On June 16, Africa and the world celebrated Day of the African Child. The day, as with others dedicated to various causes, is an opportunity to reflect on how far we have come in promoting and protecting the welfare of the African child.
In 1990, the Organisation of African Unity — the precursor of the African Union — adopted a charter on the rights and welfare of the child. Therefore, protection and welfare of children is institutionalised in the AU charter.
Individual African countries also have child-specific rights and protections in their constitutions. Have we done enough since the adoption of the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child in 1990?
The diagnosis is not good. The African child remains vulnerable to various threats. In the Democratic Republic of Congo, for instance, child labour is used at various mining sites.
These child labourers have little protection from exploitation and earn next to nothing for dangerous work. Children in that country also fall prey to various militias fighting the government. They are maimed, abducted or killed.
Perpetual flight from conflict in many parts of Africa, including South Sudan, Ethiopia and Central African Republic, affects the psychological wellbeing and education of children.
In other parts of Africa, jihadists target schools, kidnaping, raping or killing children.
The most infamous such incident was the abduction of girls from a school by the Boko Haram in Nigeria. Jihadist attacks in Burkina Faso, Niger, Mauritania, Somalia and Mozambique displace, abduct or kill children.
On June 16 this year — the Day of the African Child — an attack on a school in western Uganda by the ISIS-affiliated terror group, Allied Democratic Forces, killed close to 40 students and abducted others. We will never understand how terror groups justify killing children in the name of God.
In yet other parts of Africa, children remain vulnerable to domestic violence. They also suffer from famine and poverty. In other places, they do not have access to clean water.
In Kenya, corruption scandals such as Goldenberg and Anglo-Leasing, and theft at the National Youth Service and Kenya Medical Supplies Authority, and the heists going on under the current regime equal to stealing our children’s future.
This year’s theme is “The Rights of the Child in the Digital Environment.” Yet, in the slums and rural villages, children are left out in the provision of digital education. If not addressed, this digital divide will perpetuate generational poverty.
Nelson Mandela said that poverty is not natural; it is man-made. We have no excuse for why millions of children sleep hungry, are poorly clothed and walk for miles to school. In other cases, children spend hours collecting firewood or water.
The AU Agenda 2040 intends to make an Africa fit for children. Are we on track to accomplishing that? Not by a long shot. The dire circumstances of the African child are man-made. We can reverse the situation if we have the will.
Tee Ngugi is a Nairobi-based political commentator.