Amnesty International (AI) 2018 Report Cites West African Countries

AI 2017-2018 Report

The international London based non-governmental organization dedicated to human rights advocacy worldwide has released its 2017-2018 State of the World’s Human Rights Report. Amnesty International (AI), in releasing its report, noted that, ” over the past year, leaders have pushed hate, fought against rights, ignored crimes against humanity, and blithely let inequality and suffering spin out of control. This provoked mass protests, showing that while our challenges may never be greater, the will to fight back is just as strong.”

West Africa Regional Map
West Africa Regional Map

Globally, AI affirmed that world leaders abandoned human rights but that although their report is shocking, people across the world have come together to stand and make their voices heard. Among the 159 countries covered in the report were countries in West African which include Sierra Leone, Guinea, Liberia, Cote d’Ivoire and the Gambia.

Sierra Leone:

According to AI, “Restrictions were imposed on the rights to freedom of expression, of peaceful assembly and of association. Hundreds of people died and thousands were left homeless following a mud-slide. Prison conditions fell far below international standards. Pregnant girls were excluded from school.”

Sierra Leone President Mr. Ernest Bai Koroma
Sierra Leone President Mr. Ernest Bai Koroma

A human rights campaigner Abdul Fatoma and several local journalists were either arrested or summoned for criticism of the Ernest Bai Koroma Government. Prison conditions in the West African country are below international standards and over-crowded. Pregnant girls are unable to return to mainstream, education and civil society groups have asked the government to resume access for them.

The death penalty continues to be handed down with the conviction of six police officers who were “…sentenced to death by firing squad for conspiracy and robbery with aggravation..”

A mud-slide disaster in the capital Freetown in August, 2017 killed over 400 people. There has been no formal investigation or report on the cause of the disaster and survivors are struggling to make ends meet.

The Sierra Leone government, during the reporting period, rejected over 100 recommendations of the Constitutional Review Commission which included the abolition of the death penalty. President Koroma is stepping down in March after two terms as President. The opposition led by a former military officer is hoping to succeed him while the President and the ruling party have hand picked a staunch ally of President Koroma to succeed him.

The international community has warned against campaign violence in the country in the lead up the elections in March.

Guinea:

In Guinea, “The security forces continued to use excessive force against demonstrators.Journalists, human rights defenders and others expressing dissent were arbitrarily arrested. Impunity was widespread. The right to adequate housing was not fulfilled,” AI says.

Guinean Pres Alpha Condé
Guinean Pres Alpha Condé

Freedom of Assembly and right to freedom of speech were curtailed by the government. 18 deaths were reported and dozens others injured by crackdown against demonstrations by the Alpha Conde government.Long delayed local elections were recently held and the government won a majority of the seats with the opposition crying foul.The country’s National Assembly adopted legislation which could effectively abolish the death penalty when it becomes law.

Security members accused of rights abuses were not held accountable, according to the report.

Liberia:

In Liberia, AI reports that, “Domestic violence, and sexual violence against women and girls remained widespread. Impunity for human rights violations persisted. Prison conditions did not meet international standards and individuals were frequently held in prolonged pre-trial detention.” The report cited Liberia for failing to implement the recommendations of the country’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) which was set up as part of the Accra Peace Conference to review human rights abuses and war crimes committed during the country’s civil war. To date, there has been no movement towards the setting up of a war crimes commission to criminally prosecute those identified as bearing the most responsibility for atrocities committed.

Liberia President George M. Weah
Liberia President George M. Weah

On Freedom of Expression, the report mentions the introduction of a bill in the National Legislature to de-criminalize libel offences by journalists. Women and girls continue to be subjected to sexual and domestic violence, genital mutilation practices, rape and childhood marraiges. Gay people in Liberia, the report said, continue to experience discrimination, harassment and threats.

The new Weah Administration which was inaugurated in January is under local and international pressure to address the implementation of the TRC recommendations, a declining economy, provision jobs for young people and basic amenities.

Cote d’Ivoire

AI says, “Around 200 detainees, loyal to former President Laurent Gbagbo, awaited trial in connection with post-electoral violence in 2010 and 2011. Killings in the context of mutinies and clashes between demobilized soldiers and security forces were un-investigated. The rights to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly were restricted; some protests were prohibited. Simone Gbagbo, wife of former President Gbagbo, was acquitted of crimes against humanity and war crimes.The ICC tried Laurent Gbagbo and Charles Blé Goudé.”

Ivorian President Alassane Ouattara
Ivorian President Alassane Ouattara

Legislation to clamp down on free and critical expression which offended President Alassane Ouattarra and promoted ” fake news” was introduced and adopted. The government arrested and tried supporters of former President Laurent Gbagbo. They were accused of human rights violations while supporters of the current President faced no account for rights abuses.

Mutinees by security forces including demobilized soldiers led to the deaths of over 10 persons and scores of others were wounded during AI’S reporting period.

Gambia:

In the Gambia, which saw the democratic removal of long time dictator Yahya Jammeh, AI reports that, ” The new government committed to reforming several repressive laws and reforming the security forces. Steps were taken to begin a transitional justice process.” The Barrow Administration cancelled plans by the Jammeh government to withdrawn from the International Criminal Court (ICC).

Gambia President Adama Barrow
Gambia President Adama Barrow

Prisons in Gambia did not meet international standards, but the new administration has released scores of political prisoners held by the former government. Progress at loosening restrictive freedom of assembly laws lagged. Same sex marraige is still banned in the conservative West African nation and gay people are discriminated against.

Although Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) laws have been passed, the practice remains wide-spread in the Gambia.

Universal Human Rights Declaration

In citing the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, AI stated in its latest global report that, “… the year in which the Universal Declaration of Human Rights turns 70, it is abundantly clear that none of us can take any of our human rights for granted. We certainly cannot take for granted that we will be free to gather together in protest or to criticize our governments. Neither can we take for granted that social security will be available when we are old or incapacitated; that our babies can grow up in cities with clean, breathable air; or that as young people we will leave school to find jobs that enable us to buy a home.

Universal Declaration of Human Rights
Universal Declaration of Human Rights

The battle for human rights is never decisively won in any place or at any point in time. The frontiers shift continually, so there can never be room for complacency.”

Although democratic changes are happening across Africa, the pace of keeping up with with the protection of the rights of ordinary citizens by government remains slow or declining instead.

By Emmanuel Abalo 

West African Journal Magazine 

 

AU Commission To Deploy Election Observers To Sierra Leone

Addis Ababa, 5 February 2018: The Chairperson of the African Union Commission, H.E. Moussa Faki Mahamat, will deploy an African Union Election Observation Mission (AUEOM) in the Republic of Sierra Leone as the country prepares to hold General Elections on 7 March 2018.

The African Union Commision Logo
The African Union Commision Logo

A press statement issued on Monday in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, copied to West African Journal Magazine and quoted the AU Commission as saying the deployment of the AUEOM will take place in two phases. The first phase will comprise of the deployment of 10 long-term election experts and will take place from 10 February to 21 March 2018.

The AU Commission says this move is to ensure that its observer mission conducts a comprehensive observation and analysis of all relevant aspects of the electoral process, the statement disclosed.

 In the second phase of the Mission, the AU Commission says the long term experts will be joined by 40 Short Term observers from the 26 February to 11 March 2018.

 The objectives of the AU Observer Mission, the continental body says are: (a) to provide an accurate and impartial reporting or assessment of the quality of 7 March General Elections, including the degree to which the conduct of the elections meets regional, continental and international standards for democratic elections; (b) to offer recommendations for improvement of future elections based on the findings; and (c) to demonstrate AU’s interest to support Sierra Leone’s elections and democratisation process to ensure that the conduct of genuine elections contributes to the consolidation of democratic governance, peace and stability.

SLPP Candidate Julius Maada Bio
SLPP Candidate Julius Maada Bio

Political campaigning is in full swing in the West African nation. Reports from the capital Freetown say the opposition Sierra Leone’s People’s Party (SLPP) over the weekend launched its platform. Its candidate, a retired military officer Julius Maada Bio told partisans during the launch that, “…So for these 2018 Elections let there be no mistake. The SLPP will not accept results of elections that are not credible and transparent and are not a true reflection of the will of the electorate…”

Meantime, the government of  Sierra Leone has announced the banning of the common and horrendous practice of Female Genital Mutiliation (FGM) until the conclusion of the Presidential and General elections on March 7 in an effort to discourage candidates from “buying votes” by paying for the cutting ceremony for families who cannot afford the price of the practice.

WHO Logo
WHO Logo

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), “Female genital mutilation (FGM) includes procedures that intentionally alter or cause injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons. The procedure has no health benefits for girls and women. Procedures can cause severe bleeding and problems urinating, and later cysts, infections, as well as complications in childbirth and increased risk of newborn deaths. More than 200 million girls and women alive today have been cut in 30 countries in Africa, the Middle East and Asia where FGM is concentrated. FGM is mostly carried out on young girls between infancy and age 15. FGM is a violation of the human rights of girls and women…”

Complications from the procedure can include, severe pain, excessive bleeding, infections, urinary issues, genital tissue swelling and sometimes death in victims.

Map of Guinea-Liberia-Sierra Leone in West Africa
Map of Guinea-Liberia-Sierra Leone in West Africa

With international outcry and campaign against the practice worldwide, over 300 communities in West Africa have declared an end to the practice. In January, the outgoing President of Liberia Ellen Johnson Sirleaf signed an Executive Order banning FGM in the country for a year.

Activists are calling on the new Weah Administration to make the ban permanent.

Emmanuel Abalo 

West African Journal Magazine 

 

Zimbabwe: “Allies” of Grace Mugabe Picked Up By Military

President Mugabe Meets Army Chief and Mediators at State House
President Mugabe Meets Army Chief and Mediators at State House
Pres Mugabe Meets Army Chief Chiwenga
Pres Mugabe Meets Army Chief Chiwenga

Harare – News reports say two leaders of Zanu-PF’s Generation 40 (G40) faction – Political Commissar Saviour Kasukuwere and Higher Education Minister Jonathan Moyo have reportedly been arrested by the Zimbabwean military.

Zim Higher Education Minister Jonathan Moyo
Zim Higher Education Minister Jonathan Moyo

Kasukuwere and Moyo  were reportedly picked up from President Robert Mugabe’s Borrowdale mansion. They had been seeking refuge there since the military stepped in Wednesday.

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The Zimbabwe Defence Forces (ZDF) on Wednesday announced that it had taken over the country and was keeping Mugabe and his family under guard at his home as the military was getting rid of the “criminals” around the nonagenarian.

Saviour-Kasukuwere
Political Commissar Saviour Kasukuwere

On Monday, the Zimabwe Defence Forces warned President Mugabe against the purge of party veterans, adding that it would step in if it continued.

Reports by multiple outlets say that the military is picking up ministers and members of the party who are allied to First Lady Grace Mugabe who was maneuvering to position herself to succeed the elderly Mugabe.

The G 40 faction is said to have engineered the dismissal of former Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa.

President Alpha Conde
AU Chair President Alpha Conde

In an interview with the AFP in Paris, the African Union (AU) Chair President Apha Conde of Guinea rejected any attempt at the unconstitutional removal of President Mugabe, saying “We demand respect for the constitution, a return to the constitutional order and we will never accept the military coup d’état.”

“We know there are internal problems. They need to be resolved politically by the Zanu-PF party and not with an intervention by the army,” according to Conde.

President Robert Mugabe is insisting he remains Zimbabwe’s only legitimate ruler, an intelligence source said on Thursday, and is resisting mediation by a Catholic priest to allow his exit.

President Mugabe had been given an opportunity to negotiate an exit that included state protection together with his family. He has been meeting with Army Chief Constantino Chiwenga and other mediators at State House on Thursday.

West African Journal Magazine and Wire Services

 

Joint Statement by the European Union Delegation to Liberia and the Embassies of EU Member States present in Liberia (France, Germany, Sweden and the United Kingdom)

As close partners of Liberia the European Union and its Member States have been and continue to follow the 2017 Presidential and House of Representative elections with high interest.

WFL_074
EU Flag

Peace and security, together with democracy, good governance and human rights, are some of the shared values at the heart of the EU-Africa partnership. We congratulate both the Liberian people and Liberian political parties for the commitment they have shown to these values through the peaceful conduct of the electoral process so far, including through the use of the appropriate legal mechanisms to address any concerns.

Map of Liberia
Map of Liberia

Over the last twelve years the European Union has worked closely with Liberia to support both post-conflict reconstruction and long term development.  We would like to stress the importance of a smooth democratic transition for Liberia’s stability and economic growth.  We therefore encourage all concerned to work constructively and in good faith to conclude the current complaints process without unnecessary delay, so that the electoral process can be completed in accordance with Constitutional timelines regarding the assumption of power by the next administration.

The European Union is looking forward to continuing our cooperation with Liberia’s new President and new government.  The Liberian people demonstrated their commitment to democracy through the high turnout of voters on 10 October who cast their ballots in a peaceful atmosphere.  It is now the responsibility of all stakeholders to ensure that the electoral process continues in a manner which respects the will of the people, thereby putting Liberia’s interests first. We trust that this will continue to be the case.

Press Statement of EU Delegation to Liberia