Human Rights in Africa General Overview

By: Macy Janine Pamaranglas – Art in Tanzania Intern

Human Rights in Africa internship program

Introduction

Ms Macy Janine Pamaranglas blog about Human Rights violations in Africa.

The African Charter on Human and People’s Rights came into force on October 21. They established a solid foundation and a set to guarantee the promotion and protection of Africans’ human rights.

According to Article 2 of the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights, “Every individual shall be entitled to the enjoyment of the rights and freedoms recognized and guaranteed in the present Charter without distinction of any kind such as race, ethnic group, colour, sex, language-colour-religion, political or any other opinion, national and social origin, fortune, birth or any status.”

Human Rights in Africa

Despite the efforts made to improve the lives of the African people, the continent still suffers from increasing human rights violations. These human rights abuses include violating socio-economic and cultural rights, unlawful killings, discrimination and harassment, suppression of dissent, environmental deterioration etc. Unfortunately, with the COVID-19 pandemic, Africa’s human rights situation worsened; thus, many people were obliged to halt their education and even forcibly lose their homes.

Restriction of Expression
Tiseke Kasambala, Chief of the Party of Advancing Rights in Southern Africa Program at Freedom House, says that some African countries have been introducing cybercrime and cybersecurity laws; these aim “to prevent the type of organizing and mobilization of social movements, and civil society organizations on the ground”. Kasambala adds that it is not merely shutting down the internet but also preventing people from discussing and criticizing the State in the online space. Such shutdowns can be observed in southern African nations such as Lesotho. These cybercrime and cybersecurity laws were also under discussion in Malawi and Zimbabwe.

Human Rights in Africa

In addition, internet disruptions occurred in countries like Eswatini, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, South Sudan, Sudan, Uganda, and Zambia. For example, on June 2021, the Nigerian government suspended Twitter after the latter “deleted a controversial tweet from President Buhari for violating its community rule”. Furthermore, on September 2021, the Tanzanian Ministry of Information, Culture, Arts and Sports suspended the operations of a privately owned media outlet, Raia Mwema, for a month. The Tanzanian government justified this action since Raia Mwema was constantly “publishing false information and deliberate incitement”.

Gender-Based Violence and Discrimination

Females still struggle to fulfil their rights as Africa remains subordinate to women and girls. Hence, issues such as child marriage, restricted access to sexual and reproductive health services, and discrimination against pregnant students are prominent in the region.

In South Africa, there was a significant increase in crime rates related to sexual offences, and there were at least “117 cases of femicide in the first half of the year”. For instance, a 23-year-old female law student named Nosicelo Mtebeni was killed, mutilated, and placed in a suitcase and plastic bags by her partner. In Chad, a 15-year-old girl was gang raped, and the cruel act was recorded and posted on social media.

Human Rights in Africa

Furthermore, child marriage remains rampant in Africa. For example, a 4-year-old Namibian child was forced to marry a 25-year-old man when she was two years old. In Tanzania, pregnant girls were banned from attending school, and the government caused these girls to participate in a “parallel accelerated education program” known as “alternative education pathways”. The problem with the latter is its inaccessibility in terms of distance and cost. Fortunately, the Tanzanian Ministry of Education officially declared on November 24 that adolescent mothers are now allowed to attend public schools.  

Abductions, Torture, and Evictions

The lives of human rights activists are prone to abduction, torture, and eviction in Africa. In the case of Zimbabwe, the government fails to hold security forces accountable for their serious human rights abuses, particularly during the “August 2018 post-election violence” and the “killings and molestations during the January 2019 protests”. In Rwanda, a YouTuber, Yvonne Idamange, was sentenced to 15 years imprisonment as he condemned the State’s policies.

Human Rights in Africa

Jon Temin, Director of the Africa Program at Freedom House, mentions their organization’s research on NGO legislation in Africa. Their studies have shown that over the last 15 years, 12 Sub-Saharan African nations “have adopted various versions of repressive NGO legislation”, and such legislation aims to limit NGOs’ ability to register and receive funding. For instance, in Togo, granting and renewing NGO licenses are suspended.

Violation of Refugee Rights

Refugees carry a significant burden since they are forced to flee their lands and are also victims of threats, harassment, and arrests. Tanzania is one of the essential hosting countries for refugees. As of January 1 2022, it has 246 780 refugees, initially from Burundi and the Democratic Republic of Congo. According to Human Rights Watch, Burundian refugees were being maltreated by Tanzanian security forces. Moreover, the latter forcibly returned Mozambican refugees to their conflict-ridden northern part of the country. Therefore, the UNHCR raised this concern by stating that Tanzania violated “the principle of non-refoulement under international standards and regional refugee law.”

Human Rights in Africa

In South Africa, refugees were being discriminated particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic. Refugees were not provided COVID-19 aid programs such as food packages during lockdowns.

Conclusion

Despite Africa’s commitment to promote and protect human rights, there remain flaws in the government’s response. States should respect media freedom and freedom of expression, for they are human rights. Furthermore, governments should allow human rights activists to speak for their fellow citizens since criticism is the start of positive change.

African governments must prioritize the well-being of women and children. For example, females should have equal rights to men regarding education, health, jobs etc. Additionally, victims of malicious gender-based crimes should be protected and given remedies to recover. At the same time, perpetrators of the crime should be held responsible for their abusive actions.

Lastly, refugees should not be mistreated; they have the right to be protected and taken care of, considering the unfortunate evacuations they must execute.

In short, according to Article 4 of the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights, “Human beings are inviolable. Accordingly, every human being shall be entitled to respect for his life and the integrity of his person. No one may be arbitrarily deprived of this right.”

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Sources

Africa Regional Overview Archives. Amnesty International. (n.d.). Retrieved October October 12from https://www.amnesty.org/en/location/africa/report-africa/

African Commission on Human and peoples’ rights. African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights Legalinstruments. (1981, June 27)June 27eved October October 12from https://www.achpr.org/legalinstruments/detail?id=49

Brookings Institution. (2019, November 21tate of human rights in Africa. YouTube. Retrieved October October 12from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1eA5KJRmKH8

Operational Data Portal. Country – Tanzania (United Republic of). (n.d.). Retrieved October October 12from https://data.unhcr.org/en/country/tza

World Report 2022: Rights trends in Tanzania. Human Rights Watch. (2022, January January 17eved October October 12 from https://www.hrw.org/world-report/2022/country-chapters/tanzania-and-zanzibar#:~:text=In%202021%2C%20Human%20Rights%20Watch,province%20during%202020%20and%202021

Zenda, C. (n.d.). Human rights violations soar across Africa, report finds. FairPlanet. Retrieved October October 12from https://www.fairplanet.org/story/human-rights-violations-soar-across-africa-report-finds/

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