A woman sits outside of her home in Mogadishu, Somalia, during a visit to an IDP camp by the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Sexual Violence in Conflict.

African leaders failed to tackle widespread abuses against civilians by state security forces. The regional efforts to address certain crises in Africa in 2022 have lacked sufficient political will and leadership, said Mausi Segun, Africa director at Human Rights Watch. In the World Report 2023, Human Rights Watch reviews human rights practices in close to 100 countries.

NAIROBI JANUARY 12: African leaders failed to tackle widespread abuses against civilians by state security forces and non-state armed groups and insufficiently prioritized justice efforts for victims of atrocities across the continent, Human Rights Watch said today in its World Report 2023. These violations occurred against a backdrop of backsliding on democratic safeguards and rule of law.

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– “The regional efforts to address certain crises in Africa in 2022 have lacked sufficient political will and leadership, leaving countless civilians caught up in conflict with nowhere to turn,” said Mausi Segun, Africa director at Human Rights Watch. “The best way to ensure effective African solutions to African problems would be for leaders to efficiently deploy the strong instruments at their disposal to protect victims of human rights abuses.”

In the 712-page World Report 2023, its 33rd edition, Human Rights Watch reviews human rights practices in close to 100 countries. In her introductory essay, acting Executive Director Tirana Hassan says that in a world in which power has shifted, it is no longer possible to rely on a small group of mostly Global North governments to defend human rights.

The world’s mobilization around Russia’s war in Ukraine reminds us of the extraordinary potential when governments realize their human rights obligations on a global scale. The responsibility is on individual countries, big and small, to apply a human rights framework to their policies, and then work together to protect and promote human rights.

In at least 15 armed conflicts, including in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Cameroon, Ethiopia, Mozambique, Mali, Burkina Faso, and South Sudan, government forces or non-state armed groups have been implicated in abuses against civilians.

There has been some progress in ensuring justice for serious crimes, Human Rights Watch said. Trials began in the Central African Republic and Guinea, while the International Criminal Court (ICC) opened trials for serious crimes implicating militia leaders in the Central African Republic and Sudan.

However, the regional response was muted when elected civilian leaders clung to power by manipulating political and constitutional processes, and killing or harassing journalists, activists, and perceived opponents.

Across parts of Africa, internally displaced people, refugees, and migrants have been driven from home by armed conflicts, repression, communal violence, poverty, and environmental factors. In Eritrea and Cameroon, forcibly returned asylum seekers have faced arbitrary detention and abuse. In Nigeria, government-enforced displacement camp closures pushed thousands into deeper destitution.

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Image: AMISOM

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