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State On Human Rights In Africa

The U.S. State Department has issued its latest report on human rights around the world. The report paints a mixed picture of the human rights situation in Africa in 2005. Some African governments became more repressive while others took steps toward democracy.

According to the State Department report, the government of Zimbabwe in 2005 "maintained a steady assault on human dignity and basic freedoms," tightening its hold on civil society and human rights groups and manipulating the March 2005 parliamentary elections. U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor Jeffrey Krilla says that the government of Zimbabwe "continues to move in the wrong direction":

"They continue to arrest and detain opposition leaders and their supporters. And then last year they closed down an independent newspaper, showing just how unwilling they are even to accept criticism. So the Zimbabwean government continues to be a real human rights offender on the continent."

Other African countries with deteriorating human rights records and climates of lawlessness and corruption include Sudan, Cote d’Ivoire, and Ethiopia. Mr. Krilla says Uganda was one of the African countries that had taken some positive steps:

"You saw citizens last year voting in a national referendum to adopt a multi-party system of government, parliament amending the electoral laws to, for the first time in a decade, include opposition party participation in elections and in government."

But these steps were called into question by the elimination of presidential term limits.

Another country that made progress last year was Liberia, where voters chose Africa’s first democratically elected female head of state, Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf. Her election, says U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Jeffrey Krilla, was "a very positive step for Liberia and for all of Africa."

The preceding was an editorial reflecting the views of the United States Government.