Amnesty International's annual human rights report says too many African nations continue to be plagued by war, political repression, poverty, and violence against women. It is particularly critical of four countries: Ethiopia, Eritrea, Togo and Zimbabwe.

Amnesty International says Africa's human rights situation in 2003 was characterized by widespread armed conflict, repression of political opponents, and limited access to justice for the most marginalized in society.

There were problems reported even in relatively peaceful, democratic nations such as South Africa, but the report was particularly critical of the government of Zimbabwe.

Amnesty International spokesman Samkelo Mokhine says the list of human rights violations is long.

?Some of the highlights on the entry for Zimbabwe were the escalation in state-sponsored attacks on critics of government, particularly supporters of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change,? he said. Incidents of ill-treatment and torture were reported throughout the year covered in the report, and hundreds of people were detained for holding political meetings or peaceful political protests... Most disconcerting is the political manipulation of food aid by officials and supporters of the ruling ZANU-PF.?

The list also includes threats to the independence of the judiciary and press freedom.

This is not the first time Amnesty International has criticized the Zimbabwean government. The annual human rights report has grown more bleak about the situation there every year.

Mr. Mokhine does not predict an improvement anytime soon.

?It is very hard to see light at the end of the tunnel as it were now,? he said. ?The government has just ruled out talks with the opposition MDC. The role that President Mbeki was trying to play, brokering and putting deadlines to talks, does not seem to have been met. So I think we are really going to see things getting a lot worse. And with the issue of food becoming more of an issue as well, I think it can only become worse, especially for people not aligned to the ruling party.?

The Zimbabwean ambassador to South Africa was not available for comment on the report. But previously, Zimbabwean officials have accused Amnesty International of bias and being a tool of the West.

Mr. Mokhine is not particularly worried about what the Zimbabwean government thinks. He says Amnesty International would not expect any government to readily admit committing human rights violations.