- Civil liberties have remained restricted in 44 of the 49 countries in sub-Saharan Africa.
- The main restriction is interference with the freedom of peaceful assembly and association.
- Sub-Saharan governments utilize intimidation as a strategy to dissuade journalists and activists from continuing their work.
The African continent has seen an increase in the restriction of civil liberties in recent years. In nearly 90% of the sub-Saharan African countries, basic rights and freedoms are continuously curtailed, while the rest of the world advances toward more open societies.
According to Civicus, a global coalition of civil society organizations that promote human rights, the increasing number of human rights violations in sub-Saharan African countries is alarming. Many countries still do not permit freedom of expression, association, or peaceful assembly.
Civicus’s most recent report, the Civic Freedoms Monitor, stated that freedom is either suppressed or impeded in 44 of the 49 sub-Saharan African countries.
According to the report, a high number of incidences of activist intimidation, incarceration of journalists, arrest of protestors, unjustified disruption of peaceful protests, and attacks on reporters occurred in sub-Saharan African countries last year.
The most frequent type of violation reported last year in at least 23 nations was intimidation. According to Civicus, governments allegedly utilized it as a strategy “to dissuade journalists and activists from continuing their work.”
The report stated that threats of prosecution, house searches without warrants, office break-ins and raids, online or offline threatening messages, and police summonses for questioning were among the various ways that state and non-state actors intimidated people.
Incidences of violence against the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and intersex (LGBTQI+) population increased at the same time as sexual and gender minorities’ rights violations increased.
Particular attention was drawn to East Africa as a hotspot of anti-LGBTI+ violence. According to the report, there have been a number of instances in Kenya where people who identify as such have been targeted, harassed, attacked, and even killed.
After Ugandan lawmakers approved a bill making it illegal to identify as a part of the LGBTQI+ group, and with Kenyan politicians likely to follow suit, the infringement of such freedoms of association is expected to worsen this year.
The repeated arrests of demonstrators during last week’s opposition marches in Kenya and the dispersal of the demonstrations may also be indicative of an increasingly constrained civic space.
The yearly human rights reports from the US Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor were also released this past week, and they included numerous instances and examples of human rights breaches in African nations.
According to their findings, all of the nations in the region experienced reports of extrajudicial murders, forced disappearances, torture, arbitrary arrests and incarceration, invasions of privacy, and restrictions on media freedom and expression last year.
One of the main restrictions on freedom in the region, according to US sources, is “interference with the freedom of peaceful assembly and freedom of association, including harassment of nongovernmental organizations and activists.”
In addition, they claimed there were instances of serious government corruption, the majority of which did not result in the perpetrators being charged or found guilty, as well as a lack of investigations into and accountability for gender-based violence.
In contrast, the West experienced few instances of human rights breaches; countries including Canada, Germany, Switzerland, and others were assessed as “open” by Civicus. However, the United Kingdom was classified as “obstructed,” while others were ranked as “narrowed.”