ACHPR63: Updates from the East and Horn of Africa (April 2018 – October 2018)

In its bi-annual report to the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, DefendDefenders provides a six-month overview of events affecting the rights to freedom of association, expression, and peaceful assembly in the East and Horn of Africa sub-region. Despite some areas of improvement in specific country situations, this submission highlights worrying trends across the sub-region, including the targeted harassment and attacks against human rights defenders (HRDs), as well as an overall shrinking of civic space between April and October 2018.

Disregarding their obligations under the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (the African Charter), over the past six months governments in the sub-region have sought to restrict legitimate expressions of civilian dissent like peaceful demonstrations, free expression of HRDs and independent media, as well as targeted civil society organisations (CSOs) through various strategies of harassment and repression. Throughout this submission period, DefendDefenders also published original research on the state of HRDs in South Sudan, Tanzania, as well as exiled Burundian HRDs living in Uganda and Rwanda, which only further highlight the deteriorating state of human rights in the sub-region.

The full report was compiled with input from National Coalitions for Human Rights Defenders and local focal points in the East and Horn of Africa, and submitted on 24 October 2018 at the 63rd Ordinary Session of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights in Banjul, The Gambia.

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Human Rights Defender of the month: Esther Tawiah

In Ghana, Esther Tawiah is one of the loudest voices for women empowerment and gender. It is also why she is one of the most loathed. Born and raised in New-Tafo in the country’s eastern region, Esther grew up surrounded by a culture that frowned at the idea of women participating in public affairs, and witnessed firsthand, the backlash those who dared to challenge that cultural norm faced.

“I grew up in a society where ageism and sexism were so entrenched. As a young person, you weren’t supposed to give your opinion on public issues, especially if you were a woman. Women who dared to speak up were caricatured and branded as frustrated, unmarriageable prostitutes, all designed to shut them up,” she says.

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