Southern Africa Year in Review 2009

Waiting in line to vote. Amnesty International.

Waiting in line to vote. ©Amnesty International

As 2009 winds down, here’s a wrap up of the year’s highlights from the southern Africa region. From elections, to assassinations, to elections, to awards ,to elections, to boycotts, to elections, to what was all in all a fairly smooth year compared to what might have been, here are a few notes about human rights conditions in the 12 countries we monitor for Amnesty International USA.

Angola
Angola was supposed to hold presidential elections this year but didn’t. Current (and for the last 30 years) president, dos Santos, said constitutional reform must come first and this will take another two years.  Constitutional reform=good. Using it as an excuse to delay democratic elections=bad.

Forced evictions continued in 2009 in Angola. Amnesty International continues to call for an end to illegal evictions and for just compensation for forcibly displaced persons in Angola.

On a positive note, Prisoner of Conscience Fernando Lelo was released this year. Lelo is a journalist imprisoned for criticizing above noted president. However, those who were tried and convicted with him remain incarcerated. Lelo directly credited Amnesty activists for their efforts on his behalf. Pat yourselves on the back for a job well done!

Botswana
Botswana held elections this year. Khama was elected to a new term, after finishing out the term of his predecessor. Major concerns in Botswana continue to be media restrictions, repression of labor unions, displacement of indigenous persons and high HIV infection rates. But Khama does his fair share of criticizing regional leaders and tweaking the nose of Zimbabwe’s President Mugabe. He mailed a congratulatory letter to the ladies of Women of Zimbabwe Arise following their win of the RFK Human Rights Award this year.

Guinea Bissau
SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

Angola and DRC Shoving Match Leaves Citizens With Bruises

So it basically goes like this: Angola starts to kick out Congolese citizens living in Angola, almost 18,000 since July. The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) says “for reals?” and shows a bunch of Angolan citizens to the door, well, border when it launches its own repatriation operation. So then Angola says “oh, yeah?” and increases the pace of expulsions of Congolese. The DRC says, “yeah,” and sends more Angolans over the border, approximately 28,000 since August. Angola says…well, you get the point.

Angola and the DRC have a long history of porous borders with refugees crossing back and forth escaping internal conflict, citizens looking for employment and best of all, politicians dabbling in each others internal conflicts. But the violence and disregard for the lives of those involved in this latest tit for tat is seriously uncool.

Angolan police, immigration officers, citizens and soldiers have been accused of beatings, sexual assaults and stealing the possessions of the Congolese they are expelling. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST