A new draft report by the African Peer Review Mechanism on governance during COVID-19 assesses the impact of lockdowns and states of disaster or emergency during the pandemic. It cautions against the abuse of these powers and aims to guide governance reforms. A report on the allAfrica site notes that there is consensus that AU chair Cyril Ramaphosa is “doing well” to co-ordinate AU efforts to combat the disease and mitigate its economic impact.
However, ordinary citizens want to see their rights respected. Addressing the report, Mélanie Kombaté, of the West Africa Human Rights Defenders Network, said lockdowns and curfews to fight COVID-19 across the continent have resulted in an abuse of fundamental human rights. She pointed out that crackdowns by security forces in Nigeria, for example, resulted in 18 people being killed during the first week of lockdown compared to 15 COVID-19 fatalities.
Now the pandemic has given security forces and authoritarian governments free rein – out of sight of opposition parties and human rights defenders – to prey on citizens, especially those who disagree with them. Activists believe they should be regarded as “essential services” so they can move around and monitor security forces during curfews and lockdowns.
Many say the AU should help them obtain this from their governments. But does the AU have the capacity and influence to make such a call and ensure its implementation?
On a positive note, the report shows that some African countries dealt with the pandemic effectively from early on, compared to many countries around the world.
The report says the APRM report is a step in the right direction if governments are to learn from their peers. “The manner in which national public institutions have acted with effectiveness, transparency, sharing information and accountability in Africa reflects a stronger societal value inclination towards inclusiveness. Although African countries have been constantly criticised for being poorly governed, Africa’s governance responses to COVID-19 indicate, to a great extent, a much better degree of institutional preparedness than had been assumed earlier,” notes the report.Full report on the allAfrica site