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Bi-Annual Report: April-October 2021

Introduction and executive summary

The last six months have seen increased repression and armed conflict which threaten to further restrict citizens’ exercise of their human rights and fundamental freedoms in the East and Horn of Africa sub-region. The conflict in the Tigray region of Ethiopia has further destabilised an already fragile Horn of Africa, as Somalia is dealing with a 30-year armed conflict. Djibouti and Eritrea remain extremely closed and repressive, tolerating little to no dissent. Additionally, a military coup in Sudan threatens to erase the gains of the popular 2018-2019 revolution of the Sudanese people. Other countries in the sub-region have also registered downward trends with reports of harassment of human rights defenders (HRDs), including journalists and activists, curtailing of the rights to freedom of opinion and expression, association, and peaceful assembly, leading to a further shrinking of the civic and democratic space.

The COVID-19 pandemic continues to spread. Some government authorities use excessive power under the guise of curbing the pandemic, and to specifically target human rights defenders. This report illustrates key infringements on democracy, rule of law, and human rights in the East and Horn of Africa.

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Human Rights Defender of the month: Joseph Oleshangay

As a human rights lawyer and advocate with the High Court of the United Republic of Tanzania, Joseph Moses Oleshangay spends most of his time crossing from one court to another, litigating human rights cases, some with life-altering implications for ordinary people. It is a monumental responsibility, one he never envisaged growing up.

As a young boy born into a Maasai household in northern Tanzania, his entire childhood revolved around cattle: “Our entire livelihood revolved around cattle. As a child, the main preoccupation was to tend to cows, and my formative years were spent grazing cattle around Endulen. It a simple lifestyle,” he says.

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