By Sabeehah Motala
Young people are always an important demographic to engage with in the fight against corruption. As the future professionals, activists and leaders of our world, young people should be equipped with an understanding of what corruption is, its effects on the economy, society and politics, and how they can use their skills to come up with creative solutions to fight it.
One of the first activities by Corruption Watch’s Stakeholder Relations and Campaigns Department in 2019 was to host an internal debate at the African Leadership Academy, a boarding school for future leaders aged 16 to 19, from across the African continent. The unique dynamic of the student body meant that we could explore an interesting range of corruption-related content. In three sessions over four weeks, we discussed the definition of corruption, the effects of corruption on human rights, mechanisms of accountability, the African Union legislation on corruption, and how to improve anti-corruption in Africa. The lesson and discussions culminated in a debate on Wednesday 20 February 2019, and in essays produced by some of the students.
The debate topic, which was “This House would establish an African Union Anti-Corruption Court”, drew out arguments around accountability, efficiency, sovereignty, opportunity for capture and enforcement of international law.
The essay topic was “Corruption violates human rights. Discuss with reference to examples from your country or community.” You can read some of their essays below!
Mohamed Khalaf Gabsi (Tunisia)
Download Mohamed’s essay as a PDF.
Does Corruption violate Human Rights? – Mohamed Khalaf Gabsi
When speaking of corruption, Kofi Annan said: “Corruption is an insidious plague that has a wide range of corrosive effects on societies. It […] leads to violations of human rights […] and allows organized crime, terrorism and other threats to human security to flourish.”
To understand the relationship between corruption and the violation of human rights that the former UN General Secretary referred to, one must reflect on the manifestations of corruption, and the aspects of human rights violation.
Generally, corrupt acts can be viewed in the abusive use of power and resources (both public and private) for unethical and personal benefit. These acts can happen on a day-to-day scale in administrations (petty corruption) and on a national high level of political office (grand corruption).
Today, anti-corruption policies and strategies set by governments are largely merged with the good governance agenda and the development discourse. These two concepts are mostly analyzed through a human rights lens. This supports Kofi Annan’s statement in which he relates corruption to human rights.
However, to give evidence to this view, two questions must be considered; “Whose rights? And which rights?” Tunisia is a good example to look at when answering these two questions. The North African country was ranked 73rd out of 180 countries in the Corruption Perceptions Index 2018, according to the new report of Transparency International.
Regardless of this, Tunisian public opinion believes that the anti-corruption laws set by the government failed to achieve the expected results, despite the financial support received by the National Anti-Corruption Authority. 
This failure translates into ongoing corrupt acts that directly violate human rights. In the public services sector, for example, the practice of “Wasta”, (meaning connections) has contributed to a wide network of nepotism and cronyism. Many civil servants do not have the right qualifications for their jobs. Therefore, Tunisians who are actually qualified for a public service job become victims and their right to work (Article 23 UDHR) becomes threatened.
Also, the healthcare system has always been home for corruption in Tunisia; false prescriptions, illicit drugs, and faults in public procurement all endanger healthcare the country. This directly affects the right of citizens to the highest attainable standard of health (Article 12 ICESCR). In the sector of civil society, the government, at times, has put associations through unnecessary bureaucratic registration procedures. This challenges the right of freedom of association and their right to take collective actions to achieve their goals (Article 22 ICCPR).
In addition, some argue that, although bribery is considered a “victimless crime” (or its victim is the general public), sometimes the briber, who often even takes the initiative, can be considered as a victim in Tunisia. In many fields (education, judiciary, police…), the option of the illegal quid pro quo and the agreement to it by bribers is mostly a result of desperate situations. This happens when the briber tries to access their basic national rights but gets rejected by the authority. Therefore, they become a victim of the corrupt system in which they are not “free” but rather coerced.
It is evident that in Tunisia, corruption can violate recognized human rights that are codified by the UN human rights covenants. These rights are primarily social and are often affected by the petty corruption systems that are present today. However, it is important to mention the progress Tunisia has made in combating corruption, enhancing democracy, and establishing a good governance system, especially after the 2018 Municipal elections. It is also equally important to recognize the efforts the Tunisian civil society has done after the 2011 revolution, naming organizations such as IWatch Organization and Al Bawsala.
- “The UN Convention Against Corruption.” Oxford Scholarship Online, 2017
- “OHCHR Report on Sri Lanka (HRC 25th, 2014, OS).” Human Rights Documents Online, 28 Mar. 2008, pp1.
- Transparency International. transparency.org/country/TUN.
- “Tunisia Rises One Place in Corruption Perceptions Index.” AllAfrica.com, 29 Jan. 2019, allafrica.com/stories/201901290862.html.
- Marks, Monica. “’Letting Go of Every Principle’: Tunisia’s Democratic Gains under Threat.” Middle East Eye, 23 July 2017, middleeasteye.net/opinion/letting-go-every-principle-tunisias-democratic-gains-under-threat.
- “Tunisia Corruption Report.” Business Anti-Corruption Portal, business-anti-corruption.com/country-profiles/tunisia/
- “Universal Declaration of Human Rights.” United Nations, United Nations, un.org/en/universal-declaration-human-rights/.
- “International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.” OHCHR | Freedom of Religion: UN Expert Hails Albania, but Notes New Challenges and Unresolved Issues from the Past, www.ohchr.org/en/professionalinterest/pages/cescr.aspx.
- “International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.” OHCHR | Freedom of Religion: UN Expert Hails Albania, but Notes New Challenges and Unresolved Issues from the Past, ohchr.org/en/professionalinterest/pages/ccpr.aspx.
-  Foreword by Kofi Annan in the UN Convention Against Corruption https://www.unodc.org/documents/brussels/UN_Convention_Against_Corruption.pdf
-  Human Rights Council, “The role of good governance in the promotion and protection of human rights” of 27 March 2008, paragraph 4 http://ap.ohchr.org/documents/e/hrc/resolutions/a_hrc_res_7_11.pdf
-  Transparency International Organization on Tunisia 2018 https://www.transparency.org/country/TUN
-  AllAfrica Report «Tunisia Rises One Place in Corruption Perceptions Index » https://allafrica.com/stories/201901290862.html
-  Check Article 23 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. United Nations, United Nations, www.un.org/en/universal-declaration-human-rights/.
-  Middle East Eye: “‘Letting Go of Every Principle’: Tunisia’s Democratic Gains Under Threat”, 23 July 2017 https://www.middleeasteye.net/opinion/letting-go-every-principle-tunisias-democratic-gains-under-threat
-  Check Article 12 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. https://www.ohchr.org/en/professionalinterest/pages/cescr.aspx
-  The GAN Business Anti-Corruption Portal, Tunisia Corruption Report https://www.business-anti-corruption.com/country-profiles/tunisia/
-  Check Article 22 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. www.ohchr.org/en/professionalinterest/pages/ccpr.aspx.
Essay words number: 607
Footnote words number: 121
Total words number: 884
Nourane Hentati (Tunisia)
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Nourane Hentati – Corruption Watch Essay
For corruption to feed itself, it needs to be embodied by people and their historically acknowledged ability to epitomize the dichotomy of good and evil. In Tunisia, corruption is indeed very-well fed as it feasts on collective and individual human rights in a grandiose ceremony of violence and egotism.
The Tunisian people underwent dictatorships, injustice and political dysfunctionalities that normalized corruption. We have been long absorbed in a suffocating system, where one adapts to violating the rights of others as a coping mechanism after having their own rights violated.
Twenty three is the infamous number often heard on Tunisian streets. It quantifies the years during which, corruption infiltrated within the cracks of our deteriorating society. Ben Ali ran a power-abusing oligarchy for a little over two decades, which thrived on tax fraud, property theft and the falsification of information. In 2011, we aspired for a revolution that would break the infernal cycle of corruption. Unfortunately, it disguised in a new suit, carried the reminiscence of its old self in a briefcase and entered the parliament and the presidential palace.
In post-revolution Tunisia, corruption is being empowered by institutions. On “September 13, 2017” (World Report 2018), the Tunisian parliament passed the Administrative Reconciliation Law, which grants amnesty to the most corrupt figures of the fallen regime. The law dismissed any legal grounds to prosecute those have been suspected of corruption or its facilitation. The bill since its introduction by the president in 2015, triggered protests across the country, as young activists started – Menich Msemeh – I shall not forgive, a nation-wide movement condemning the law that jeopardizes the democratic transition of the country. This very act of normalizing corruption speaks to the core of the violation of human rights. Forgiving people who accepted bribery to proceed with bureaucratic procedures is stomping on the rights of those who were incarcerated for years without a proper court hearing. And applauding those who embezzled public funds, is a sickening oversight of the rights of Tunisians to equitable public health care and education.
Sometimes, corruption can be observed, but not fully traceable. I Watch, an anti-corruption Tunisian NGO, found out that the Tunisian government has accumulated 50.5 billion dinars in grants between January 2011 and July 2017, which is equivalent to 15% of the budget of Tunisia for 2017. Yet, Tunisian ministries receiving these grants did not complete 86.7% of projects agreed upon with donors (Governance of foreign donations). This flagrant misconduct points directly at the violation of the constitutional rights of all Tunisians to the development and especially of those who live in the interior and southern areas, that have been systematically impoverished by the systems of colonialism and postcolonial dictatorships.
The Tunisian revolution was triggered by an act of corruption and power abuse. An official used her institutional influence to slap Bouazizi; a street vendor from the poorly developed Sidi Bouzid who immolated himself to protest against the institutionalized humiliation he went through. Ironically, Tunisia is struggling to maintain herself in the post-revolution fragmented legislative system that contradicts itself at every possible occasion. The Article 230 of the Penal Code criminalizes homosexuality, while the constitution in its 21st Article assures that “The state guarantees freedoms and individual and collective rights to all citizens, and provides all citizens the conditions for a dignified life” (Tunisia’s Const. title. 2. Article 21). A lucidly clear legislative paradox that alludes to Bouazizi’s self-immolation and that empower the Law Enforcement on its quest to commit severe violations of the rights of the LGBTQI+ community. Today, police forces are arbitrarily arresting people who are suspected of homosexuality and are forcing men to take anal tests to point in the direction of their illicit sexual orientation. An unsupervised medical procedure that sentences them to torture and practices of psychological, physical and sexual violence in prisons and police stations.
Posterior to 2011, Tunisians crafted an illusion of liberty. Arguably, achieving international freedom standards is an advancement that we can celebrate. However, Transparency International deems Tunisia of becoming more corrupt after the revolution (Tunisia’s Corruption Contagion: A Transition at risk), which projects the depth of the crisis and which raises questions about the effectiveness of the local systems that are trying to combat corruption. Today, corruption has grown to manifest itself as a universal culture; an endemic one that affects internally and externally, which also has been raising questions regarding the establishment of a Pan-African anti-corruption court. This futuristic way to look at the war against corruption might actually be an effective solution when carried out carefully by the technocracy rather than by the nepotistic approach of appointing worn-out politicians.
- “Governance of Foreign Donations .. Ambulances Did Not Join the Refugee Camp.” I WATCH ORGANISATION – أنا یقظ , أنا یقظ – Iwatch Organization, 25 Jan. 2018, www.iwatch.tn/ar/article/458.
- Tunisia’s Constitution of 2014 . Translated by UNDP, Constituteproject.org, 2014,
- United Nations. “World Report 2018 – Tunisia.” Refworld , Human Rights Watch, 18 Jan. 2018,
- Yerkes, Sarah, and Marwan Muasher. TUNISIA’S CORRUPTION CONTAGION A Transition at Risk . Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Oct. 2017, carnegieendowment.org/files/Tunisia_Corruption_Web_final.pdf.
Olagunju Ife Oluwaseyi (Nigeria)
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CORRUPTION VIOLATES HUMAN RIGHTS – OLAGUNJU IFE OLUWASEYI
‘Corruption’ lies within us all, but so does the yearning to be respected, to have ‘rights’. The reduction of one is the inevitable rise of the other.
Human rights and corruption, although deeply embedded in the fabric of our societies, do not have any definitions written in stone due to their multi-faceted, complex natures. Transparency International defines corruption as the abuse of entrusted power for private gain. Human rights can on another hand be seen as the fundamental freedoms every individual is entitled to throughout their lives. For concision and depth, these two will be analyzed from an institutional context. My primary case-study will be the 200 million strong, West-African Nigeria.
The first intersection of corruption and human rights in Nigeria is its democratic institutions. Democratic institutions include structures such as the Judiciary, Legislative, law enforcement agencies and an independent electoral body. These bodies are heavily manipulated, as its top officials answer to a small circle of Nigerian leaders who have raped the country’s wealth for too long. Because they cannot make decisions based on justice and integrity, not only do they prove their corruption and that of individuals pulling strings, but this is done at the cost of the rights of millions who have nowhere else to turn. Law enforcers arrest citizens unjustly, frequently harassing them for bribes; courts of law favor individuals with the heaviest pockets; INEC, Nigeria’s supposedly independent electoral body, is not as integrous and transparent as it should be. When all these elements are analyzed, we see that the economic, judicial and social rights are stripped off a people. Worse still, they lose true franchise, ensuring the continuous cycle of corruption and deprivation of fundamental privileges as the same leaders recycle themselves. So long as institutions set up to uphold a country’s democracy have questionable procedures, there is no hope for a true democracy, there is only hope for endless corruption, there is no hope for true human rights.
If one knows not their rights, one has no rights. The Nigerian educational system has suffered for countless years. As funds flow into its government’s coffers, proper allocation is ignored and wealth meant to be poured towards educating the Nigerian masses lodge in secret Swiss bank accounts, severely misappropriated. 39% of Nigerian adults cannot read or write, 40% of primary school teachers are not qualified, there have been 14 university strikes in the past 20 years where university students have lost up to 40 months of education. There is a singular cause of these disturbing facts and gross deprivation of educational rights, governmental embezzlement. Lecturers strike, their salaries are unable to feed families, schools offer poor educational quality, governmental support is inadequate. These jarring details have over the years bred certain dangerous trends. Firstly, younger Nigerian generations barely know anything about their basic entitlements. Secondly, corruption is being viewed as a normalcy among social circles, the people expect their leaders to embezzle, even encourage them if sufficient connections are available. Nigerians have grown so accustomed to the deprivation of rights and corruption within their governments that it has become culture. No one is held accountable, the murderous cycle is in motion, its only change is its deterioration.
The Nigerian constitution allows for what Jide Olagunju, a seasoned Nigerian lawyer and civil servant, calls, ‘legal theft’. Every people group should have the right not to be stolen from, their resources should be utilized towards their betterment, this is not the case in Nigeria. Crude oil, one of earth’s most demanded commodities and Nigeria’s foremost income source is found predominantly in the South-South geographic region in Nigeria. The constitution states that the billions in revenue that stream into the country monthly from this resource belongs to the federal government and must be shared in varying amounts to states as it deems fit. This causes two things, it allows for governors in control of each state to steal funds they never work for and simultaneously deny the constituents of their respective states basic developmental provisions as they claim not to be receiving ‘tax money’. These states rely heavily on the their monthly ‘allowances’ like children, promoting poor productivity levels and negligence of resources within every state. The southern states providing this resource are left with less than they deserve and mass underdevelopment reigns as states have no incentive to be productive.
Who gains here? the corrupt politicians that embezzle this free flow of funds. Who loses? The Nigerian masses, stripped of their rights to the most basic of infrastructural provisions. Hence, the cycle continues.
- Edugist (2019) Edugist. Available at: http://edugist.org (Accessed: February 25, 2019).
- Transparency International e.V (2000) Transparency International – What is Corruption?, Transparency.org. Available at: https://www.transparency.org/what-is-corruption (Accessed: February 25, 2019).
- Agency Report (2019) Premium Times Nigeria, Premium Times Nigeria. Available at: http://www.premiumtimesng.com (Accessed: February 25, 2019).
Mohamed Amir Touil (Tunisia)
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Human rights violation; an inevitable outcome of corruption
Name: Mohamed Amir Touil.
Only 188 km from home, crossing the borders was taking more than it was supposed to. As they arrived to the national guards, the border patrol asked for their passports and a 30 dinars fee just to pass quickly. The procedures were supposed to be easy and free for Libyans to enter the Tunisian territory. However, some national guards take advantage of the need of Libyans to cross the borders and request for bribery to pass quickly.
Such scenarios happen to Libyans everyday in our common borders. Some Libyans have emergencies and duties in Tunisia and these illicit actions impede and violate their right to enter Tunisia freely. What is dangerous is that such incidents are overlooked and not talked about from both sides. National guards’ corruption is just a simple example of many violations happening every day in Tunisia.
Corruption, regardless of its root causes, is the misuse of power for personal benefits. Illicit ways are used to take advantage of some privileged positions. Laws, at that moment, lose their functioning and power to rule the people. Fundamental human rights are violated every day in the world through corruption: millions of dollars getting lost, people getting recruited based on political, religious, and socio-economic patronage and votes are bought for worthless things. Vital public services and goods such as healthcare and education will be harder to access for individuals and the state will lose the legitimacy of its institutions.
Human rights violations are a consequence of the corruption. In other words, corruption is just a fuel for the contravention of civil liberties. In July 2016, private clinics in the capital Tunis were accused of using expired stents. The stents indicated an expiration date prior to the date of their manufacture. This scandal involved the clinic owners and 20 doctors. According to the National Authority against Corruption, there were a series of events starting from the purchase of the stents for half of the price, knowing that they are already expired. The clinic was reporting to the National Health Insurance Fund that the stents cost double the price of purchasing the
to get a refund of 100%. Such incidents have put the lives of more than 10 victims in danger ; the greed of both clinic owners and doctors has cost them a lot. Corruption, in this sense, in order to satisfy few individuals’ desirs the majority has to pay and sacrifice their own legitimate rights.
Corruption does not only strengthen privileged people but it hinders the interests of disadvantaged groups. Human rights become restricted by the corrupt practices and powerless individuals are given little to no opportunity to access basic rights and services. My own city, Gabes, is still suffering from the outcomes of
corruption causing fatale pollution in the city. Weak human rights protection provided opportunities for normalized and easy corruption. The toxic emissions of the chemical group of Gabes was enough to cause cancer to hundreds of citizens. The local authorities have let the factory to expand and cause more harm for the environment in Gabes. Some individuals have become richer through this project, ignoring what consequences it will have on the people living in the city. Air pollution was not the only consequence of this agreement, the chemical group dumps every day 14.000 tones of phosphogypsum in the in sea. Gabes Gulf, as locals call it now “The death shore”, is now spoilt because of corruption .The locals are deprived even from their right of life and health. The degree of human rights violation varies depending on the type of corruption. Some widen the
economic gap between different economic classes in society, others create insecurity in the economy and others may put people’s lives in danger.
Corruption threatens the individuals well being and leads, directly or indirectly, to the violation of human rights. Corruption is a multi-class criminal offense that involves political, economic and social aspects. This spread phenomena generates a lack of transparency and a lack of control by supervisory institutions making human rights an easier subject of violation. Affected groups find themselves powerless and are, themselves pushed to do corruption in order to fight corruption. It is also valid, then, to say that human rights violations create opportunity for corruption to spread. Corruption is also strongly influenced by the low salaries and violation of the rights for fair trials, dignity and freedom. So how can authorities manipulatives and endless outcomes of corruption to stop human rights violation?
- Ben Zineb, Myriam, “Stents périmés, l’arnaque jusque dans le coeur des patients”, 01/07/2016,
- United Nations Human Rights Office of the High Commissioner, “Corruption and Human Rights”,
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- KATHERINE POLLOCK , FREDERIC WEHREY, “Aspirations and Socioeconomic Realities”,AUGUST 21, 2018, https://carnegieendowment.org/2018/08/21/tunisian-libyan-border-security-aspirations-and-socio economic-realities-pub-77087
- Štefan Šumah (February 21st 2018). Corruption, Causes and Consequences, Trade and Global Market, Vito Bobek, IntechOpen, DOI: 10.5772/intechopen.72953. Available from:
- Kaouther Larbi, “En Tunisie, Gabès, ville “victime”, lutte contre la pollution industrielle”,11/08/2017,
- AL JAZEERA, “Pollution in Gabes, Tunisia’s shore of death”, 14 Jun 2013, https://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/features/2013/06/20136913247297963.html
Souleymane Diallo (Republic of Guinea)
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A Banknote To Throw Human Rights Into The Abyss Of Oblivion
By Souleymane Diallo, African Leadership Academy
Teachers’ names: Ms. Maya & Ms. Micah
Essay Topic: “Corruption violates Human rights. Discuss with references to examples from your own country or community.”
Corruption is prima facie a gangrene that poisons the jugular vein of the African continent namely its population. It is the disease that provides most of the economic issues facing contemporary Africa. This disease violates even the most basic Human Rights. For a banknote, Human Rights are thrown into the abyss of oblivion. Nowadays, several corruption topics hit the news on the continent among others the case Bolloré in West Africa or the case Zuma in South Africa. When we come to the essential question of what are the reasons behind such practice, the answer becomes less obvious. As for the violation of human rights by corruption, it must be stated that this violation is more than obvious. The following lines of our writing will firstly deal with the problematic of corruption in Africa, providing some relevant examples. Subsequently, some causes of corruption. Finally, we will attempt to highlight the negative consequences of corruption on Human Rights on the continent.
“Despite commitments made by African leaders that 2018 is the year of Africa’s fight against corruption, it has not yet translated into concrete progress” (Transparency International, 2018). With a year dedicated to the fight against corruption on the continent, it must be asserted that this desire was not practically expressed. The report drawn up by Transparency International for the year 2018 is without appeal: “most countries make little or no progress in ending corruption”. Most of the African countries are very poorly ranked with only 8 out of 49 countries ranked above the average score of 43 out of 100. Taking as an example the Republic of Guinea, the result is very mixed or at least mediocre. In his speeches, the Guinean president, Alpha Condé speaks a lot. To express the truth, he rarely talks about the moralization of public affairs; and we can understand why. In fact, the ranking gives the Republic of Guinea a score of 27 points out of 100 and ranks the country 148 out of 180 countries in the world; and 31st out of the 49 ranked African countries. The top six ranked African countries (with 50 or more points) are: Botswana 61, Seychelles 60, Cape Verde 55, Rwanda 55, Namibia 51 and Mauritius 50. And the last five African countries are: Equatorial Guinea 17, Guinea Bissau 17, Sudan 16, South Sudan 12 and Somalia 9. Consequently, it would be wise for us to understand the reasons behind any act of corruption.
One of the major causes of corruption is human insatiability. Human beings, by nature, always seek the best. When it comes to money, they always want more; they are almost never satisfied. In addition, another cause of corruption in Africa is that, politicians more often work for their personal interests instead of serving. Today, while the continent is the poorest, we have the richest presidents such as “Ali Bongo in Gabon, the former president of Angola, Eduardo Santos, and Paul Biya in Cameroon…” (Afrique Times). Finally, corruption could be explained by the lack of transparency at institution levels. African institutions are weak, and in most countries, presidents are above the law (an example of Biya who is in power since 1982). This very disappointing rank has many negative implications on Human Rights.
Who says corruption says violation. And who says violation says no respect for human rights or at least, people rights are restricted. According to the United Nations Human Rights Council on the level, pervasiveness and form of corruption, corruption can have devastating impacts on the availability, quality and accessibility–on the basis of equality–of human rights-related goods and services. Moreover, it undermines the functioning and legitimacy of institutions and processes, the rule of law and ultimately the State itself”. In Africa, this violation of Human rights can be, for instance, in the health sector. With the misappropriation of funds allocated to the health sector, many hospitals, especially public hospitals lack of the basic tools to work efficiently. Therefore, many destitute people receive mediocre services, finally turning to traditional medicine, which often results in even worse consequences. Another concrete example is in French-speaking Africa where, because of corruption, ports in most countries are operated by Bolloré, a French company. “The company controlled today 17 ports in Africa and most of the employees are badly paid” (France24).
Considering what we mentioned above, we can say corruption is a complex and intriguing concept. It is a very amoral practice that violates significantly the Human Rights of the population, especially the proletarians. Therefore, people should know such practice and fight against it.
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