On Tuesday, Amnesty International urged governments in West and Central Africa to combat corruption and cease “persecuting” those who speak out in support of human rights.
The group condemned the “arrests,” “harassment,” “detention,” and “even death” of human rights advocates battling corruption in the 19 countries of West and Central Africa in a report released in honor of Africa Anti-Corruption Day.
These individuals are essential to the battle against corruption and, by extension, the defense of fundamental rights. Yet when they come forward with the truth, they become the focus of assaults, intimidation, harassment, and persecution, according to Agnès Callamard, secretary general of Amnesty International.
The situation involving journalist Martinez Zogo from Cameroon was used as an example by the human rights organization. According to Amnesty International, he had been investigating and publishing information on the alleged embezzlement of hundreds of billions of CFA francs from political figures and from the business world close to the government when he was kidnapped by unidentified men on January 17 and found dead five days later, his body mutilated.
On December 10, 2021, journalist Ferdinand Ayité was detained in Togo after he accused two officials of wrongdoing.
On March 15, 2023, he and a coworker were found guilty of “dissemination of false information” and “contempt of representatives of public authority” and were each given a three-year prison sentence and a fine of three million CFA francs (4,500 euros).
Both appealed against this decision but had to flee the country for their safety, according to the organization.
Ms. Callamard called on governments in the region to “address the pervasive culture of impunity” which she said continues to fuel endemic corruption and deprives victims of access to justice and remedies.
Amnesty International calls on these states to adopt laws, and policies, and implement practices to “strongly protect themselves” against corruption.