Africa: Human Rights Group Links Violations to Food Price Hikes

28 May 2009

A leading advocacy group has linked escalating food prices and the sharp rise in living costs across Africa to violations of human rights across the continent in the last year.

It its annual report, "The State of the World's Human Rights," Amnesty International notes that protesters took to the streets to demonstrate against “the dire social and economic situation and the sharp rise in living costs” in countries including Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Côte d'Ivoire, Guinea, Mali, Mozambique, Senegal, Somalia and Zimbabwe during 2008.

"While some demonstrations turned violent, leading to the destruction of private and public property,” Amnesty said, “the authorities often repressed protests using excessive force. Security forces injured and killed numerous people who were claiming their right to an adequate standard of living, including the right to food.”

The group said demonstrators were arbitrarily arrested and detained and some were ill-treated in detention or jailed after unfair trials. “Most of the time, no investigations were carried out to identify those among the security forces responsible for the human rights violations committed while responding to the protests.”

It noted that in Cameroon, security forces killed up to 100 people involved in violent protests.

“In Mozambique, police killed three people and injured 30 others...when live ammunition was used against people protesting against an increase in transport costs. In Mali, marches were organized against the rise in the price of basic commodities and against plans to privatize the supply of water in Lere, in the north-west of the country...

“In Burkina Faso, security forces arrested several hundred people, after demonstrations against rising living costs in Ouagadougou and Bobo-Dioulasso erupted into violence. At least 80 of those arrested were sentenced to prison terms without having had access to a lawyer.

“In Zimbabwe, hundreds of activists protesting against the dramatic decline in the economy and social infrastructure were arrested and detained without charge. Many protests were broken up by the police, often using excessive force... Thousands of people, mostly in rural areas, became displaced as a result of the state-sponsored political violence and no longer had access to their food stocks, land or other forms of livelihood.”

West Acts on Piracy, Not on Arms Embargo

The Amnesty report also contrasted Western action against piracy off the coast of Somalia with its failure to act against human rights violations in Somalia.

“The international community mobilized unprecedented resources to combat piracy off the coast of Somalia and to protect its commercial interests,” it said. “It made no such efforts, however, to halt the flow of arms to Somalia - despite a United Nations embargo. Nor did it act effectively to stop the widespread violations of international humanitarian law by all parties to the conflict...”

Read the Amnesty regional report on Africa>>

Read the full report [link to large PDF]>>

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