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US Report Paints Grim Picture of Human Rights in Africa

The new U.S. annual report on human rights says abuses are still widespread across Africa, though it notes improvements in a few areas.

The report, released Thursday, says government security forces commit arbitrary and unlawful killings in some of the continent's most populous countries, including Nigeria, Kenya, and Ethiopia.

Its authors accuse the party of Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe of using arrests, torture, killings, and repressive laws to effectively block the right of citizens to change the government.

The report also criticizes the Democratic Republic of Congo for failing to protect civilians in the country's volatile east, and Uganda for considering a bill that would provide the death penalty for homosexuals.

On a more positive note, the U.S. says Somalia's transitional government is showing an increased respect for human rights. However, the report said the overall human rights picture in Somalia has deteriorated because of continued conflict, the availability of small arms, and the absence of the rule of law.

The State Department evaluates the human rights record of every country in the world each year, as required by law.

This year's report contains appraisals of 48 African countries. The full report is available on the State Department's Web site at