The Centre for Human Rights, Faculty of Law, University of Pretoria (CHR) commemorated World Human Rights Day by hosting its annual Graduation ceremony on 9 December 2022. This annual event saw the CHR graduate its LLM/MPhil in Human Rights and Democratisation in Africa (HRDA) class of 2022 at a time when the institution of democracy is under pressure throughout the continent of Africa and globally. This year’s Graduation also marked the first in-person ceremony at the main campus of UP since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic. During the ceremony, the Vera Chirwa Award was also annoounced and handed to two graduates of the HRDA programme, Namibian Minister of Justice Honorable Yvonne Dausab and Malawian High Court Judge, Justice Redson Kapindu.
Masters degrees awarded
Twenty HRDA students graduated. Six of these students obtained the degree with distinction. The Nelson Mandela Prize for the best academic performance in was awarded to Farirai Sinothando Sibanda (Zimbabwe); the Victor Dankwa Prize for the best performance in the module ‘Human Rights in Africa’ went to Elim Shanko (Ethiopia); and the Keba M’Baye Prize for the best dissertation was awarded to Husseinatou Manjang (The Gambia). In addition, three students on the LLM/MPhil (Multidisciplinary Human Rights) programme also graduated.
A total of eight doctoral degrees were awarded. These included a doctorate to Dianah Ateenyi Ahumuza, who teaches at Makerere University, one of the HRDA partner faculties. She completed the LLD degree under the supervision of Dr Ashwanee Budoo-Scholtz, the former HRDA Programme Manager at the Centre, with Professor Attiya Waris, extraordinary lecturer at the Centre as co-supervisor. Adebayo Okoewo, who has previously been the Centre’s advocacy coordinator, also graduated, with a thesis providing an African perspective on the accountability for human rights violations through citizen media. Linda Udegbunam, who previously worked on the Centre’s monitoring and evaluation team, also graduated with the LLD degree. Both Adebayo and Linda completed their theses under the supervision of Professor Magnus Killander, the HRDA Academic Coordinator.
In her address, the Deputy Vice Chancellor of the University of Pretoria, Prof Loretta Feris, challenged the class of 2022 to position themselves strategically on the continent as policymakers and human rights activists. Prof Feris reminded them to not be intimidated by their youthful age as Africa is a promising continent because it boasts of a largely youthful demographic compared to other continents. Therefore, their age made them relatable to the various constituents their human rights and democratization expertise targeted.
The Dean of the Faculty of Law, Prof Elsabe Schoeman, commended the graduates on their tenacity in enduring the academic challenges that they faced as the CHR and the rest of the global academia transitioned from a virtual learning system to an in-person and hybrid learning system. During the ceremony, loadshedding was experienced and Professor Schoeman expressed how it could not have come at a better time as it sent a clear message to these new graduates of the importance of their obligation to jealously guard the democratic institutions of nations as a lack thereof resulted in poor governance and maladministration, the manifestation of which being loadshedding and a lack of provision of water and safe roads due to dilapidated and poorly maintained infrastructure. Prof Schoeman also announced the winners of the Dean’s Essay Prize for 2022. In sequential order, the prize winners were Jonas Sindani (Democartic Republic of Congo), Emmanuel Ekiru Tioko (Kenya) and Mosupatsila Nare (Zimbabwe). She congratulated them for capturing, in their essays, the essence of their academic year in an interesting and informative way.
The Programme Manager for the LLM/MPhil in HRDA, Dr Primrose ER Kurasha, presented the Ubuntu Prize of 2022, which went to the graduate(s) who had been the embodiment of love, care and compassion to their academic community. The Ubuntu Prize for this year was awarded to Afua Duah (Lesotho) and Benkhrada Mohammed Reda (Morocco).
The Director of the CHR, Prof Frans Viljoen, congratulated the class of 2022, and thanked and appreciate the efforts of all who participated in a way or another to make 2022 a successful year. The programme is not possible without the support of the twelve partner faculties across the African continent. He announced the newly graduated students who have been afforded ‘professional placements’ opportunities: 2023 LLM/MPhil in HRDA Tutor and Doctoral candidate: Shyreen Odala Chirwa (Malawi); Internship to the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights: Meron Bhiranu (Ethiopia); Internship to the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights: Mosupatsila Nare (Zimbabwe); Internship to the African Committee of Experts on the Rights and Welfare of the Child: Husseinatou Manjang (The Gambia); and Internship to the AU Economic, Social and Cultural Council (ECOSOCC): Farirai Sinothando Sibanda (Zimbabwe). Two graduates from previous years will also be back at the Centre in 2023, to serve as tutors, while also embarking on doctoral studies. They are Jared Gekombe (Kenya, HRDA Class of 2016) and Henok Ashagrey (HRDA Class of 2018).
The Centre wishes to acknowledge, with thanks, the generous donations from donors, in particular, the European Union. Other donors include the Norwegian Governments through its Embassy in Pretoria, through which a number of recent graduates from the HRDA Programme are allowed to act as interns/legal officers at the main AU institutions dealing with human rights; and the Dutch Government through its Embassy in Pretoria, for providing resources for a scholarship dedicated to a student who is openly gay, lesbian or transgender.
For more information, please contact:
Dr. Primrose E.R. Kurasha
Programme Manager of the LLM/MPhil in Human Rights and Democratisation in Africa
+27 12 420 6703