Prepared by The University of Iowa Center for Human Rights (UICHR)*
In June 2010, the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) hosted its annual World Cup matches in South Africa, in part to commemorate the release of Nelson Mandela from Robben Island prison twenty years earlier (February 11, 1990). Upon his release, Mandela spoke to the world: “[O]ur struggle has reached a decisive moment. We call on our people to seize this moment so that the process towards democracy is rapid and uninterrupted.” Since that time, beginning with the repeal of apartheid (designated a “crime against humanity” under international law), South Africa has made important progress towards humane governance. Still, within South Africa, human rights abuses remain; and all across Africa, especially in countries still shaped by colonial legacies and subsequent persistent patterns of public and private corruption, the human rights record is precariously mixed (African National Congress 2009; Global Issues 2009)
18 — Percent of South Africans currently living with HIV, a rate 25% higher among pregnant women due largely to individual and gang rapes, arguably unsurprising for a country burdened by an unemployment rate of nearly 25%, a poverty rate of 50%, an infant mortality rate almost eight times that of the world’s “developed” nations, and an average life expectancy of just 50 years—all of these conditions of which South Africa’s black population are the principal victims (theGrio.com 2010; BBC 2009; MSNBC 2006)
23 — Number of people killed in addition to 60 wounded in a December 2009 attack on the Shamo Hotel in Mogadishu, a consequence of fighting between Somalia’s military forces and armed opposition groups—violent struggles that have been sparked by piracy, unaccountable warlords, counterfeit currencies, toxic waste dumping, and other severe conditions that in turn have resulted in thousands of civilian causalities, displaced hundreds of thousands of Somali citizens, and provoked chains of assassinations and mysterious disappearances in an environment marked by corruption, impeded delivery of humanitarian food aid, endemic famine, and disease. (Amnesty International 2010)
50 — Percent of the Sierra Leone population living on less than $1 daily, forcing citizens to forego essential healthcare and depriving them of their internationally recognized rights to life and good health (Amnesty International 2009), and other factors that themselves are commonly the result of racial discrimination (Urban Institute 2009)
143 — Number of persons arbitrarily arrested in Zimbabwe in February 2010 for attending constitutional reform meetings of Zimbabwe’s Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), the opposition party to President Robert Mugabe’s Zimbabwe African National UnionPatriotic Front (ZANUPF) which, in a notoriously flawed presidential election, defeated the MDC in March 2002. The arrests took place notwithstanding a February 2009 Global Political Agreement between the ZANUPF and the MDC intended to resolve Zimbabwe’s eight-years-long economic and political crisis, but which has been continuously aborted by a ZANU-PF led culture of violence and the imposition of severe restrictions on freedom of speech and assembly (Human Rights Watch 2010).
321 — Number of villagers massacred in the northeast of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) in December 2009 exclusive of 80 boys and girls kept alive to become soldiers and sex slaves, owing to violent conflict waged since 1997 between the Congolese army and rebel dissidents, which has so far displaced more than 2 million people. In 2009 alone, the army and the dissidents murdered approximately 2,500 innocent civilians and raped over 7,000 women and girls country-wide (BBC World 2010; Human Rights Watch 2010).
368 — Number of persons imprisoned throughout Egypt because of alleged membership in the banned Muslim Brotherhood or participation in illegal demonstrations, the Egyptian government in recent years having restricted civil liberties and increased repression of its critics to quell social protests as part of a prolonged state of emergency declared in 1981 that allows officials, under Egypt’s Emergency Law, to “ban demonstrations and curb the rights to freedoms of expression, association and assembly as well as commit other human rights violations, including torture and other ill-treatment and unfair trials before military and emergency courts.” These conditions are made possible in part by over $1.3 billion in U.S. military aid annually and over $28 billion in U.S. economic and development assistance since 1975 (Amnesty International 2010; U.S. Department of State 2010)
444 — Number of members of Ethiopia’s Addis Ababa Police Commission fired in July 2009 for having committed armed robbery, theft, and rape but who never were prosecuted therefor, while members of opposition parties are arbitrarily and systematically imprisoned because the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF), the ruling party, which claimed to have won over 99.9% of the votes in April 2008 local elections, maintains power through intimidation as a routine tool of governance (U.S. Department of State 2010; Human Rights Watch 2010)
1,133 — Number of deaths during Kenya’s tumultuous, failed elections of 2007, with more than 400,000 people fleeing their homes in a political climate so charged that the country was on the brink of civil war (Human Rights Watch 2010)
3,000 — Approximate number of families forcibly evicted from their homes by Angola’s government during one week in July 2009 to make room in Luanda, Angola’s capital city, for upscale housing, businesses, and infrastructure expansion—a policy followed also in Chad, Equatorial Guinea, Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, Sudan, Swaziland, and Zimbabwe, leaving people homeless, without their personal possessions, access to clean water, food, healthcare, jobs, and education (Amnesty International 2009)
300-400,000 — Approximate number of deaths in Sudan’s Darfur region since 2003 resulting from violence propagated by the Sudanese government in conjunction with armed partisans drawn from Darfurian and Arab tribes known as the Janjaweed, notorious for massacre, torture, rape, forced displacement, organized starvation, and mass murder against Darfur’s non-Arab black Africans as well as threats against aid workers (SaveDarfur.org 2010; The Lancet 2010; Human Rights Watch 2009)
1,300,000 — Tons of cocoa from which chocolate is produced in Côte d’Ivoire each year (over one- third of annual worldwide production), predominantly at the hands of children, primarily boys 12–16 years of age, sold into slave labor and forced to harvest the cocoa beans under hazardous and inhumane conditions and extreme abuse, including deprivation of education (MSNBC 2009; BBC 2007).
26,000,000 — Approximate number of internally displaced persons (IDPs) worldwide (roughly half of whom live in Africa) forced to flee their habitats due to climate change, natural disaster, or armed conflict, and under circumstances that leave them vulnerable to severe human rights abuse, especially women and children—e.g., more than 4,000 IDP women reported rape in the war-torn South Kivu province of the Democratic Republic of the Congo in 2006; and an estimated 90% of the Lord’s Resistance Army in Northern Uganda comprises IDP children forced to be soldiers in the 23-year war between the Government of Uganda and the LRA, sometimes called the most neglected humanitarian emergency in the world today (UN News Centre 2009; Invisible Children 2009; International Displacement Monitoring Centre 2007)
*Copyright © 2010 by The University of Iowa Center for Human Rights (UICHR). Prepared by Bessie Dutton Murray Distinguished Professor of Law Emeritus and UICHR Senior Scholar Burns H. Weston with the generous assistance of Laura Lunn and Jennifer Wideman, students at the UI College of Law. For further information on human rights generally, please visit the UICHR web site.