On 22 March, the Centre for Human Rights (Centre), on the heels of National Human Rights Day (21 March), hosted its annual welcoming Ceremony for the students on the Centre’s academic programmes. This year, the Centre welcomes 28 students in the LLM/MPhil programme in Human Rights and Democratisation in Africa (HRDA), 11 in the Sexual and Reproductive Rights in Africa (SRRA), and 16 in Multi-Disciplinary Human Rights (MDHR). This year there is no intake for the masters programmes in Disability Rights in Africa (DRIA), which has a new intake every two years. There is also no intake for the Trade and Investment Law in Africa (TILA), which is run in partnership alternating between the University of the Western Cape (UWC) and the University of Pretoria (UP), and is this year being held at the UWC.

In 2024, the Centre marks 25 years of the HRDA programme, the brainchild of Prof Christof Heyns and 10 years of the SRRA, birthed by Prof Charles Ngwena at UP. To commemorate this special occasion Justice Veronica Gomez, President of the Global Campus of Human Rights, and Judge of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, added lustre to the occasion through her presence and remarks. The Global Campus of Human Rights is a network of academic institutions advancing human rights education and training across eight regional hubs, including Global Campus Africa which has its regional hub at the Centre for Human Rights. The HRDA is presented in collaboration with 12 regional partners, including the founding partners, UWC, Makerere University and the University of Ghana. Prof Maria Usang Assim from UWC, an elected member on the Global Campus Council, represented the partners. [insert photo with Nkatha, Frans and Lloyd]

Also in the audience was the first HRDA Programme Manager, Dr Martin Nsibirwa, now the Head of Research at the South African Human Rights Commission, making it three generations of HRDA programme managers in the room:  Dr Martin Nsibirwa from 2003 to 2015; Dr Ashwanee Budoo-Scholtz from 2017 to 2022; and Dr Michelle Maziwisa from 2023 to the present. Numerous alumni of the HRDA were in attendance, including Asmal Waris and Zaharah Msomi from the class of 2023, Hlengiwe Dube (2015); Rotondwa Mashige (2017), Davina Murden (2021), Clement Agyeman (2020), Henok Ashagrey (2018), Shyreen Chirwa (2022), Marystella Simuyu (2018), Brian Kibirango (2021), Jared  Gekombe (2015). Most of them are currently doctoral students registered in the Centre.

Lloyd Kuveya, the Assistant Director of the Centre, welcomed the guests, followed by reflections from two graduates of the HRDA and SRRA programmes. Dr Ashwanee Budoo-Scholtz, currently the Deputy Director of Human Rights Watch, Africa Regional Division, reflected on the value of proper planning, working hard and building networks during the intense HRDA programme. Maryanne Nkechi Obiagbaoso, currently a doctoral candidate at the Centre for Human Rights, noted the impact of the SRRA on changing the way rural communities understand and seek sexual and reproductive health services in Nigeria as a result of her imparting the skills and knowledge she acquired during her time as an SRRA student. This was followed by two videos reflecting on 25 years of the HRDA and 10 years of the SRRA, noting the need for and the impact of the two academic programmes in Africa and beyond.

Prof Danwood Chirwa, an alumnus of the HRDA (2001), gave the keynote address. He gave the new intake of students a perspective as to what awaits them on the road ahead, and what can be achieved, by giving real life examples of what other graduates in the academic programmes of the Centre for Human Rights, at the Law Faculty have accomplished. To encourage the students to enrich their academic citizenship, he drew from his own academic journey, noting that one of his most cited works is a paper he wrote during his masters studies. [insert photo of Prof Chirwa at the event]

He noted the huge successes of HRDA alumni, some of whom were in his year group, and the joy he experienced in knowing that at UP he studied from textbooks of his lecturers, not some professor who had since died. He said this to note the importance of the academic citizenship and contributing to key and emerging human rights issues --even as masters students.

He also gave the ICJ case submitted by South Africa against Israel in respect of Palestine as a case in point, noting that Prof John Dugard, who was Prof Chirwa’s lecturer during his masters studies as an HRDA student, made submissions on behalf of South Africa in relation to the procedural aspects of the case; that his former classmate Doctor Mashabane, the current Director-General of the South African Department of Justice and Correctional Services, was intimately involved in the submissions to the ICJ on behalf of South Africa; and an HRDA alumna, Justice Miatta Samba, is currently a judge at the International Criminal Court, which is investigating the Israel-Palestine situation. In addition,  Prof Dire Tladi, at the UP Law Faculty, has been appointed as an ICJ Judge, illustrating the quality and impact of education in the Centre for Human Rights, specifically, and UP Law Faculty, more generally.

Here’s to 25 years of the HRDA and 10 years of the SRRA!

For more information, please contact:

Programme Manager: Human Rights and Democratisation in Africa

Tel: +27 (0) 12 420 6703

HRDA Programme Director
Centre for Human Rights

Tel: +27 (0) 12 420 3228


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