Africa: 2011 Country Reports On Human Rights – Continent's Highlights

Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2011: Africa

Internal conflicts in the East, particularly in the North and South Kivu and Orientale provinces, continued to plague the Democratic Republic of Congo. Human rights abuses were committed by all parties to the conflict. Reported human rights abuses included killings, disappearances, and torture. Rebel and militia groups and some army units engaged in the illegal exploitation and trade of natural resources in the east. Foreign rebel and militia groups and some local militias formed coalitions, battled government forces, and attacked civilian populations. State security forces arrested, illegally detained, raped, tortured, or summarily executed civilians and looted villages during military actions against rebels. Fighting in the East impeded humanitarian aid in some areas, exacerbating an already severe humanitarian crisis that affects some 1.7 million displaced persons. Impunity remained a significant problem. The deeply flawed election in November was accompanied by disappearances and restrictions on freedoms of assembly, expression and movement.

Widespread human rights violations continued in Eritrea, where the government is under the control of authoritarian President Isaias Afwerki. The government forced men and women to participate in the national service program from which there were no clear criteria for demobilization, and persons worked indefinitely in any location or capacity chosen by the government. Security forces tortured and beat army deserters, draft evaders, persons attempting to flee the country, and members of certain religious groups. Harsh prison and detention center conditions, which included unventilated and underground cells with extreme temperatures, led to multiple deaths. The government controlled all media. It reportedly continued to detain more than 30 journalists, providing no information about their places of detention.

In Ethiopia, the government continued to repress civil society, including the media. The government arrested more than 100 opposition figures, activists, journalists, and bloggers, charging several of those arrested with terrorist or seditious activity. However, observers found the evidence presented at trials to be either open to interpretation or indicative of acts of a political nature rather than linked to terrorism. The Charities and Societies Proclamation (CSO law) continued to impose severe restrictions on civil society and NGO activities. As a result of the law, civil society activities have been severely curtailed. The government also restricted access to the Internet and blocked the websites of news organizations, opposition sites, and blogs.

In Nigeria, a campaign of attacks by the radical Islamist sect known as Boko Haram intensified during the year and violence spread to more areas of the country. The group committed bombings and drive-by shootings, assassinated religious leaders, security personnel and politicians, attacked police stations and banks, and conducted suicide bombings. In Maiduguri, Borno State, shootings and bombings were a weekly and sometimes daily occurrence, with violence also occurring in neighboring states. In August, Boko Haram targeted an international organization for the first time, bombing the UN House headquarters in Abuja and killing 24 persons. The government deployed the Joint Task Force, which committed extrajudicial killings during attempts to apprehend Boko Haram members. The April 2011 general elections were Nigeria’s most successful since its return to multiparty democracy in 1999. However, postelection violence erupted in the north and in the Middle Belt States, resulting in loss of lives, property damage, and restrictions of movement.

The Government of Sudan continued to conduct aerial bombardment of civilian areas. In Darfur, fighting involved government forces, government-aligned militias, rebel groups, and ethnic groups. These groups killed, injured, and raped civilians, and used child soldiers. During the year violence broke-out in the disputed border area of Abyei, as well as in the Sudanese states of Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile. The violence in these areas resulted in widespread civilian displacement and human rights abuses. Human rights abuses in Sudan went unpunished and impunity remained a serious problem. Parties to the conflicts obstructed the work of humanitarian organizations and the United Nations. In addition, the government also continued to crack down on journalists and restrict freedoms of speech, assembly, association, religion, and movement, and security forces continued to kill, torture, beat, and harass suspected political opponents and others.

In Zimbabwe, the chronically bad human rights situation did not improve. Despite a fledgling Government of National Unity, the government remains mostly under the control of President Mugabe’s political party, Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF), which retains authority over the military, police and intelligence services. These security services continued to arrest, abuse, and torture non-ZANU-PF party members and civil society activists with impunity. The government infringed on citizens’ freedoms of speech, assembly, association, and movement. Executive influence and interference in the judiciary remained a serious problem, and NGOs reported that magistrates were promised farms and homes for providing rulings favorable to ZANU-PF. In rural areas ZANU-PF sympathizers used threats and intimidation against local magistrates to gain favorable rulings.

Full report:  U.S. Department of State Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2011.