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Human Rights Watch: Africa Needs to Develop Policies to Monitor, Respond to Abuses

Human Rights Watch says African nations need to do more to address the widespread displacement, killings and other abuses that have come about from the continent’s many conflicts. The rights group published a new report this week that summarizes human rights trends in 23 African countries.

Mausi Segun, head of Human Rights Watch Africa, said that in many African countries, the population is caught up in conflict and simply has nowhere to turn.

"Some of the most egregious of human rights violations continue to cascade in the context of conflict," Segun said. "Civilians have continued to bear the brunt of armed conflict, communal violence, political and social unrest as well as government repression against critical and independent voices in several African countries. All of these have resulted in the destruction of lives and livelihoods."

According to ACLED, the Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project, there were at least 36,000 violent events and more than 50,000 deaths caused by violence in Africa last year.

Human Rights Watch said in at least 15 armed conflicts, in the Sahel, the Lake Chad Basin area, the Great Lakes region and the Horn of Africa, government forces and armed groups have been implicated in abuses against civilians.

"Armed insurgents, and in many cases, government forces, have inflicted terror and horror on civilians caught amid the fighting," Segun said, "and forced hundreds of thousands of people to flee both within and outside their national borders where many face discrimination, rejection and sometimes violent repulsion."

Political, religious and social intolerance have also increased, according to human rights researchers.

The report said hate speech, attacks on perceived political opponents, increased competition for resources and other factors continue to fuel communal tensions, insurgency and extremist recruitment in some African countries.

The rights group praised the African Union and regional blocs including ECOWAS for taking action, such as reconciling Ethiopia's warring factions, condemning coups in West Africa and refusing to recognize any attempt to seize power by force.

Carine Kaneza Nantulya, deputy director of Human Rights Watch Africa Division, said the continental body is not doing enough to investigate human rights violations.

"They do hold a summit, they do talk about it," she said. "For instance, they want the peace and security to conduct a study and assessment of the driving causes behind these different crises, but the gap there is that there is no emphasis of justice and accountability."

That should be at the core of decisions, Nantulya said, to sustain the processes and to provide redress and justice to the millions of victims of the crises.

In the Central African Republic and Guinea, the rights group noted progress in ensuring justice for serious crimes.

The International Criminal Court in The Hague has opened trials against militia leaders in the Central African Republic and Sudan, both of which have committed serious crimes against civilians.

The Washington-based organization HRW Africa Division urges African leaders and governments to implement policies to monitor and report human rights violations in conflict zones. They say such a move could help prevent atrocities and humanitarian crises.

Source: Voice of America