ESAT News (January 27, 2016)
Governments in East Africa made little or no progress on human rights in 2015, Human Rights Watch said today in its World Report 2016.
“Ethiopia and Burundi, and to some extent Uganda, experienced worsening restrictions on freedom of speech, assembly, and other rights in the lead up to or after elections,” according to the report.
In his introductory essay, Executive Director Kenneth Roth writes that “the spread of terrorist attacks beyond the Middle East and the huge flows of refugees spawned by repression and conflict led many governments to curtail rights in misguided efforts to protect their security. At the same time, authoritarian governments throughout the world, fearful of peaceful dissent that is often magnified by social media, embarked on the most intense crackdown on independent groups in recent times.”
Elections and counterterrorism were two significant themes affecting political and human rights developments in East Africa in 2015, Human Rights Watch said.
“Ethiopia’s May elections were peaceful but utterly non-competitive due to years of repression: the ruling party swept all 547 parliamentary seats. While a few individual bloggers and journalists were released from prison, the government failed to reform the draconian legislation and abusive policies used to systematically suppress independent journalists, activists, and the political opposition. Despite the repression, a new protest movement emerged in Oromia, Ethiopia’s largest region, in mid-November, catalyzed by concern over a government plan to expand the capital and potentially displace ethnic Oromo farmers from their land. The government swiftly deployed military force against the largely peaceful protests, and scores were killed and injured,” the report said.
“Governments across East Africa should stop violating rights in an effort to retain power,” said Daniel Bekele, Africa director at Human Rights Watch. “And governments should stop scapegoating human rights organizations and the media and investigate and prosecute unlawful killings by their security forces.”