Protesters' prospects in Africa
By Elizabeth Mbundu, Hilversum
High food prices, exorbitant fuel costs and widespread corruption frequently trigger human rights demonstrations in different African countries. But just how free are protestors on the continent? RNW asked Amnesty International.
Spokesperson for the Dutch branch of the global organization Ruud Bosgraaf says the treatment of protesters varies per country.
In South Africa and Botswana, protesters are allowed to self-organize and are less likely to get fined, much less arrested.
But when demonstrators take it to the streets in Sudan, Angola, Zimbabwe, Uganda and Senegal, they are squashed by security forces. Sometimes injuries or even death are reported.
Yet it’s the worst in Eritrea and Ethiopia. “There is hardly any form of freedom of speech,” says Bosgraaf about two countries Amnesty International has followed for a while. “People in those countries don’t even organize themselves for a demonstration, as they would be immediately imprisoned, abused or tortured by security forces. Eritrea is known for putting people in sweltering shipping containers.”
The protest was the second in three days of demonstrations called by the opposition-led 'Save Togo' campaign seeking to reverse laws adopted by the ruling party-dominated parliament last month.
A witness said police deployed in the streets of the capital Lomé in the early afternoon and were still removing burning tyres and bricks.
"We will not give up..," said Jean-Pierre Fabre, leader of the ANC, a major opposition party. "We will not let the government unilaterally decide on matters relating to the elections. Everything must be agreed on through consensus."
There was no immediate statement from the government.
Address imbalances, say the opposition
The opposition wants constituencies redrawn to address imbalances it says favour the ruling party and is challenging a move to increase from 81 to 91 the number of seats in parliament.
Togo's President Faure Gnassingbe came to power in flawed and violent 2005 elections following the death of his father.
He was re-elected in a March 2010 poll that foreign officials said showed some improvement and some businessmen say he has taken some initial steps to push through some reforms.
Gnassingbe and his allies control over 50 of the current 81-seat parliament.