From Ethiopia and Sudan to the #ThisFlag movement in Zimbabwe, human rights across Africa are in the spotlight of an annual Amnesty International report released Wednesday.
On the one hand, social movements in countries like The Gambia that “would have been unthinkable only a year previously” offer some optimism for democratic change, inclusion and freedom.
“This trend of gathering resilience and the withering of the politics of fear offered cause for hope,” the 2016 report said. Examples include the Oromo protests in Ethiopia, and South Africa’s student protests.
Yet the violent crackdown on peaceful protests, Amnesty said, was reflected in a tragically long list of nations that included Angola, Cameroon and Guinea, as well as Burundi and Democratic Republic of Congo.
The widespread use of Internet and social media suppression in Lesotho, Uganda and other countries was cause for alarm, as were the numerous attacks on a free press in Mauritania, Somalia, Zambia and elsewhere.
“Attempts to crush dissent and tighten the noose around freedom of expression manifested themselves across the continent,” the report said. Detailed accounts for each nation are listed in the 409-page document.
There were positive developments too, including a landmark ruling against repressive laws in Swaziland and the ban on protests overturned by Zimbabwe’s High Court.
Detailed sections on political repression, the human rights violations that attached to armed conflict, and Africa’s ongoing migration challenges also are included.
“Almost certainly, escalating crises in countries such as Burundi, Ethiopia, Gambia and Zimbabwe could have been averted or minimized had there been the political will and courage to open up space for people to freely express their views,” the report concluded.
The Amnesty International authors call on the African Union to more forcefully address human rights violations.