Impunity in Africa is the order of the day, with the ever widening socio-economic gap leading to even more political rights issues such as corruption, plundering of natural resources and freedom of expression and association for which many governments respond with high handed measures if not outright repression and blatant violation of human rights.
At its 57th ordinary session in Banjul, the Gambia last November, the African Commission on Human and Peoples Rights (ACHPR), adopted recommendations from the forum of Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs), which showed troubling human rights concerns in 23 countries, almost half of the African Union (AU) member states!
The countries were: Algeria, Libya, Egypt, Tunisia, Burundi, Kenya, Sudan, South Sudan, Burkina Faso, Sierra Leone, Guinea, Senegal, Mauritania, the Gambia (hosts), Angola, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Central African Republic, Cameroon, and Congo.
But, it doesn’t mean that countries not mentioned in the NGOs report are better off. For instance, of the five East African Community (EAC) member states, Tanzania, Uganda and Rwanda are out but all the three countries also have serious human rights issues.
Tanzania for its part, has never taken serious measures to repeal or amend the 40 oppressive laws identified by the commission of former Chief Justice, Francis Nyalali.
All the three countries have serious issues concerning police brutality, muzzling political activity and not allowing level playing ground for all political parties. So, in reality, human rights health in Africa is a very relative question.
It is fair to say the disease afflicts all countries and that Human Rights Defenders (HRD), who include journalists, should double their efforts although theirs is indeed a very difficult job that very often endangers their own lives.
The meeting also adopted four country review reports from Algeria, Burkina Faso, Kenya and Sierra Leone. In the case of Kenya, HRDs want the country not to enact laws that barred NGOs from receiving funding from abroad, ensure the safety of HRDs and accept requests for visits from the ACHPR and UN Special Rapporteur.
Other issues concerned freedom of expression and the media, ensure access by Kenyans to international human rights and criminal justice mechanisms and condemn and punish attacks on journalists and other defenders of human rights.
If African countries truly be democracies, it is hard to imagine a government that would not have as its top priority all the human rights concerns mentioned above.
In my opinion, human rights abuse should be recognised and condemned as the number one enemy to human and economic development. No country can develop while run under a general state of fear and almost medieval grip on power.
I think Africa should promote greater interaction and more movement of people across the continent.
Many leaders tend to be despotic because they feel entitled to do whatever they want without accountability to anyone, partly due the misconceived notion of non-interference in the domestic affairs of other states.
Gladly, that notion is being challenged as the AU has resolved to send a peacekeeping force to Burundi without even waiting for invitation from Bujumbura.
It is the way Africa should act more without any exception in the application of the principle.
For instance, a peacekeeping force could also be sent to economic and military power house South Africa if xenophobic killings and attacks consistently target other Africans. If that is not possible, Burundi should perhaps also be left alone.
East African News Agency