about seven countries.
He said AFIC and its members used the model law in its draft form together with the African Platform on Access to Information (APAI) Declaration to analyse and provide inputs into draft Freedom of Information Bills for Kenya, Zambia and Botswana. It was also used in analyzing access to information laws of Niger, Guinea, Zimbabwe and Angola.
Sendugwa said “No doubt the Model Law on Access to Information for Africa will change the landscape of the right to information in Africa.”