By Joan Akello
David Mugawe, Executive Director of the African Child Policy Forum (ACPF), will this week receive an award from the International Juvenile Justice Observatory (IJJO) in recognition of his efforts to promote and protect the rights of African children within the justice system.
ACPF has made significant contributions to improving children’s experience within African justice system such as hosting a major international conference in Uganda aimed at bringing together justice actors globally and mobilising effective follow-up actions of national and international legislation policies and practices, with regard to implementing child friendly justice systems in Africa; and establishing a Children’s Legal Protection Centre (CLPC) in Addis Ababa, which was successful in protecting children and in influencing the interpretation and application of the law in Ethiopia.
However, there still challenges the children and juveniles face. One in 10 of the 9.8 million people estimated by the latest World Prison Population List to be currently residing in prisons worldwide are children or juveniles. Many of these live in African states.
The majority of child prisoners in Africa are not housed in special youth or juvenile detentions centres, Joan Akellobut are incarcerated with adults and prey to physical or sexual exploitation.
Only a minority of these children are tried and imprisoned in accordance with internationally recognised judicial and sentencing protocols.
In some African countries – including Mauritania, Namibia, Swaziland and Zimbabwe the age of criminal responsibility is as low as seven years (In the UK it is 10 years).
Based in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, ACPF is an independent pan-African institution of policy research and dialogue on the African child. ACPF was established with the conviction that putting children first on the public and political agenda is fundamental for the realisation of their rights and wellbeing and for bringing about lasting social and economic progress in Africa.
The IJJO, with headquarters in Brussels, was founded in 2003 with the goal of encouraging global juvenile justice without borders. It will host its 5th biannual conference in London on 6-7 November at the Park Plaza Riverbank Hotel, during which David Mugawe will receive his award. Mugawe will also make a keynote presentation at the conference on “Good Policy and Practices Initiatives for Child Justice in Africa”.