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The Inaugural Commonwealth Parliamentarians with Disabilities (CPwD) Africa Region Conference was held in Nairobi from 14th to 18th October, 2021. The Conference, which was hosted by the Parliament of Kenya in collaboration with the Commonwealth Parliamentarians with Disabilities (CPwD) Network, brought together Members of Parliament from Kenya, Sierre Leone, South Africa, Uganda and Tanzania.

Speaking during the conference, the Chairperson of the Commonwealth Parliamentarians with Disabilities (CPwD) Network, Hon Denittah Ghati reiterated the need to fully implement the provisions of Article 29(a) of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities which obligates States to ensure that persons with disabilities can effectively and fully participate in political and public life on an equal basis with others, either directly or through freely chosen representatives. She also added that Articles 60 and 61 of the Protocol of the African Charter on human and people’s rights of persons with disability in Africa recognize regional and international human rights instruments and African practices consistent with international norms on human and peoples’ rights as important reference points to the application and interpretation of the African Charter.

The Speaker of the National Assembly, Hon. Justin B.N. Muturi, EGH, MP who is also the Chairperson of the CPA Africa Executive Committee, while addressing the Conference during the official opening, lauded the concerted efforts of the CPA Kenya Branch and the Regional Secretariat that led to the actualization of the Inaugural Conference.

Hon. Muturi acknowledged that the rights of persons with disabilities are clearly set out in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UN-CRPD) which was adopted in 2006 and came into force in 2008, among other instruments. The Convention provides for the obligation of all countries to implement it and other relevant instruments so as to ensure that the rights of persons with disabilities are fully realized.

He noted that in the implementation of the Convention, Parliaments have the oversight responsibility through parliamentary committees’ inquiries, Questions to the Executive, as well as scrutiny of national budgets to ensure that they are disability-responsive. He further noted that it was the joint responsibility of the delegates present to make use of these parliamentary opportunities to ensure that whatever needs to be done is done.

The Deputy Speaker of the National Assembly, Hon. Moses Cheboi, CBS, MP, while addressing the Conference during the official closing ceremony reiterated the need to explore future partnerships and collaborations with both public and private agencies charged with the mandate to promote, protect and ensure full and equal enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms by all persons with disabilities. This would help promote respect for their inherent dignity.

“The outcome statement and conference resolutions indicate to me that the main purpose of the Conference, which was to create a platform for Members of Parliament with Disabilities within the Africa Region to discuss issues of mutual concern and chart a path to streamline disability into the activities of the Region, has been achieved,” he noted

Among other resolutions, delegates at the just concluded Conference resolved to advocate for disability-focused measures that resonate with the public and respond to expansion of access to human rights and fundamental freedoms by persons with disabilities at all levels both in the public and private sector. The delegates further urged individual and corporate members of the CPA and the CPwD Network to advocate for, and participate in, the delivery of all commitments made to Persons with Disabilities.

Other key Speakers at the Conference included Mr. Stephen Twigg, CPA Secretary-General, Hon. (Dr.) Linah Jebii Kilimo, MGH, Chief Administrative Secretary, Ministry of Public Service, Gender, Senior Citizens Affairs & Special Programmes, Sen. Isaac Mwaura, Founder KEDIPA & National  Coordinator, Albinism Society of Kenya, Mr. Harun Hassan Malim, Executive Director, National Council for Persons with Disabilities (NCPD), Mr. Washington Sati, Vice Chairperson, Commission on Administrative Justice (CAJ), Dr. Joyce Mutinda, PhD, Chairperson, National Gender & Equality Commission (NGEC), Ms. Anne Nderitu, Registrar of Political Parties Ms.  Mercy Okiro, Vice Chairperson, Gender Sector Board – Kenya Private Sector Alliance (KEPSA)

In conclusion, the delegates called on CPA to fast-track the inclusion of the CPwD Network as an organ of CPA to spearhead the implementation of disability considerations in all activities and programmes of the Association. The CPwD Network is one of the special programmes of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association (CPA) which was established to facilitate activities and programmes geared towards increasing representation of persons with disabilities in Commonwealth Parliaments. It also works towards mainstreaming disability considerations in all CPA activities and programmes.