Posts Tagged ‘Africa’

Ethiopia: a progress report by DefendDefenders made public on 7 May

May 7, 2019

In a new report launched 7 May 2019, Turning the Page: Rebuilding Civil Society in Ethiopia, the regional NGO DefendDefenders examines the challenges faced by Ethiopian human rights defenders amid the ongoing reform process and makes concrete recommendations for rebuilding a robust and inclusive civil society ahead of elections planned for 2020. Despite some positive developments, serious gaps remain, the report concludes and rights-based organisations in the country currently lack the capacity to keep pace with these developments. This report outlines several avenues donors and international organisations can use to help effectively rebuild civil society in Ethiopia, such as capacity-building activities, and areas of focus like psychosocial support.

I believe that the role of HRDs and civil society is prescient in ensuring that ideals of democracy and open civic space are not only achieved in Ethiopia, but offer a roadmap to other African countries,” says Hassan Shire, Executive Director of DefendDefenders. “This report should not only highlight the many achievements of Ethiopia in the last year, but also acknowledge the uneasy road ahead and make concrete recommendations to mitigate potentially negative outcomes.

After a 13-year crackdown on civil society (hundreds of killings and the arrest, arbitrary detention, and torture of thousands of peaceful protesters), amid internal pressure, Dr. Abiy Ahmed was appointed as the new Prime Minister In April 2018 and began a series of reforms aimed at opening political and civic space in the country. This has been accomplished by releasing thousands of political prisoners and granting them amnesty, and accepting previously banned groups back into the Ethiopian political mainstream, in addition to the appointment of prominent women to positions of power within the government. [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/02/12/human-rights-defender-yared-hailemariam-back-in-his-homeland-ethiopia-after-13-years/]

However, concerns remain over the top-down nature of the reforms, as well as gaps in the economic, security, health, and legal sectors. This report also contains a detailed analysis of the new Civil Society Organisations Proclamation, with commentary on the provisions that mark an improvement, as well as remaining concerns.

Questions over how to achieve accountability for past and ongoing human rights violations remain, with concerns regarding civil society’s lack of capacity to effectively support such endeavors, as well as the state’s ability to constructively handle this process.

While the majority of the country’s media remains state-owned, small publications and online outlets have flourished since the reform process began. The ongoing liberalisation of the media sector raises concerns over the rise of online hate speech spurred by ethnic nationalism.

Women HRDs remain at risk in the country, with rigid social norms often preventing their active participation in public life or human rights organisations. Women also often lack access to justice, especially in cases of female genital mutilation and sexual and gender-based violence, as well as access to positions of power in the government.

Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and other sexual minority (LGBT+) HRDs remain a critically unaddressed group within Ethiopia’s burgeoning human rights movement, partially rooted in the country’s religious and conservative value systems, in addition to lack of prior experience and sensitisation. Mainstreaming LGBT+ organisations into the wider rebuilding of Ethiopian civil society will be paramount to addressing these gaps.

Forthcoming elections scheduled for May 2020 offer a critical test for the country with questions over what role civil society will be ready to play ahead of, and during, a free and fair poll, and whether there is sufficient capacity to conduct effective democratic sensitisation campaigns and monitor polls.

A properly functioning national coalition of HRDs is paramount to effectively rebuild civil society, however, issues remain with regard to the inclusion of previously marginalised groups. If these efforts are successful, Addis Ababa also bears the potential to become an important Ubuntu Hub City for HRDs from across Africa, with welcoming policies regarding migration, refugee rights, and institutional support from international organisations and diplomatic missions. For more information, please contact communications@defenddefenders.org.

Turning the Page: Rebuilding Civil Society in Ethiopia

Internet shutdowns to silence opposition – what to do?

January 28, 2019

“African governments use Internet shutdowns to silence opposition more and more —what can people do?” askson EuroNews of

What would you do if your government decided to intentionally shut down your access to the Internet? Millions of people around the world have had to answer this question time and time again over the past few years, as government-mandated Internet blackouts are on the rise. Less than a month into 2019, Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Gabon and Zimbabwe have experienced government crackdowns on Internet connections.

From 2016 to 2018, 371 separate cases of Internet shutdowns were documented around the world. More than half of them occurred last year alone, according to international non-profit organisation Access Now.

Authorities have used a number of reasons to justify the blackouts, including public safety, national security and stopping the dissemination of rumors and illegal content. However, advocacy groups investigating governmental tendencies to exert control over the flow of information don’t buy it. They claim it has more to do with silencing opposition movements and protests and trying to limit political instability.

They harm everyone: businesses, emergency services, journalism, human rights defenders, and demonstrators. They don’t help victims or restore order,” Access Now’s website reads.

In the past few weeks, several African governments have turned to partial or complete shutdowns in attempts to control the public discussion.

Sudan doubled down on social media amid widespread anti-government protests, with Access Now and the #KeepItOn coalition calling on network operators to fight back against state pressure — but it wasn’t the only African country to do so.

Zimbabwean authorities were quick to gag social media — including Facebook and Whatsapp — as soon as civil unrest over rising fuel prices spread in Harare and other major cities, and the DRC also ordered a full blackout following recent elections…..

From 2016 to 2018 alone, Africa witnessed 46 Internet shutdowns,…….Chad, Sierra Leone, Ethiopia, Somaliland, Algeria, Togo, Cameroon, Gambia, Uganda, Gabon, Algeria, Morocco, Lybia, Tunisia, and Algeria have all cracked down on their citizens’ access to the Internet in the past.

How did citizens react to Internet or social media shutdowns?

People always find a way”, Zimbabwean analyst Alexander Rusero told Euronews. “But it {VPN} doesn’t work for everyone”, Rusero pointed out. “Usually the ones in Harare, at the centre of the country, manage to”.

The analyst was quick to underline the issues behind similar crackdowns…”During the Internet blackout there were a lot of lies and rumors — they spread faster than you would believe. Media relies on social media, and so do critical opinion leaders. Outside those platforms, fake news manifest”.

Jean-Hubert Bondo, a journalist from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, doesn’t believe the problems end here. “Many Congolese families live off their small cybercafés. Also, we are in a country where there are not enough physical libraries. Students and researchers use the Internet to research their work at the university. Young people animate pages on Facebook and WhatsApp”, he told Euronews. “To deprive us of the Internet is to take us back to antiquity”. As for the VPNs Rusero mentioned — the most common ways to avoid Internet censorship worldwide — Bondo said that, during the latest shutdown, they failed to work. “In response to what is being perceived as a violation of human rights, Bondo reported that several Congolese civil society organisations have now lodged a complaint against the main telecommunication companies.

In Uganda, a crackdown on Twitter, Facebook, WhatsApp, YouTube, and mobile money apps in February 2016 as citizens were heading to the polls sparked a legal case that will be discussed in court in February 2019. “Shutdowns may not silence people, but they do hinder communication”, said Ugandan blogger Ruth Aine Tindyebwa….

https://www.euronews.com/2019/01/26/african-governments-use-internet-shutdowns-to-silence-opposition-more-and-more-what-can-pe

https://www.dailynews.co.zw/articles/2019/01/27/ed-justifies-internet-shutdown

Vacancy: Data & Web Campaigning Coordinator in Kampala

November 20, 2018

The African network NGO DefendDefenders seeks a Data & Web Campaigning Lead to coordinate its “Doc-IT” program. The Data & Web Campaigning Lead will work with human rights organisations throughout the East & Horn of Africa to improve their documentation and data collection practices and turn them into high-impact online and print advocacy campaigns. A strong confidence with visual communications, web technologies, social media marketing, and data analysis is ideal. Experience in project management and working with outsourced designers and developers is an added advantage. Full Time. Location of work: Kampala, Uganda. Starting January 2019.

Fo more information go the the website. Only shortlisted candidates will be contacted.

To apply to this vacancy send a letter of interest and CV to jobs@defenddefenders.org with “[DOCIT]” in the subject line by 2 December 2018.

Profile of William Leslie Amanzuru, Africa’s defender of the month

November 7, 2018

On 6 November 2018, the African network NGO DefendDefenders published this profile of their ‘Defender of the month’: William Leslie Amanzuru from Uganda:

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Bikes and digital power for human rights defenders in Africa

April 27, 2018

Africa remains a continent of contrasts, also with regard to human rights defenders. Just to illustrate:
(1) Bikes for human rights defenders: Girls Empowerment Network (GENET) in Malawi has donated 30 bicycles to child protection groups in Dowa district to assist in its ongoing girl child protection programs. Speaking in an interview with the Malawi News Agency Mana after giving out the support at Kayembe Primary school, GENET Programs Officer, Twambilile Kayuni said their organization thought of providing the support as one way of easing transportation challenges among girl child protection groups in the area. “As GENET, we thought it critical to ease the challenge of transport among our village child protection groups so that when any violence has happened to a child they should be able to rush to the scene and take action“. She added that the bicycles have been given to all schools in the area, human rights defenders, mother groups, Area Development Committees (ADCs) and chiefs in order to assist in their child protection duties in a more coordinated manner…Group Village Headwoman Siwinda said:”In my area many girls were being forced to marry but now with the coming of GENET through COMIC relief and OXFAM Malawi things have changed and as of now many girls have gone back to school,” said GVH Siwinda.

Mo Ibrahim Prize 2017 to Ellen Johnson Sirleaf

February 12, 2018

After twice skipping a winner, the 2017 Mo Ibrahim Prize for Achievement in African Leadership has been awarded to Liberia’s former president, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.

Sirleaf, the continent’s first elected female president, left office in late January, after overseeing the first democratic transfer of power in Liberia since 1944. The 79-year-old Nobel laureate came to power in 2006, just two years after the end of a 14-year civil war that saw more than 250,000 people killed and another million displaced. During her two terms in office, Sirleaf tackled the spread of Ebola in the West African nation, developed the economy and championed the cause of women. Opponents said she did not do enough to tackle corruption while in office.

In their citation, the prize committee commended her “exceptional and transformative leadership” in leading the recovery efforts, strengthening democratic institutions and improving human rights.

The prize is special in that it gives large amounts of money for life to former African leaders. See: http://trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/awards/ibrahim-prize-for-achievement-in-african-leadership

http://mo.ibrahim.foundation/prize/

Africa’s most prestigious leadership award goes to the continent’s first elected female president

NB I apologize for an erroneous post of 21 November 2017 attributing the Ibrahim Prize (2017) to former Cape Verde President Pedro Verona Pires. He received it in 2011!

In memoriam: Corinne Dufka remembers Peter Takirambudde

December 1, 2017

On 1 December 2017 Corinne Dufka of Human Rights Watch wrote a column aboutPeter Takirambudde who passed away on 16 November in his native Uganda. He was head of HRW’s Africa division from 1996 to 2008 during multiple crises, including in Sudan, Sierra Leone, Nigeria, Rwanda, and the Democratic Republic of Congo. After leaving Human Rights Watch, Peter founded and directed the Botswana-based African Human Rights Consortium, which helped train members of civil society from across the continent in human rights investigation and advocacy. Peter was also a lawyer and a well-respected law professor, including at the University of Botswana-Gaborone, where he served as head of social sciences, and at the University of Lund in Sweden. He received a bachelor’s degree from Makerere University in Uganda and a doctoral degree from Yale University.

As noted by Kenneth Roth, Human Rights Watch’s executive director, “We remember him fondly for his deep intellectual engagement with African human rights issues, his always-incisive analysis, and his principled and passionate defense of the rights of people throughout the continent. He made a very important mark establishing Human Rights Watch in Africa, and we remain deeply indebted to him.

The full text below:

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Defend the Defenders newsletter about African developments

October 2, 2017

One of my sources is the Defend the Defenders network run by the East & Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project. I will continue to follow it for you, but those with special interest in Africa should subscribe themselves:  https://app.getresponse.com/site2/publicsignup?u=Bl16k&webforms_id=1980102. Below the latest newsletter as an example: Read the rest of this entry »

Africa’s DefendDefenders new website

August 30, 2017

In 2015, the East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project (then still abbreviated EHAHRDP) celebrated its ten-year anniversary and decided it was time to give the organisation a new, fresh face under its new name: DefendDefenders. In February, after a year of consultations, it presented its new logo and rebranded image during the third general assembly of the East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Network. Today, it launched its new website at https://www.defenddefenders.org as the final step. 

On DefendDefenders’ new website, it is easier to find information and stay up to date on its work. HRDs will be able to contact them more quickly in case of emergencies and to access essential resources they can use to improve their safety. The website itself was developed with the specific requirements of the East and Horn of Africa in mind, and is designed to work with low bandwidth Internet or on mobile devices.

Every element of DefendDefenders’ new brand represents the changes over the years, without losing sight where it came from: from prominent features in the logo, such as the shield which remains the core of its identity, to a font inspired by anti-apartheid activist Stephen Biko.
For earlier posts on DefendDefenders: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/tag/defenddefenders/

Source: DefendDefenders | East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project

DefendDefenders launched new security manual for human rights defenders in Africa

May 9, 2017

On 5 May, 2017, at the NGO forum preceding the 60th session of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, DefendDefenders (East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project) launched “Stand Up!”, a new organisational and personal security manual to help human rights defenders (HRDs) do their work in a safe and effective manner.
DefendDefenders was founded to protect HRDs from immediate risks. However, a decade of experience has taught us that much can be done to prevent them from reaching this critical point,” said Hassan Shire, Executive Director.By carefully considering their safety, developing strong security plans, and rigidly adhering to them, even HRDs working in extreme conditions can mitigate the risk they face as individuals and organisations.” “Stand Up!” helps defenders to reduce the risks inherent in achieving their goals. They can use it to better understand the opposing and supporting factors in their environment, identify their vulnerabilities, and create new capacities to stand up to adversity.
 
Book One covers personal, physical, and organisational security planning. HRDs can learn the essential framework for security analysis and planning as well as the support mechanisms available at the regional and international level for human rights defenders.
 
Book Two covers digital security for electronic devices, and online accounts and communications. It extends the lessons of security management into the digital realm with risk assessment of electronic workspaces and the essential steps to secure human rights work when it is conducted from phones, computers, email, websites, social media accounts and more.
Download the full manual here.
 
At the same time, the Pan-African Human Rights Defenders Network (PAHRDN) also launched its annual “State of African HRDs” report, which examines the major events affecting the freedoms of association, assembly, and expression in the last year. The report is compiled with input from PAHRDN’s five sub-regional networks and is available in English and French.