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'Africa Better, But Still Lacking': Amnesty 2023 Rights Report

FILE: Amnesty International Secretary General Agnès Callamard seen during a press conference in Paris, France (March 27, 2023).
FILE: Amnesty International Secretary General Agnès Callamard seen during a press conference in Paris, France (March 27, 2023).

BERLIN - Amnesty International's 2023 "State of the World's Human Rights" report says that Africa, on the whole, continues to make progress toward respect for individual rights from speech to political association, though it also notes instances where African nations have stalled or even backslid.

Human Rights NGO Amnesty International says that in the past year, Africa has shown "limited progress" in ensuring people's right to what it terms "truth, justice, reparation, and accountability for grave violations and abuses of human rights."

Continent-wide, Amnesty said various nations used both the Covid-19 pandemic or the pretext of "national security" to muzzle public expression and dissent.

The report noted that journalists, rights activists, political opposition members were targeted in some African nations for repression.

It also notes that the combination of conflict and climate change has forced a growing number of people to be displaced - while funding shortfalls, both internally and from outside donors, have kept many of these refugees from getting adequate food and shelter.

The report highlights violence against women and how traditions and attitudes have hampered their achievement of equality and parity.

Very importantly, Amnesty says insurgencies and national conflicts in West Africa, Central Africa, and the Horn have killed innocent civilians, disrupted food security, forced displacement, and undermined the rule of law in a number of nations.

It also stated there was only "limited progress" in bringing those accused of rights offenses and war crimes to justice.

Under its "Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights" section, the report noted that the Russian attack on Ukraine inflicted the double blow of less grain and other foodstuffs, coupled with significantly higher energy costs for food transportation and agriculture.

Spotlighted for food insecurity were Angola, CAR, Chad, Kenya, Burkina Faso, Madagascar, Niger, Somalia, Sudan, and South Sudan.

Amnesty's "Repression of Dissent" report section highlighted a number of crackdowns by African nations on political opponents, rights advocates, and others contesting national policies.

The "Freedom of Expression" section stated that a wide range of persons involved in human rights advocacy, journalism, and political opposition "faced harassment, intimidation, and threats simply for exercising their right to freedom of expression."

The media, Amnesty reported, was under considerable pressure in a number of nations. In Tanzania, Somalia, Nigeria, Mali, and Ghana, the report says authorities suspended or shut down media outlets that criticized governments.

Another section of Amnesty's 2023 report focuses on "Freedom of Association," which encompasses civil society organizations and political groups, along with "issue campaigns."

Gender-based violence continues to be widespread - for instance, South Africa's murder rate for women rose more than 10%, while rape and other sexual offenses were even higher.

Improvements were cited in Republic of Congo, which passed a measure addressing domestic violence, while Sierra Leone enacted a law enabling women to hold title to land and also reserving 30% of all government jobs for females.

The LGTBQ community has been under sharp attack. Uganda has put forth measures with harsh penalties for gays and others non-conforming. Likewise, Ghana has a proposed bill imposing penalties on same-sex relations, while in Nigeria, three gay men have been given the death penalty by a Sharia court.

Senegal, however, did not pass a proposed bill that would have criminalized LGTBQ behavior.

Amnesty's annual report clearly sets forth that human rights are universal, and inalienable. And it's up to every African nation to afford that respect.