AU should emulate EU by standing firm against human rights violations in African countries
By Desmond Oguda
| June 22nd 2015
There is a reason why the European Union (EU) is viewed as a model of international integration. For a country to join and stay in EU, according to the Copenhagen Criteria, the country has to have stable institutions guaranteeing democracy, rule of law, human rights and respect for and protection of minorities. In most instances, these countries do abide by the rules set by the commission in terms of human rights, democracy and respect for the rule of law. That is why African states must rise and try modeling the African Union (AU) the EU way.
As it is, the AU lets itself down by virtually admitting every applicant within the African continent - including countries with gross human rights violations like Eritrea. Eritrea is one of the poorest countries in the world and has had a poor human rights record for a long time now.
Recently, a report by Human Rights Concern group (HRC) revealed that systematic, widespread and gross human rights violations take place in Eritrea every single day under the government’s authority. Some of these violations constitute crimes against humanity.
The Asmara government has created and sustained a repressive system to control, silence and isolate individuals in the country thereby depriving them of their fundamental freedom of speech and expression. The country has a national service and forced labour that effectively abuse, exploit and enslave the population for an indefinite period of time – according to the report by HRC.
The government has also instilled fear in her citizens who now resort to fleeing the country to save their lives and the lives of their family members. The situation has sparked a mass exodus from the country and as a result Eritrea has the second largest population of refugees risking their lives in the Mediterranean Sea into Europe - after the war ravaged Syria. According to the United Nations (UN) 6-10% of Eritreans are registered as refugees either inside or outside their country.
All these have occurred in the face of the AU with no condemnation, suspensions, sanctions or financial penalties to Eritrea. In this view, I think the AU has proven unsupportive to the Eritrean population whose lives are at risk. The African Union should therefore act on Eritrea by altering their modus oparendi with regards to states that do not endorse the human rights by putting in place strict rules for admitting new members. Member states who prove to be involved in human rights violations should be either expelled or slapped with sanctions until such a time that they support human rights.
Just as Central Africa Republic (CAR) was slapped with a suspension over a coup d’état, the AU should slap Eritrea with some penalties such as suspension or membership rights withdrawal over the human rights violations and also compel the Asmara government to accept divergent views and criticism from within and without the country. By doing so, the AU shall be helping entrench freedom of speech and expression in Africa and thus it will be achieving one of its goals. This will also make it a model integration block in the world just like the EU.
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