This profile was prepared when Halidou Ouédraogo was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 1994.
The New Idea
Halidou Ouédraogo is building, country by country, Africa's first popularly based human rights movement. Popular human rights organizations stewarding this movement are linked together in a pan-African human rights association. Halidou is convinced that if basic rights are to be respected in Africa, the monitoring of human rights and the protection of civil liberties must be the responsibility of ordinary African citizens and African human rights organizations, and not just that of institutions based outside the continent. Starting with his own country of Burkina Faso, Halidou established the Burkinab Movement for Human and Peoples' Rights to assert African responsibility for human rights through public education and the mobilization of pressure on human rights infringers. He has struck a deep chord in the contemporary African polity. In Burkina Faso, for example, where his program is most developed, sections of the Movement have been set up in each of the thirty regional departments. Founded in 1989, the Movement now has more than 50,000 dues-paying members actively engaged in defending the civil and human rights of their fellow citizens. But steady progress is also manifest in more than a dozen other African countries, where similar organizations have been spurred into formation by Halidou. Halidou's vision of human rights action is expressly linked to a wider vision of democracy and the necessity of active citizen participation in governance. By creating mechanisms to defend human rights in specific cases, Halidou is consciously evangelizing that the individual citizen who cares can make a difference in Africa. Conversely, as he often argues in his speeches, if honest individuals concerned for the values of democracy and human rights do not take action, then it is certain that the corruption, self-dealing and incompetence that all too often characterize African governance are sure to continue.