Why is Africa still controlled by westerners?
Regional chapter Africa 2020
The region, where state abuse and repression have long been a concern, saw the situation worsen in 2020. Governments are using the corona pandemic to further restrict freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and association. In almost all observed countries on the African continent, the exceptional state was imposed to curb the spread of Covid-19. However, this was often used - including by the security forces, who enforced the respective state of emergency with excessive force - to violate human rights.
The suppression of human rights also increased in connection with elections. 22 elections were planned, some of which were postponed or suspended. The elections that were held took place in a climate of fear and were accompanied by massive human rights violations.
Excessive use of force
Recourse to excessive use of force has been a common means of enforcing measures to combat Covid-19. In many cases, the excessive violence resulted in deaths and injuries, including: in Angola, Kenya, South Africa, Togo and Uganda.
Police shot dozens of people in Angola, including a 14-year-old youth. In Kenya, at least six people died from police violence in the first ten days of a nationwide curfew. One of those killed was a 13 year old boy. The President apologized for the incident, but police excesses of violence continued throughout the year.
In Rwanda, an outcry on social media resulted in the President and Justice Minister condemning the police violence in enforcing the curfew and promising prosecution. In Uganda, security forces killed at least twelve people, including an 80-year-old. In South Africa, the death of Collins Khosa, who died as a result of brutal beatings by soldiers and police officers while enforcing the nationwide lockdown, showed how justified the long-standing criticism of the excessive use of force by the security forces was.
Suppression of protests
The security forces continued to use force against peaceful protesters. In Ethiopia, security forces resorted to excessive force to break up protests, killing hundreds. In the Oromia region alone, 166 people died in June 2020 when protests were violently broken up after the murder of a prominent Oromian singer. In August, security forces killed at least 16 demonstrators who took to the streets against the arrest of administrative officials, community leaders and activists from the Wolaita district.
In Nigeria, the # EndSARS demonstrations resulted in the dissolution of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS), notorious for its human rights violations. But the price was high: when the security forces tried to control or end the protests, at least 56 people were killed in October 2020. Among those killed were twelve people who died when police opened fire on protesters at the Lekki toll booth in Lagos.
Seven people were killed in demonstrations in May 2020 against the security forces' actions to enforce restrictions on movement due to the pandemic. Numerous others died in demonstrations against the plan to amend the Guinean constitution so that President Condé could run for a third term. Twelve protesters were killed on March 22, 2020, the day of the constitutional referendum. Nine of them were shot dead. In the days after the presidential election in October 2020, security forces killed at least 16 other people in protests against the election results.
Other means have been used to suppress protests, such as B. bans that were not covered by law, judicial harassment and arbitrary arrests. Several protests were arbitrarily banned or ended in Burkina Faso. This included a sit-down in front of the court in the capital Ouagadougou in January 2020, which was organized to demand justice for 50 people who were killed by an armed group in 2019. In Côte d'Ivoire, scores of people were arrested in August 2020 for taking part in demonstrations against President Ouattara's candidacy for a third term. In Cameroon, the leader of the opposition Movement for the Rebirth of Cameroon (Mouvement pour la renaissance du Cameroun - MRC) called for people to take to the streets to protest against the government's decision to hold regional elections in December 2020. The state authorities in Cameroon then issued a nationwide ban on demonstrations. On September 22, 2020, at least 500 MRC supporters who had come to demonstrations were arbitrarily arrested.
On the other hand, it was hopeful that in March 2020 the Constitutional Court in Uganda invalidated parts of the law on public order, which had given the police extremely extensive powers to ban public gatherings and protests.
Attacks on human rights defenders and members of the opposition
The attacks on human rights defenders and opposition activists did not abate even during the pandemic. This was particularly the case in those states in which elections were taking place or which were heading towards elections, for example in Burundi, Côte d'Ivoire, Guinea, Niger, Tanzania and Uganda.
In Burundi, more than 600 members of an opposition party were arrested before the election date and on election day itself. In Niger, before the presidential election in December 2020, there was a wave of arrests of politically active people. In Tanzania, at least 77 opposition leaders and supporters were arrested after the October 2020 elections. In the run-up to the elections in Tanzania, the authorities ordered some human rights NGOs to suspend their activities or to freeze their bank accounts.
In other states human rights defenders have been kidnapped, "disappeared" or killed. In Mali, an anti-corruption activist was kidnapped by masked members of the secret service and detained for twelve days without contact with the outside world. A court later dismissed the flimsy charges against him. In Mozambique, security forces arrested two activists whose bodies were later found along with those of twelve other civilians. Just a few weeks later, the Mozambican army personnel disappeared Ibraimo Abú Mbaruco, a journalist for a local radio station. At the end of 2020, there was still no information about his whereabouts.
In Niger, Zimbabwe and South Sudan, human rights defenders and activists who exposed cases of corruption and called for accountability were particularly at risk. In Zimbabwe, criminal law has been used to prosecute investigative journalist Hopewell Chin'ono and other human rights defenders.
However, there have also been some positive developments. In February 2020, a high court in Uganda ordered the release of university professor Dr. Stella Nyanzi, days before serving a full 18-month prison sentence. A court found her guilty of insulting the President of Uganda over the Internet. The high court, however, found that Stella Nyanzi had been wrongly convicted and that her human rights had been violated. In the case of Germain Rukuki, in June 2020 the Burundi Supreme Court overturned the decision of an appeals court that upheld its first instance conviction and ruled that the case must be retried.
The suppression of those who think differently is also evident from the fact that many African governments curtailed media freedom. In Mozambique, strangers fired bombing the offices of the independent newspaper Canal de Moçambique. Only a few weeks before the attack, the state authorities had placed two leading employees of the newspaper under fabricated charges. In Tanzania, newspapers and broadcasters reporting critical of the government were penalized or temporarily or completely banned. In addition, the rules governing radio and television services have been amended to restrict international coverage of the elections.
In Togo, a new press and communication law came into force in January 2020, which provided for heavy fines for journalists who "insulted" government representatives. In March, two newspapers were temporarily banned from publishing for reporting on the French ambassador. A third newspaper was temporarily banned from appearing because it criticized the ban on publication. Journalists have been harassed in Niger and the Republic of the Congo, among others, for criticizing the government's measures to combat the coronavirus.
In Somalia there was a positive development: Here the attorney general appointed a special attorney for crimes against journalists.
Governments must ensure that security forces act in accordance with basic international principles on the use of force and firearms. Excessive use of force must be investigated promptly, thoroughly, independently and transparently, and suspects must be brought to justice.
Governments must respect freedom of expression and peaceful assembly and release anyone who is arbitrarily detained. Excessive use of force against demonstrators must be investigated promptly, thoroughly, independently and transparently, and suspects must be brought to justice. Governments must also ensure that those affected have access to justice and effective remedies.
Governments must ensure that human rights defenders are not harassed or intimidated. Human rights defenders who are in custody or in prison must be released immediately and unconditionally.
Governments must respect freedom of the media and ensure that media channels operate freely and independently and that media professionals can carry out their work without intimidation, harassment and fear of reprisals.
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