News / Africa

Amnesty Warns Ethiopia, Rwanda Not to Trade Rights for Growth

Gabe Joselow
NAIROBI - Amnesty International is concerned that Rwanda and Ethiopia are overlooking their commitments to human rights for the sake of economic growth. A new report from the human rights group says the authoritarian governments of both countries have stifled the opposition and persecuted journalists.

In the past seven years, Ethiopia has sustained an 11 percent economic growth rate and substantially reduced poverty among its 83 million citizens.

The country has gone to great lengths to incorporate the United Nations Millennium Development Goals into its national policy, enforced by an authoritarian ruling party that has been in power for the last 20 years.

Amnesty Africa Program Director Erwin van der Borght says these improvements have come at a cost.

“Certainly Ethiopia has made progress in terms of its economic development, but in a way it has neglected to respect and protect civil and political rights such as the right to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly," said van der Borght.

The Ethiopia chapter of Amnesty's 2012 human rights report highlights key rights concerns in the country, including legislation restricting rights organizations, and the arrests of hundreds of opposition members and journalists.

Van der Borght says it is in Ethiopia's own economic interest to loosen political restrictions.

“It's a given that a strong opposition makes often a better government," he said. "And if you don't allow that space for civil society or political opposition, then in the longer term you may put at risk the progress you've made in terms of development and economic growth.”

Van der Borght notes that Tunisia and other North African countries rocked by the Arab Spring also had fast-growing economies before the uprisings.

Amnesty International has similar concerns for Rwanda.

The country has also experienced rapid growth in the past few years, under the firm guidance of President Paul Kagame and his party, the Rwandan Patriotic Front.
The World Bank named Rwanda among the 10 most improved economies in 2010.  This year, it was ranked the third easiest place to do business in Africa this year.

The Amnesty International report on Rwanda decries what he calls arbitrary arrests and unfair convictions of government critics and the unlawful detention of journalists.
But, van der Borght says the country could improve if it finally enacted proposed reforms to reduce state control of the media.|

“You could expect some positive change," said van der Borght. "However, if you look at the reality on the ground, we haven't seen any significant progress yet. Individuals are still prosecuted under the same legislation that the government wants to reform. So that's not a good sign.”

The media reform laws are making their way through the Rwandan parliament and are expected to be taken up by the senate soon.

You May Like

Video On the Scene: In Gaza, Darkness Brings Dread and Death

Palestinians fear nighttime raids, many feel abandoned by outside world, VOA's Scott Bobb reports More

African Small Farmers Could Be Key to Ending Food Insecurity

Experts say providing access to microloans, crop insurance, better storage facilities, irrigation, road systems and market information could enable greater production More

University of Michigan Wins Solar Car Race

Squad guided its student-designed solar-powered vehicle to fifth consecutive time victory in eight-day bi-annual American Solar Challenge More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Gazans in Shelled School Sought Shelteri
X
Scott Bobb
July 30, 2014 8:16 PM
Israel's air and ground assault against Hamas-led fighters in Gaza has forced many Palestinians to flee their homes, seeking safety. But safe places are hard to find, as VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Jabaliya.
Video

Video Gazans in Shelled School Sought Shelter

Israel's air and ground assault against Hamas-led fighters in Gaza has forced many Palestinians to flee their homes, seeking safety. But safe places are hard to find, as VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Jabaliya.
Video

Video Rapid Spread of Ebola in West Africa Prompts Global Alert

Across West Africa, health officials are struggling to keep up with what the World Health Organization describes as the worst ebola outbreak on record. The virus has killed hundreds of people this year. U.S. President Barack Obama and other world leaders are watching the developments closely as they weigh what actions, if any, are needed to help contain the disease.
Video

Video Michelle Obama: Young Africans Need to Embrace Women's Rights

U.S. first lady Michelle Obama urged some of Africa's best and brightest to advocate for women's rights in their home countries. As VOA's Pam Dockins explains, Obama spoke to some 500 participants of the Young African Leaders Initiative, a six-week U.S.-based training and development program.
Video

Video Immigrant Influx on Texas Border Heats Up Political Debate

Immigrants from Central America continue to cross the U.S.-Mexico border in south Texas, seeking asylum in the United States, as officials grapple with ways to deal with the problem and provide shelter for thousands of minors among the illegal border crossers. As VOA's Greg Flakus reports from Houston, the issue is complicated by internal U.S. politics and U.S. relations with the troubled nations that immigrants are fleeing.
Video

Video Study: Latino Students Most Segregated in California

Even though legal school segregation ended in the United States 60 years ago, one study finds segregation still occurs in the U.S. based on income and race. The University of California Los Angeles Civil Rights Project finds that students in California are more segregated by race than ever before, especially Latinos. Elizabeth Lee reports for VOA from Los Angeles.
Video

Video Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spat

China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video A Summer Camp for All the World

VIDEO: During workshops and social gatherings, the Global Youth Village summer camp encourages young people to cooperate and embrace their differences, while learning to communicate with people from other countries. VOA's Deborah Block has more.
Video

Video From Cantankerous Warlock to Incorruptible Priest, 'Harry Potter' Actor Embraces Diverse Roles

He’s perhaps best known as Mad Eye Moody, the whimsical wizard in the Harry Potter franchise. But character actor Brendan Gleeson's resume includes dozens of films, and he embraces all the characters he inhabits with equal passion. In an interview with VOA’s Penelope Poulou, Gleeson discussed his new drama "Calvary" and his secret to success.

AppleAndroid