Panafrican News Agency

AU urged to focus on root causes of conflict, political instability

Nairobi, Kenya (PANA) – African Union (AU) member countries should use their upcoming summit to commit to addressing human rights issues underlying armed conflict and political upheaval on the continent, a human rights advocate said on Tuesday.

The Extraordinary Summit on Terrorism and Unconstitutional Changes of Government will take place on 25-28 May, in Malabo, Equatorial Guinea.

Human Rights Watch said in a press statement that the AU summit is taking place within the context of five coups in Africa since 2021, and Islamist insurgencies in Cameroon, Central African Republic, Mozambique, Somalia and the Sahel, as well as widespread impunity for human rights violations by government security forces.

The summit is scheduled to begin on Africa Day, which commemorates the founding of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU), the AU’s predecessor, in 1963.

The summit is an opportunity for the continent’s leaders to address continuing political repression, entrenched impunity, disregard for constitutional term limits, and election rigging, Human Rights Watch said.

“The AU summit should follow up on its February pledges by analysing the links between human rights abuses and insurgencies and coups in Africa,” said Carine Kaneza Nantulya, Africa advocacy director at Human Rights Watch. “African leaders cannot afford to avoid addressing how impunity for atrocities committed by their security forces is creating grievances that fuel recruitment by extremist groups.”

In the Sahel, responses by governments and their Western partners need to go beyond the security dimensions of the crisis and consider the underlying deep-rooted social and political factors, Human Rights Watch said.

Over the past decade, the United Nations, Human Rights Watch, and other nongovernmental organisations have documented thousands of unlawful killings and other abuses of civilians and suspects by the security forces of Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger during counterterrorism operations. Governments have yet to deliver justice to victims and their families, the statement said.

Many atrocities appear to be in retaliation for the deaths of soldiers during attacks by armed Islamist groups. 

Leaders in Malabo should deliberate about building and strengthening rights-respecting counterterrorism operations with built-in human rights monitoring and reporting systems, and commit to strengthening judicial institutions to investigate, and fairly prosecute, alleged violations, Human Rights said.

“The AU needs to recognise that government abuses are a key driver of endemic crises that require bold approaches,” said Kaneza Nantulya.

“Human rights ought to be firmly at the centre of regional solutions for the Sahel and other crises.”

The statement said the AU should cooperate with the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR), to increase the presence of human rights officers in African-led counterterrorism missions.

IT added that governments need to ensure that cooperation agreements on counterterrorism operations set out human rights standards, such as the UN Human Rights Due Diligence Policy.

"The AU should call for meaningful and effective security sector reform efforts in conflict-affected countries and take concrete measures to improve security force compliance with international human rights and humanitarian law, and their progress on the protection of civilians. These measures should include establishing civilian oversight bodies and vetting mechanisms to remove members implicated in serious human rights abuses from security and intelligence services."

The members also need to address democratic deficits and issues around corruption, impunity, term limits, and the need to hold free and fair elections, which have undermined development and encouraged changes of government that deny citizens the right to choose their leaders, it added.

“The AU should urge military leaders in Chad and Sudan to end the killings, enforced disappearances, and arbitrary detention of protesters and activists,” Human Rights Watch said. 

The authorities should respond to citizens’ demands for ethical leadership, civilian rule, economic security, and demonstrate greater respect for the rights to freedom of expression, association, and assembly, it added.
-0- PANA MA 24May2022