This week, Washington DC, hosted an unprecedented US-Africa Leaders Summit. The historical gathering is a continuation and follow-up of President Obama’s 2013 visit to Africa. The summit aims to foster economic collaboration between the Unites States and the African continent. After all, nine of the world’s twenty fastest-growing economies are in Africa.
Surprisingly absent from the proceedings were human rights and civil society organizations. In response, they hosted an Alternative African conference at Howard University where participants submitted an action plan to the US and African heads of state sharing their concerns and recommendations on human rights issues in the continent.
Also absent from the summit were the usual autocrats: Zimbabwean leader Robert Mugabe, Sudan’s Omar al-Bashir, Eritrea’s Isaias Afwerki and the Central African Republic’s transitional leader Catherine Samba-Panza. Although these countries were off the guest list, we believe it is crucial and necessary to highlight the work that human rights activists are doing there and to share WITNESS training resources to support their ongoing work on the ground.
Last year protestors took over the streets in Sudan and demanded that President El-Bashir to step down. Instead, a brutal crackdown on protesters left dozens dead. The murder of the 26-year old pharmacist, Salah Sanhouri, and many other young protesters left an indelible mark on the people’s collective memory. The Sudan Revolts playlist on the WITNESS Human Rights Channel features videos from citizen journalists documenting the protests.
CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC
In Central African Republic, local and international civil society organizations are leading the fight against gender and sexual based violence. According to the International Rescue Committee, rape is the most common form of violence, and is experienced by 44% of women and 40% of girls. From 2010–2013, WITNESS partnered with Comite Natioinal des Femmes Travailleuses de Centrafrique (USTC) and Women’s Initiative on an advocacy video, Our Plea: Women and Girls in the Central African Republic Turn to the ICC for Justice, to end sexual and gender-based violence in conflict and post conflict contexts.
RELEVANT MATERIALS: Guide to Interviewing Survivors of Sexual and Gender-Based Violence (Available in AR, FR, EN, ES, SH, SW, ZU), Accompanying 6-part video series
Eritrea is considered one of the most politically repressed countries in Africa. The country has been going through systematic human rights abuses and violations which has forced thousands of people to flee the east African nation despite the grave risks involved. The Sinai desert, which is the primary escape route for the refugees and asylum seekers, had become a warehouse of torture, sexual abuse, human trafficking, and kidnapping for ransom. On February 11, Human Rights Watch released a report which illustrates how Eritreans have been subjected to mutilation, burning, and rape by Egyptian traffickers, and traffickers from eastern Sudan since 2010. It also highlights the corrupt role security officers from both countries played.
RELEVANT VIDEOS: Human Rights Watch’s Sudan & Egypt: Traffickers Who Torture.
RELEVANT RESOURCES: Concealing Identity tip sheet
The 90-year-old Zimbabwean leader was excluded from attending the summit because of his poor human rights record. Although a year ago the country celebrated a new constitution which provides a wide range of human rights, President Mugabe continue to violate the human rights of the Zimbabwean people with impunity.
RELEVANT VIDEOS: The WITNESS Human Rights Channel’s Zimbabwe Elections playlist.
RELEVANT RESOURCES: Filming Elections tip sheet
Image: Detail, US-Africa Leaders Summit schedule. The full schedule is available here.