CSOs in HECA increasingly inhibited despite some progress, says Oxfam

30Nov 2019
The Guardian Reporter
The Guardian
CSOs in HECA increasingly inhibited despite some progress, says Oxfam

DESPITE some progress, civil society organisations are witnessing increasing inhibitive legislations and media censorship in the Horn, East and Central Africa (HECA) region.

Pili Mtambalike

This was revealed by Oxfam and the East African Civil Society Organisations' Forum (EACSOF) at the Horn East and Central Africa Region Annual Civil Society Symposium named 'navigating the shifting civic space in the HECA region', held between November 27 and 29.

"In Tanzania, the media has been effectively subdued through legal as well as administrative measures which have led to self-censorship and important public interest stories not being told," says Pili Mtambalike a veteran journalist and press freedom activist.

“Being in the media for the past 30 years, I have noted the rapid deterioration of press freedom and freedom of expression in the last few years than at any other time in Tanzania's history," she adds.

The symposium came at a time when the East African Community (EAC) is celebrating its 20th anniversary and when the East African Legislative Assembly (EALA) is best suited to lead the development of a regional Civil Society (CSO) Bill to harmonise the national legislations at the EAC region. Development of the Bill is considered a step in the right direction to address the shifting and most often alarming backslide on human rights.

"Introducing a regional bill could be the hope to safeguard the rights and responsibilities of civil society organisations. This symposium provided a space for civic organisations and media and other civil society actors to assess the state of human rights relating to civic space around freedom of assembly, association and expression. At a time when regional governments are seeking to accelerate economic progress and regional integration, the region is still dogged by conflict and fragility, as well as an alarming trend of restrictive policies and laws," said Lydia Zigomo, Oxfam's Regional Director in Horn, East and Central Africa.

The symposium, which brought together legal experts and civil society organisations from Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, South Sudan, Somalia, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Ethiopia, Nigeria and Botswana, discussed the shifting trend of civic space in the region. Civic space in most of these countries is facing an uncertain future due to the formulation of 'inhibitive legislation', media censorship, widespread harassment, physical violence and incarceration of activists.