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Published by Adekunle Yusuf

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Published by: Adekunle Yusuf on Nov 21, 2010
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Legal Bulwarks for Privacy
Unfortunately, until law courts begin to test and set the limits on the need tobalance national security with people rights, the prospect appears bleak acrossWest African states. Though the various national constitutions make provisions forprotection of fundamental human rights, including privacy, all the statutes predatedthe new challenge posed by the mobile communication instrument. Perhaps, thisexplains why security agents often overzealously swoop on suspects wheneverthere is a security challenge, using the exigency of the situation as an excuse,particularly if it is suspected that the crime is aided by telephone conversations ortext messages as in the case of Nigeria during the 2010 independenceanniversary.For example, Nigerians, who account for 53 percent of West African mobiletelephone subscriptions, get bulwarks regarding privacy of their homes,correspondence, telephone conversation and telegraphic communications underarticles 37 and 39(3) (a) of 1999 constitution. In Ghana, section 18(2) of its 1992constitution abhors interference with the privacy of citizens’ home, property,correspondence and communication except in accordance with the law. Thispresupposes that any planned invasion of any citizen’s privacy must be sanctionedby the court of law. Like Ghanaians, citizens of Burkina Faso also get cover under
article 4 of their constitution which says “the residence, the domicile, private andfamily life, secrecy of correspondence of every person are inviolable.” A perusal of privacy protections in Africa, nay West Africa, shows that the majority of 53 stateshave ample statutes that seek to give coverage to data protection and privacy,chiefly of because cross-border data flows.
 While the legal ground rules remain unclear about how to marry securityneeds with respect for human rights, the absence of freedom of information act -which seeks to open up government to the citizenry, abolish secrecy in the runningof government business and endue the people with trust in their government - givesweapons to fears that infraction on rights may continue unabated. Of all 53countries in Africa, only South Africa, Zimbabwe, Uganda, and Liberia havesigned into law this all-important piece of legislation, leaving Liberia, with apopulation of 4 million, as the only West African country to have embracedopenness in the running of government affairs. It became operative in South Africain 2000, Zimbabwe in 2002, Uganda in 2006, and Liberia in 2010.
For detailed information on citizens’ privacy rights as well as data and privacy protectionsin Africa, seehttp://lawbrain.com/wiki/Africa_Privacy_Law(accessed on November 21, 2010)
While several countries of the world have added this important legislation to their statutebooks, Africa lags behind, watering the impression that the continent prefers shadiness asopposed to transparency; seehttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Freedom_of_information_legislation

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