Human rights violations were widespread in Africa in 2016, due to government repressions, torture and civil wars, Human Rights Watch said Thursday during the launch of its 2017 World Report.
The report found that governments in East Africa clamped down on peaceful protests and free expression, threatening human rights in the region.
“Government security forces in Ethiopia, as well as in Uganda and Kenya, used unnecessary and disproportionate force to disperse largely peaceful protests, causing deaths and injuries,” the rights watchdog said in its 687-page report.
It accused Ethiopian security of using excessive force to crack down on largely peaceful protesters in the Oramia and Amhara regions killing more than 500 people.
A wave of protests hit Ethiopia starting in November 2015 to 2016, after the government proposed to expand the boundaries of the capital city Addis Ababa into the Oromia regional state.
Many ethnic Oromo farmers feared they could lose their farmlands after the proposed expansion plan, known as the “Addis Ababa integrated Development Master plan”, is implemented, thus resorting to protests.
HRW also accused the Ugandan police of using excessive force to prevent peaceful opposition gatherings and protests, during the 2016 Presidential elections, at times resulting in loss of life.
The watchdog said, police prevented the main opposition candidate Dr. Kizza Besigye from accessing campaign venues in the capital Kampala on allegations he was going to “disrupt business.”
Human Rights Watch said the political and human rights crisis that gripped Burundi in 2015 deepened in 2016, as government forces targeted perceived opponents of the ruling party.
It further said security forces, the intelligence and youth from the ruling party were responsible for numerous killings, disappearances and torture among others.
Violent protests erupted in Burundi in 2015 after President Pierre Nkurunziza vowed to contest for a third term in office.
In southern Africa, the Angolan government was accused of repressing peaceful anti-government protests with intimidation and detention.
HRW said in March 2016, a court in Angola sentenced 17 members of a book club to between two and eight years in prison for discussing peaceful protest at a meeting in 2015, inspired by Gene Sharp’s book, From Dictatorship to Democracy.
Swaziland, which is ruled by an absolute monarchy, King Mswati III since 1986, continued to repress political dissent and disregard human rights and the rule of law principles in 2016.
“Political parties remained banned as they have been since 1973; the independence of the judiciary is severely compromised and repressive laws continued to be used to target critics,” the HRW said.
HRW also accused government soldiers in South Sudan of killings, rape, torture and destroying civilian property during counterinsurgency operations in the southern and western parts of the country.
The report also acknowledged that rebels too committed abuses against civilians in and around the capital Juba and other areas.