The US State Department says several sub-Saharan countries made progress in human rights and multi-party democracy last year. Among them were Liberia, where voters chose Africa?s first democratically elected female head of state, and Uganda, where multi-party politics were re-introduced after decades of one-party rule.

Jeffrey Krilla is the US deputy assistant secretary for democracy, human rights and labor. He told English to Africa reporter William Eagle that ?[in Liberia] when Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf was declared the winner of the multi-party presidential elections, this was a very positive step for Liberia and all of Africa, but?she has quite a task ahead of herself rebuilding a shattered society coming out of 14 years of civil war?. [In Uganda you had], for the first time in a decade, opposition party participation in elections and in government. That was counterbalanced by Parliament eliminating presidential term limits?but I think generally the trends in Uganda were positive.?

The State Department says the continent also suffered setbacks ? a genocidal conflict continuing in Western Sudan, conflict between the government and opposition in countries such as Ethiopia, and a lack of progress in establishing a power-sharing government in Ivory Coast. According to Mr. Krilla, ?[in Sudan,] our human reports will show that [genocide] has not only continued, but the Sudanese government has not shown a great ability to control the militias in the Darfur region, whom they initially armed to fight African rebels in that area?. While in Ivory Coast you had the international working group trying to help move this very much divided country back on track, [trying to] move forward the political process to re-establish a functioning government for the entire country to [create] a power sharing government, but all of these efforts remained stalled.?

The findings are part of the annual US State Department Human Rights Report, which was released today. It offers an overview of human rights practices in 196 countries around the world, including more than 50 in sub-Saharan Africa.

The report details each country?s commitment to the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, including freedom of the press, speech, and assembly and the right to choose one?s own government. The annual study also notes cases of repression and discrimination. 

The report is delivered to Congress, translated into various languages and put on the Internet. It helps direct US efforts to promote human rights and serves as a guide in shaping policy and deciding how to allocate aid, training and other resources.