Accessibility links

Breaking News

Amnesty International: West, Central Africa Must Fight Corruption

FILE —Amnesty International Secretary-General Agnes Callamard attends a news conference in Johannesburg, March 28, 2022.

DAKAR — Amnesty International Tuesday called on West and Central African nations to better address corruption and stop “persecuting” human rights defenders for denouncing it.

The international human rights body marked African Anti-Corruption Day, an annual commemoration by the African Union to highlight regional efforts to combat corruption, by releasing its report denouncing the “arrest, harassment, detention, hefty fines and even death” of human rights defenders who speak against corruption across 19 West and Central African nations.

Amnesty International's report cited the example of Cameroonian journalist Martinez Zogo, who it said had been investigating the alleged embezzlement of hundreds of billions of CFA francs by people close to the government.

Zogo was abducted by unidentified men on January 17, and his body was later found mutilated in a "wasteland" outside the country's capital.

In Togo, journalist Ferdinand Ayite was arrested on December 10, 2021, after having accused two members of the government of corruption.

He was sentenced on March 15, along with a colleague, to three years in prison and fined 3 million CFA francs (around $5,000) for "contempt of authorities" and "propagation of falsehoods," Amnesty said.

Ayite and his colleague appealed the decision but ultimately had to flee the country for their safety, it added.

Agnes Callamard, the secretary general of Amnesty International said human rights defenders are pivotal to fighting corruption.

"These individuals play a critical role in fighting corruption and thus defending human rights. Yet they routinely endure attacks, intimidation, harassment, and persecution for exposing the truth," Callamard said.

Callamard called on governments in the region to "address the pervasive culture of impunity that continues to fuel endemic corruption... and denies victims access to justice."

Amnesty demanded that states adopt laws, policies and practices that "robustly protect against corruption."