Amnesty International AI has released its 2016/2017 report highlighting growing authoritarianism and conflicts as the main drivers of human rights violations in Eastern Africa. Muthoni Wanyeki, Amnesty Internationals Regional Director for East Africa, the Horn and the Great Lakes says leaders who want to cling on to power have fomented conflicts.
The report titled "The State of the World's Human Rights", delivers analyses the state of human rights around the world, covering 159 countries, including 11 in East Africa, the Horn and the Great Lakes region. It highlights how refugees were shamefully scapegoated in Kenya, civilians targeted with chemical weapons in Sudan, protesters killed in cold blood in Ethiopia and opposition and youth activists jailed in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). The report highlights killings in South Sudan where a disagreement between President Salva Kiir and his former deputy Riek Machar degenerated into a full-blown war along ethnic dimensions.
With politics of demonization taking hold across the globe in 2016, East Africa, the Horn and the Great Lakes, saw a rise in human rights violations resulting from growing authoritarianism and conflict, said Amnesty International today as it released its annual assessment of human rights around the world.
Muthoni Wanyeki, Amnesty International's Regional Director for East Africa, the Horn and the Great Lakes says leaders who want to cling on to power have fomented conflicts. "Leaders bent on clinging to power in many instances stirred up fear and turned communities against each other, set their troops on unarmed civilians and blamed their own failures and ineptitude on minorities, including refugees," says Muthoni Wanyeki.
Wanyeki says some leaders in the region have ignored their own constitutions to stay in power, holding elections only in form and not substance. "The resulting political instability and outbreaks of violence created a climate of fear, forcing people to flee across borders for refuge," she says.
In the Great Lakes Region, Presidents Yoweri Museveni of Uganda, Paul Kagame of Rwanda and Pierre Nkurunziza of Burundi have all adjusted their respective countries' constitutions to extend their stay in power. In the DRC, there is political uncertainty after President Joseph Kabila's term of office expired in December last year but he's reluctant to step down.
Last year, dozens were killed and others injured as security forces broke up multiple protests demanding that elections be held on time and that President Kabila stand down at the end of his second term.
Amnesty International says justice continues to elude victims of human rights violations in Burundi stemming from President Nkurunziza's refusal to leave power. The rights body says security forces continue to carry out human rights violations, including unlawful killings, enforced disappearances, torture and arbitrary arrests.
Eritrea, according to the report, remains one of the leading source countries of refugees as President Isaias Afewerki's government shows no sign of reducing its crackdown on political dissent.
A report by the UN Commission of Inquiry in June last year said crimes including murder, rape, torture and enslavement had been committed in a systematic and widespread manner in Eritrean detention facilities, military training camps and other locations. This, the report says, is to instill fear, deter opposition and ultimately control the Eritrean population.
Amnesty International's Annual Report documents how 36 countries globally violated international law by unlawfully sending refugees back to a country where their rights were at risk.
In Kenya, the government announced plans to shut down Dadaab refugee camp and repatriate more than 250,000 refufees, mostly from Somalia, accusing them of posing a security risk.
"Like the sword of Damocles, the order to shut Dadaab hung over refugees' heads for months until the High Court finally overturned it this month, but remains a classic example of governments pushing a toxic agenda and the collective scapegoating of people in need," says Wanyeki.
The report further talks about governments across the region deploying security forces to quell civil protests. In Ethiopia, for instance, more than 800 people were killed during months of protests against political exclusion and rising land grievances in the Oromia region.
Back home in Uganda, the report highlights police brutality in dispersing opposition gatherings, and arbitrary arrests of opposition politicians in the run up to and after the February 2016 elections.
It also highlights a ban on live broadcasts and a nationwide social media shutdown on election day as some of the rights violations.