Opinion: Silence on abuses in Africa is complicity | Opinion | DW | 15.05.2016
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Opinion: Silence on abuses in Africa is complicity

Burundians are being disappeared for protesting the president's illegal rule. Heads of state across Africa use violence to maintain their power. What is the world doing about it? Not enough, DW's Dirke Köpp writes.

Some African leaders cling to power with an enraging shamelessness. The friendlier ones might buy their opponents' silence with monetary gifts or attractive government positions. Many others conduct their coercion more violently. Dissidents are disappeared or arbitrarily jailed, threatened or taught "lessons" in the form of physical attacks; more than a few are murdered.

The standoff in Burundi has gone on since President Pierre Nkurunziza (pictured left, with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in February) announced last year that he would seek a constitutionally iffy third term and then went on to win an election that was neither free nor fair. Hundreds of people have been killed, hundreds of thousands have been forced to flee, and others have disappeared - and then been found dead. Elsewhere, this might have caused international outcry, but Burundi hasn't made international headlines for months.

Dirke Köpp

DW's Dirke Köpp

Last week, the opposition in Chad announced that supporters were being threatened for challenging the "victory" of incumbent Idriss Deby in April's presidential election and saying that the vote should have led to a runoff between two other candidates. It's all the same to Deby, who has considered himself Chad's legitimate ruler for 26 years now. Has France decided to end its military cooperation with Chad? No. After election results were published, France's Defense Ministry sent a representative to visit Deby, considered a strategic partner against terror.

International indifference

This week Joseph Kabila was given carte blanche by the Republic of Congo's Constitutional Court. If elections cannot be held, the president is obliged to remain in office, the tribune decided. That worked out well for Kabila, who appointed the court: He had sought to remain in office anyhow. The European Union and Germany, which had made great efforts to assist in the 2006 election in hopes of stabilizing Congo, are sitting things out this time around.

In Uganda, Yoweri Museveni was just sworn in for his fifth term as president. He even invited Sudanese dictator Omar al-Bashir, wanted on an international arrest warrant, to attend the ceremony. That certainly must have caused international consternation. It didn't.

Granted, the international community announces the occasional sanction or halts development work closely tied to intransigent governments. On Thursday for instance, France's government announced that it would investigate the disappearance of soldiers in the wake of Chad's presidential election. But the EU, African Union, UN and donor nations must all do more: Otherwise, they make themselves complicit in human rights abuses, the undermining of democracy, the loss of freedom of expression and much more.

In the 1990s dissidents and democrats had African dictators worried that they wouldn't be able to hold on to their jobs much longer. Few are as afraid of that now. The silence of the international community is partly to blame for this.

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