While Southern African Development Community leaders meet in Namibia, rights groups say they’ve been blocked from protesting what they see as SADC’s failure to uphold human rights.
A police ban against demonstrations is in effect across the country. In a recent statement, police said they imposed it because they are unable to provide the protesters adequate protection due to a heavy schedule.
In Windhoek, Phil ya Nangoloh, head of the Namibian National Society for Human Rights, says some unresolved rights issues in southern Africa include the killing of a human rights worker in the DRC, harassment of rights defenders and rights abuses in Zimbabwe and Swaziland.
“The human rights situation in the SADC region is precarious,” he says.
Ya Nangoloh says human rights groups are unable to get their message to SADC leaders at the Windhoek summit.
“You cannot even get close to them," he said. "We would have liked a group of human rights defenders to go there, but if you go there in a group of five, that will constitute a gathering, an assembly of people, which was banned by the Namibian police on the 12th of August.”
The police ban includes “all gatherings, all marches” until August 20. “But we know that this ban is intended only for human rights defenders, human rights organizations and opposition, who wanted to demonstrate,” he says.
The society’s lawyers say the ban is unconstitutional. Another rights group plans to challenge it in court.