Central African Republic Concludes Peace Negotiations With Rebel Groups

By: Hannah Gabbard
Impunity Watch Reporter, Africa

BANGUI, Central African Republic – On February 2nd, the Central African Republic government and 14 armed groups signed a peace deal to end the conflict that began in 2013.

UN Under-Secretary-General for Peace Operations Jean-Pierre Lacroix and African Union Commissioner for Peace and Security Smail Chergui. Photo Courtesy of MINUSCA.

In 2013, Muslim Seleka rebel groups seized Central African Republic capital Bangui. Rebel groups and the government began fighting over control of lands with valuable resources such as gold and diamonds. Since 2013, the fighting targeted civilians, health facilities, schools, religious centers, and camps for internally displaced peoples. Thousands have been killed in the fighting in addition to the one million internally displaced and over one half million who have fled Central African Republic.

A UN report previously identified a high risk for genocide in the Central African Republic. As a result of the conflict, two Central African citizens have been sent to the International Criminal Court (ICC) to stand trial for war crimes. The ICC prosecutor has alleged crimes committed by both Muslim Seleka and Christian anti-balaka forces. These crimes include both war crimes and crimes against humanity.

The peace negotiations were organized by the UN and the African Union directed African Initiative for Peace and Reconciliation in the Central African Republic.

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) announced that more than 63 percent of the country will require humanitarian assistance. UN Under-Secretary-General for Peace Operations Jean-Pierre Lacroix called on UN member states to assist with the implementation of the peace agreement.

For further information, please see:

BBC – Central African Republic agrees peace deal with rebel groups – 2 February 2019

New York Times – Central African Republic Armed Groups Reach Peace Deal – 2 February 2019

UN News – UN calls for support to implement Central Africa’s newly minted peace agreement – 2 February 2019

UN News – ‘Everyone must be on board’ for peace in Central African Republic: UN’s Lacroix – 10 January 2019


Hate Speech Complaint Filed at South African Human Rights Commission

By: Hannah Gabbard
Impunity Watch Reporter, Africa

CAPE TOWN, South Africa – Several groups have filed a complaint against the Black First Land First (BLF) group at the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) for hate speech.

Collapsed walkway at Hoërskool Driehoek. Photo Courtesy of Christa Eybers.

On Monday, February 4th, 2019 the Democratic Alliance (DA) and Freedom Front Plus (FFP) filed their complaint. They were later joined by the Congress for the People (COPE). All three groups have condemned the comments made by BLF spokesperson Lindsay Maasdorp after a walkway collapsed at the Hoërskool Driehoek school in Vanderbijlpark. This event resulted in the deaths of three students.

After the walkway collapsed, Maasdorp tweeted that the deaths of the students should be celebrated. Maasdorp also supported derogatory comments made on Facebook by other users. In response to Maasdorp’s tweets, COPE stated that the BLF’s intent is to “drive our country into a civil war.” Maasdorp has previously been criticized for his social media posts. 

SAHRC recently announced that they were going to hold the municipal government accountable for the walkway collapse. The Commission specifically stated that they would conduct a human rights audit for the school’s infrastructure.

For further information, please see:

Times Live – Human Rights Commission to take on govt over Hoërskool Driehoek deaths – 2 February 2019

EWN – DA, FFP to take BLF to SAHRC over comments on Hoërskool Driehoek tragedy – 2 February 2019

Times Live – BLF to be reported to Human Rights Commission over ‘racist’ Hoërskool Driehoek remarks – 3 February 2019

The Citizen – Cope charges BLF with ‘racist hate speech’ on Hoërskool Driehoek tragedy – 4 February 2019

Boko Haram Attack in Rann, Nigeria Displaces Thousands

By: Hannah Gabbard
Impunity Watch Reporter, Africa

ABUJA, Nigeria – On January 14th, 2019 terrorist organization Boko Haram attacked Rann in northeast Nigeria. 76,000 civilians living in Rann were internally displaced due to the conflict with Boko Haram.

Burial procession after Boko Haram attack in Nigeria. Photo Courtesy of Audu Marte.

In the attack over 100 structures were destroyed or damaged by fires that burnt south and west parts of the city. Osai Ojigho, Director of Amnesty International in Nigeria, stated that he believed the attack may constitute a war crime as civilians in the city were intentionally targeted.

Internally displaced civilians living in Rann were dependant on aid agencies for necessities such as food and health services. Since the attack the humanitarian services have no ability to reach those still living in Rann.

72 hours after the attack about 9,000 civilians moved towards the Cameroon border. Many arrived in Bodo, Cameroon, seven kilometers from Rann, where Medicins Sans Frontieres was available with health services. Cameroon authorities forced many refugees to return to Nigeria. The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) in Nigeria has begun to appeal to Cameroon not to send refugees back to Nigeria.

Attacks by Boko Haram have increased as the Presidential election in February nears. Current Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari is seeking a second term.

For further information, please see:

Premium Times – How Boko Haram attack destroyed Nigerian community, Rann – 20 January 2019

Channel NewsAsia – Boko Haram claims attack on northeast Nigerian town of Rann – 18 January 2019

Amnesty International – Nigeria: Satellite imagery shows charred remains of Rann after Boko Haram attack – 18 January 2019

Reuters – Tens of thousands cut off from aid in northeast Nigeria after attack – 18 January 2019

The Guardian – Thousands of Nigerian refugees fleeing Boko Haram forced back by Cameroon – 18 January 2019

Medicins Sans Frontieres – Thousands fleeing Rann attack seek refuge in Cameroon – 16 January 2018

Angola Decriminalizes Same-Sex Conduct

By: Skylar Salim
Impunity Watch Reporter, Africa

LUANDA, Angola –On January 23, 2019, the Angolan parliament voted to remove a “vices against nature” provision from their penal code. This provision acted to criminalize all same-sex conduct. Additionally, the parliament adopted a new penal code, the first time they changed the code since gaining independence from Portugal in 1975. The new penal code also prohibits discrimination based on one’s sexual orientation, providing that anyone who discriminates on this basis can face up to two years in prison. These changes to the penal code come from the administration of the newly elected President Joao Lourenco.

Iris Angola celebrating after the Angolan government gave them legal status. Photo courtesy of Iris Angola.

There have not been any known prosecutions under the removed provision. The Human Rights Watch states that despite this, the law gave “tacit state support to discrimination against gender and sexual minorities, contributing to a climate of impunity.” A UN Independent Expert, Victor Madrigal-Borloz, also notes that that law was “one of the root causes behind grave and pervasive human rights violations against gay, lesbian, trans and bisexual people.” Madrigal-Borloz urged countries who still criminalize same-sex conduct to restructure their own legal frameworks as Angola has in order to support human rights imperatives.

Angola’s LGBT rights lobby group, Iris Angola, claims that members must deal with discrimination when attempting to access health care, employment and education. While the group was established in 2013, the Angolan government gave Iris Angola legal status in 2017. Other countries such as Mozambique have legalized same-sex conducted but declined to give legal status to groups like Iris Angola.

Recently more countries have begun the process of decriminalizing same sex conduct. In 2018, India struck down anti-homosexuality laws. Closer to Angola, Cape Verde and Sao Tome and Principe have, also through legislative reform, abolished laws that criminalize same-sex relationships. While some countries are beginning to move in the same direction as Angola, LGBT communities still face discrimination and prosecution in many places. In Nigeria someone can face up to 14 years in prison for being in a same sex relationship. Dolapo Badmos, a high ranking policewoman in Nigeria, recently told LGBT people living in the country to leave or face persecution. Human rights groups have noted that 69 countries still criminalize same-sex conduct, and push for this to change as it has in Angola.

For further information, please see:

HRW – Angola Decriminalizes Same-Sex Conduct – 23 January 2019

AP – Angola Decriminalizes Same-Sex Conduct, Rights Group says – 24 January 2019

CNN – Angola has Decriminalized Same-Sex Relationships, Rights Group says – 24 January 2019

UN News – UN Welcomes Angola’s Repeal of Anti-gay law, and ban on Discrimination Based on Sexual Orientation – 25 January 2019

African Court Closes 51st Ordinary Session

By: Hannah Gabbard
Impunity Watch Reporter, Africa

TUNIS, Tunisia – On Friday, 7 December 2018, the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights (AfCHPR) commenced its 51st Ordinary Session in Tunis, Tunisia. During the 51st Ordinary Session, the court rendered four judgements.

African Court of Human and Peoples’ Rights 51st Ordinary Session in Tunis, Tunisia. Photo Courtesy of AfCHPR.

In the first matter, Ingabire Victoire Umuhoze was originally sentenced to eight years in prison for allegedly propagating ideologies of genocide and terrorism against the Republic of Rwanda. On appeal her sentence was increased by fifteen years. In 2014, Umuhoze applied to AfCHPR alleging that the government violated her rights. In 2017, the court ruled in favor of Umuhoze. They then ordered the government to restore her rights and delayed a decision on reparations. In the 51st Ordinary Session, the court dismissed Umuhoze’s request for an expunged record but ordered the Rwandan government to pay a total of 65,230,000 Rwandese Francs to Umuhoze and her family for material and moral prejudice suffered.

In the case of Armand Guehi v. United Republic of Tanzania, the court considered several allegations that during Guehi’s domestic proceedings the United Republic of Tanzania violated his rights under the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights. Guehi alleged that the government deprived his right to a fair trial by not providing access to an attorney or a translator. Guehi alleged that he was in custody for an unreasonable amount of time and held in poor conditions. The African Court found that the United Republic of Tanzania violated the Charter in regards to the condition during Guehi’s custody and dismissed the other allegations. The court ordered the government to pay Guehi reparations amounting to $2,500 USD.

In the third matter, Wereme Wangoko appealed to the African Court alleging the United Republic of Tanzania violated the applicant’s right to equity, equal protection under the law, non discrimination, and a fair trial under the African Charter. The court made a decision on the merits after dismissing the government’s objections for jurisdiction and admissibility. The court found that the United Republic of Tanzania did not violate any articles of the African Charter.

In the case of Mgosi Mwita v. United Republic of Tanzania, the court ruled that the government had violated Mwita’s right to equality and equal protection under the law. The United Republic of Tanzania was ordered to release Mwita from prison and to provide him with copies of his court documents. Additionally, the court allowed Mwita thirty days to file for reparations against the government.

In addition to the four judgements, AfCHPR recently announced that in 2019 they would be implementing reforms. These reforms would focus on modernizing the court’s workflow and case management as well as a new organization of internal methods and court procedures. Additionally, African Court President stated that AfCHPR would work to strengthen cooperation with the States, stakeholders, academia and other regional courts.

AfCHPR meets during Ordinary Sessions four times a year. They will convene for their 52nd Ordinary Session in 2019. As of November 2018, the court has received 190 applications and has finalized 48 of their cases.

For further information, please see:

Modern Ghana – 2019 is year for human rights reform – African Court – 8 January 2019

African Union –  Ingabire Victoire Umuhoza v. Republic of Rwanda – 7 December 2019

African Union – Armand Guehi v. United Republic of Tanzania – 7 December 2019

African Union – Werema Wangoko v. United Republic of Tanzania – 7 December 2019

African Union – Mgosi Mwita v. United Republic of Tanzania – 7 December 2019

African Court of Human and Peoples’ Rights – African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights to Deliver Four Judgements on Friday in Tunis – 5 December 2018