As the world battles Covid-19, Amnesty International published its annual report on Human Rights in Africa, reminding us that African leaders are nowhere close to implementing the African Union’s (AU) Silencing the Guns by 2020 master plan for a free, peaceful, and egalitarian Africa.
The report ascribes this to the high level of corruption and lack of accountability on the continent – which is partly due to the interventionist and despotic disposition of African leaders. More than ever, civil societies across African countries should double their efforts in the advocacy for a limited government.
A hot bed for violence and civil rights violations
African governments are a law unto themselves and this is made obvious by the emerging regressive laws and cuts on media freedom in Africa. In at least 25 countries – more than two thirds of those monitored by Amnesty International – media freedom is constantly under threat and governments make it a point of call to criminalise journalists.
In Nigeria, Amnesty International documented 19 cases of assault, arbitrary arrests, and detention of journalists, with many facing trumped up charges.
In 2013, African leaders unanimously adopted the African Union Agenda 2063, part of which is Aspiration 4 titled Silencing the Guns aimed at ending insecurity and civil rights violations on the continent by the year 2020.
However, a cursory look at the 2019 Global Peace Index shows that situations in African countries fall short of this expectation. Instead, between 2016 and 2019, many African countries dropped drastically on the global peace ranking.
Somalia, for instance, has a record of over 50 airstrikes resulting in at least three civilian deaths, bringing the number of civilians killed by such attacks to at least 17 in the last two years. The conflict between government forces and Boko Haram has killed thousands of Cameroonians and displaced over 270 000 since 2014, leading to the rise of self-defence vigilante groups.
Corruption and impunity
Amnesty International reports that as of 2019 the Sudan government failed to bring to book culprits of terror who have continued to pillage the people of Darfur community for over 16 years.
This impunity is attributed to the chronic corruption in government and the justice system which hinders the proper investigation of perpetrators. As in previous years, the Nigerian government didn’t take genuine steps to deliver justice to countless victims of crimes against humanity committed in the northeast by Boko Haram and the government’s own security forces.
According to the overview of the 2019 Corruption Perception Index, corruption is more pervasive in countries where big money can flow freely into electoral campaigns and where governments listen only to the voices of wealthy or well-connected individuals. 45 out of 54 African countries scored less than 50 on the index, ranking below 60.
In contrast to political commitments, more than half of all citizens in African countries think corruption is getting worse in their country and that their government is doing a poor job in tackling corruption, according to the Global Corruption Barometer – Africa released in July 2019.
Unfortunately, inasmuch as African governments continue to fail in ending impunity and corruption, not only the Silencing the Gun 2020 project, but also the AU’s Agenda 2063, would not see the light of the day in many decades to come.
Mikail is a student of law at the Usmanu Danfodiyo University, Sokoto. She can be reached via Twitter @RaahLeeah