A man stands in an oil slick covering a creek near Bodo City in Nigeria’s Niger Delta. (Photo: AP Photo/Sunday Alamba)
The 2011 Amnesty International Africa region report lauds some events on the continent but states that others need to be stopped. On the plus side, a number of countries have celebrated, or are about to commemorate, 50 years of independence.
Undeserving of praise are governments from Cairo to Cape Town, South Africa, that are engaged in civil wars, maintain brutal public security forces, stifle dissent or force evictions in some, but not all, countries.
Examples of these issues include:
Public security concerns:
In Nigeria’s oil-rich but impoverished Delta region, armed gangs attack oil installations and personnel. That generates a harsh response from Nigerian security forces, which are accused of extrajudicial executions and torture.
Although an independent complaint organization investigates charges of abuse, South Africa’s police have been accused of torture and ill-treatment of prisoners. While in the West African country of Guinea and southern Africa’s Mozambique their respective security forces fired live ammunition at demonstrators resulting in deaths.
Repression of Dissent:
Amnesty notes that while a number of African govenments held elections last year, they presided over them in an atmosphere of violence and human rights violations. Ethiopia, Sudan and Rwanda are charged with censorship, denial of freedom of expression and assembly. In Burundi, Equatorial Guinea, Madagascar, Niger and Togo opposition politicians were unlawfully or arbitrarily arrested, while in Uganda police officers accompanied by other armed men beat participants at an opposition rally.
The report also states that across Africa, millions of people are on the move because of conflict and insecurity either in their own countries or as refugees. In the California-sized East African nation of Eritrea, citizens cannot even leave voluntarily. The country's soldiers have been given a “shoot to kill” policy for anyone attempting to flee across the border.
Pliny the elder said that there is always something new out of Africa. For many of the continent’s citizens, the only "new" that they want to find is an oasis of peace and hope.