AFRICA: Despite the establishment of human rights systems and organisations in Africa by the United Nations, international law, and the African Union, which have drawn up laws and charters to safeguard and uphold the rights of Africans, especially the most vulnerable women and children, human rights abuse is rampant in Africa.
Most of the violations that occur can be attributed to political instability, racial bias, corruption, post-colonialism, economic scarcity, ignorance, illness, religious bigotry, debt, bad financial management, etc. Cross-border and cross-tribal conflicts are also some of the reasons for widespread social unrest on the continent.
As per a highly comprehensive 2022 report by Human Rights Watch (HRW), human rights violations continued in the 26 African countries that the watchdog monitored last year, with the situation only worsening in most of them.
Rights abuses were rampant in countries in the midst of active, armed conflicts, such as Cameroon, the Central African Republic, Chad, Ethiopia, Mozambique, Nigeria, and South Sudan.
Islamist insurrections wreak havoc in Mozambique, attacking villages and killing civilians, kidnapping women and children, subjecting them to physical and sexual abuse, and training young boys to fight against government forces.
In Rwanda, the human rights record remains tainted by the blood of inter-tribal wars and the ruling Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) spying on government dissenters and critics to threaten them to death.
Other countries follow with the same track record for thwarting basic human rights for all their citizens, causing large-scale migration in the midst of rising food shortages and climate change.
Top 5 countries facing major human rights abuse
Armed militia groups and government forces have imposed a harsh crackdown on human rights, leading to surveillance and censorship, violence, and corruption in the office term of President Paul Biya, who won his seventh term in 2018.
The infamous Islamist terror organisation Bokom Haram has caused a huge wave of murder, pillage, and terror, killing thousands of Cameroonians and displacing nearly a million since 2014.
In anglophone countries, violence intensified as government forces executed premeditated attacks, igniting the wrath of Boko Haram, which threatened with pillaging villages, taking women and children hostage, and terrorising border security with surprise attacks.
On February 16, separatist forces took as hostages 170 students, mostly under 18, a teacher, and two guards from a boarding school in Kumbo, in the Northwest region. However, the forces returned them quickly after being paid huge amounts of ransom.
Boko Haram’s influence is most intensely felt in Nigeria, where the terror group captured and killed an estimated 640 people in 2019 alone, with another estimated 27,000 having perished since the conflict began in 2009, according to the United Nations Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA).
During 2018, Boko Haram caused panic and pain across Nigeria, claiming the innocent lives of about 405 children and abducting at least 105, including carrying out lethal attacks via bombs and suicide bombings.
Mali’s human rights track record went downhill in 2019 as hundreds of civilians were killed in numerous events by ethnic self-defense groups, most for their perceived support of Islamist groups, and attacks by armed Islamists intensified in the northern and central parts of the country.
These terror groups, mostly affiliated with Al-Qaeda and the IS, targeted Malian security forces, peacekeepers, international groups, and above all, civilians, subjecting them to mistreatment, abuse, forced captivity, and other serious crimes like ethnic cleansing.
Over 85,000 civilians fled their homes as a result of violence in 2019.
Armed Islamists also target local leaders who have allegedly joined with the government and beat them or hold them hostage. These forces also forcefully imposed Sharia law via courts that did not adhere to fair, legitimate judicial standards.
Somalians are constantly under the threat of armed social unrest, economic insecurity, and other recurring human rights crises, displacing nearly 2.6 million people across the internal borders.
The United Nations Assistance Mission in Somalia (UNSOM) recorded a total of 11,154 civilian casualties by mid-November.
Sixty-seven percent of this figure is due to indiscriminate and targeted attacks, the majority improvised explosive device (IED) attacks, by the Islamist armed group Al-Shabab.
After months of protests, Sudan’s president for 30 years, Omar al-Bashir, was ousted from his post and replaced by a military council, which began its rule with an iron fist. Government forces routinely confronted angry demonstrators, censored the media, and blocked all access to the internet.
Conflicts in Darfur, Southern Kordofan, and the Blue Nile continued at low levels, and restrictions on humanitarian aid access persisted.
Sudanese took to the streets, protesting against price hikes and corruption, only to be met with the government’s forces and their violence.
How can different countries help?
The onus to prevent and mitigate human rights abuses in underdeveloped countries on the African continent is upon the developed, first-world countries with a great deal of monetary funds at their disposal.
Instead of financing wars to inflate their own egos, global politicians who preach on issues of peace must step up and form a pact to end violence in Africa.
Human rights watchdogs like the United Nations, Amnesty International, and other global organisations must actively engage the global populace and foreign governments in this fight against corruption, terrorism, and abuse that has displaced millions and claimed the innocent lives of thousands yet all across Africa.