"Let us be proud that we were able to ultimately rise above our intense political and other differences in a renewed determination as a people to foster dialogue instead of violence, promote unity rather than disharmony, and engender hope rather than disillusionment and despair."
--Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, President of Liberia
Across the political and human landscape of sub-Saharan Africa, the United States promoted human rights and democracy as its primary foreign policy objective. It advanced good governance through a variety of approaches, including strong diplomatic representation, trade incentives, and grassroots programs that carried the message of democracy to the village level. In 2005, these initiatives led to numerous gains throughout the region. In the Democratic Republic of Congo, U.S. support to the Independent Electoral Commission helped register 25 million voters across 11 provinces for the country's successful December 2005 constitutional referendum and the presidential election scheduled to take place before June 30, 2006. U.S. support for national elections in Liberia, which included strengthening political parties, promoting voter registration, and training polling officials, assisted the country's democratic development.
Despite these accomplishments, serious challenges remained and significant violations of human rights continued. In Darfur, the Sudanese Government, Government-supported militia, and Darfur rebel movements committed serious human rights and humanitarian law abuses. Violence against women and girls, including widespread rape, were serious problems in Sudan. Following strong gains by opposition parties in parliamentary elections in Ethiopia, the Government arrested opposition leaders, journalists, and prominent members of civil society. The Government of Ethiopia charged these individuals with capital offenses ranging from "outrages against the constitution" to genocide. The political crisis continued in Cote d'Ivoire, where the Gbagbo Government made few gains in either peace talks with the rebels or preparations for the country's planned 2006 presidential election.
To promote human rights in Africa, the United States offered strong incentives for African governments to move toward political openness through the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), which carries a strong democracy and human rights component and provides significant trade benefits to eligible countries. In addition, the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) granted substantial assistance to countries that pursued reforms in the areas of ruling justly, investing in people, and fostering economic freedom. During 2005, 17 African countries qualified for MCC compact or threshold program eligibility.
To promote durable peace and free democracy in Burundi, the United States initiated programs aimed at enhancing media freedom and freedom of speech and played an important role in supporting the country's successful 2005 elections. With these elections, Burundi became the first sub-Saharan country since South Africa to move from minority rule to democratic majority rule through negotiations and democratic elections. The United States actively supported peace talks in Sudan that led to the Comprehensive Peace Agreement, ending 22 years of civil war. The United States continued to support the formation of the Government of National Unity, while vigorously pressing Khartoum and rebel forces alike to end the continuing violence in Darfur.
Many U.S. initiatives in sub-Saharan Africa were designed to chip away at the foundations of totalitarian rule, to open up political space, and to encourage silent voices to speak out. In Zimbabwe, where fraudulent senate elections further tightened President Mugabe's grip on power, the U.S. Government hosted two conferences that highlighted the lack of press freedom and provided uncensored news to the Zimbabwean public through radio broadcasts of the Voice of America. In addition, U.S.-funded NGOs disseminated information on human rights and civil society. In Equatorial Guinea, U.S. action led to the Government's signing of a "Social Needs Fund" to accelerate the investment of the country's vast oil revenues to address health, education, women's issues, and sanitation. The United States also worked with opposition parties, civil society, youth, and media to encourage their participation in the expansion of democracy and respect for human rights.
In the struggle to promote democracy and respect for human rights and workers' rights in Africa the closest allies of the United States are the region's democratic governments themselves. The United States continues to work closely with freely elected governments everywhere to ensure that human freedom becomes an African reality.
Finding Common Ground With Angolan Civil Society
To support Angolans seeking to promote peace and reconciliation in their country following 27 years of civil war, the U.S.-funded NGO Search for Common Ground (SFCG) developed a project aimed to build the capacity of civil society and political institutions to address and resolve conflict. SFCG civil society workshops improved local groups' conflict resolution abilities by training individuals in skills needed to identify the root causes of conflict; develop strategies for appropriate intervention through mediation, facilitation, and negotiation; and craft community programs to resolve specific conflicts, including resource distribution and returnee reintegration.
In addition, the SFCG project fortified important linkages between civil society, government, political parties, and security forces. By collaborating to solve different problems affecting local communities, Angolan citizens at all levels of society worked to build peace and stability in the country.
Another essential component of the SFCG project was to provide training for Angolan high school students destined to become future police and military personnel. Workshops developed students' ability to resolve conflicts through nonviolent means and broadened their knowledge and understanding of human rights.
Since the end of its protracted civil war four years ago, Angola has experienced relative peace and social and political stability. International and domestic efforts contributed to the demobilization and reintegration of National Union for Total Independence of Angola (UNITA) combatants, and UNITA is now a disarmed opposition political party. Resettlement of internally displaced persons to their places of origin and the return of thousands of refugees from neighboring countries continued. While the Government's human rights record showed improvements in a few areas, serious problems remained. There were reports of unlawful killings, disappearances, torture, and abuse of persons. Arbitrary arrest and lengthy pretrial detention were problems. The court system did not always ensure due process and remained inefficient and overburdened. The Government continued to limit media access in the provinces and to place impediments to some political demonstrations.
The U.S. strategy for improving human rights and democratic governance in Angola focused on preparing stakeholders for upcoming elections, supporting independent media, strengthening civil society, fostering greater transparency, and supporting the rule of law. To reach these goals, the Embassy partnered with the Government and several international and local NGOs.
The establishment of strong democratic norms and institutions is a critical component of U.S. policy in Angola. During a May 2004 meeting with President Bush, Angolan President Jose Eduardo dos Santos committed to hold elections by 2006. The Government took important steps during 2005 to prepare for the elections, including the passage of electoral laws and constituting a National Election Commission; however, the electoral calendar has not been announced.
During the year, the United States supported projects to prepare civil society organizations and political parties for national elections. U.S. funds supported the expansion and consolidation of various national election networks critical to broadening citizen involvement in the election process throughout Angola's 18 provinces. These networks held more than 40 town hall meetings that brought political party officials and 4,150 community members together. The United States also supported training and technical assistance for political parties at the national and provincial levels on issues such as platform development, message delivery, and constituency relations. Other U.S.-funded programs facilitated comprehensive debates over electoral rules and regulations. Both civil society groups and political parties played significant roles in these debates. Civil society organizations successfully lobbied for changes to the law on electoral observation that will allow local NGOs, as well as political parties and international observers, to serve as observers throughout electoral preparations and actual voting. Opposition parties worked with the ruling Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA) party to pass a largely consensual package of electoral laws.
The United States continued to support independent media in 2005. In October, the Embassy, in cooperation with the Ministry of Social Communication, organized a high-level training program attended by more than 100 press spokespersons, senior journalists, and media executives. The training session focused on how to manage a press office and work more successfully with international and local press. The Embassy assisted the Angolan Syndicate of Journalists and the Inter-Ecclesiastical Committee for Peace in Angola to provide media training and organize community forums and radio debates in order to prepare more than 100 journalists in four provinces for upcoming elections. Three senior journalists traveled to the United States as part of the International Visitors Leadership Program. The United States supported the establishment of an independent media organization, MultiPress, to produce accurate and timely news and information broadcast by Voice of America. For many Angolans, particularly rural residents, these broadcasts are the only independent source of information on issues that impact their lives. MultiPress established correspondents in all 18 provinces and produced more than 3,060 news broadcasts, information spots, debates, and interviews on key democratic governance issues such as land rights, rights to education, political and electoral processes, access to information, and transparency. In discussions with President dos Santos and the Ministry of Social Communications, the Embassy advocated for the expansion of independent radio broadcasts to the provinces, including those of the largest nongovernmental radio network, Radio Ecclesia. The Embassy helped local NGOs implement human rights awareness programs focusing on critical issues, including transparency, education, and democratic principles. These NGOs reached out to more than 32,000 local citizens through town meetings, seminars, advocacy campaigns, workshops, and debates. The United States funded a monthly educational newsletter on human rights with a circulation of 26,000.
The Embassy began new conflict mitigation and peace building activities at the local level. These programs helped create and train 56 community development groups to work in partnership with local government administrations to define and address their specific needs and priorities.
To foster transparency, the Embassy worked with the Ministry of Finance (MOF) to implement a Fiscal Programming Unit (FPU). The mandate of the FPU is to strengthen fiscal management in the MOF throughout the government's budgeting process. This program recruited five professional staff members, developed a detailed training program, and completed cataloging the Public Administrative Accounts, which represented more than 60 percent of the government's total expenditures.
Improvement of the legal system is a critical factor in the political and economic development of Angola. To help develop the legal system, the U.S.-funded Commercial Law Development Program (CLDP) provided training and consultative services to judges and court clerks. Over the past four years, CLDP has assisted the Ministry of Justice to improve its judicial system by focusing on procedural issues of the courts. CLDP trained 30 senior court clerks to improve court administration in the provincial and municipal courts of Benguela and Lobito, provided technical skills to ensure random assignment of judges, and helped establish a system for the tracking of cases and the continuous accountability of documents. The Embassy, the Ministry of Justice, and the Portuguese Government formalized plans during the year to provide the hardware, software, and training necessary to computerize the Angolan case management system.
The Embassy continued to focus on human rights throughout 2005, consistently underscoring the important connection between support for human rights and a strong relationship with the United States. The Embassy regularly discussed human rights issues with government officials at all levels and frequently traveled outside of the capital to discuss human rights issues.
The Embassy continued to monitor the human rights situation throughout the country, focusing on Cabinda, Lunda Norte, and Lunda Sul provinces. The Ambassador encouraged human rights training for military officials in Cabinda. The United States sent 29 police officers to International Law Enforcement Academy (ILEA) training and helped an Angolan ILEA alumni group conduct in-service training for colleagues. The United States also supported a program that conducted six human rights training sessions for 195 students in local high schools, whose graduates frequently join the police or military.
On November 13, President Blaise Compaore was elected to a third five-year term in elections characterized by observers as generally free but not entirely fair due to the resource advantages held by the President. The country's human rights record remained poor, but there were improvements in some areas, including significant efforts to combat female genital mutilation and trafficking in persons (TIP). The judiciary is subject to executive influence, and individual members of security forces continue to commit human rights abuses.
The United States focused its strategy to promote democracy and human rights in Burkina Faso on diplomatic and programmatic measures to support free and fair presidential elections in November 2005 and municipal elections in March 2006, and to promote the Government's compliance with international human rights norms. The United States also emphasized accountability and transparency in governance, enhancing capacity building of political parties, and further easing political tensions.
The United States funded a program to build capacity in political parties and to promote inter-party dialogue in order to maximize the competitiveness of the 2005 presidential and 2006 municipal elections. The program targeted upgrading the political and organizational skills of opposition parties, which had captured 49% of the seats in the May 2002 parliamentary elections. This program generated good will from civil society and political parties while garnering respect from the Government and the ruling party, Congress for Democracy and Progress (CDP). The program involved participants from the entire political spectrum, including members of the CDP and members of the moderate and radical opposition.
The United States allocated funds to produce radio programs on human rights as well as television commercials to encourage voting and explain the electoral process. The United States also funded the translation of human rights declarations into local languages, the development of the judicial system as it relates to the rights of women, seminars on electoral law and the proper submission of legal challenges to dubious election results, and the promotion of tolerance through a summer camp for Koranic school students.
As part of the International Visitors Leadership Program (IVLP), the Embassy sent a number of professionals in the areas of democracy, good governance, conflict resolution, civic education, and journalism to the United States. The United States also sent three participants on an IVLP about Islam in a democracy.
The United States provided funding to three Burkinabe organizations to monitor the 2005 presidential and 2006 municipal elections. The organizations presented their reports to the public. The United States funded several workshops for children on the rights and responsibilities of citizenship, and several workshops for women on their rights and the importance of procuring legal documents such as national identification cards.
The United States provided training to military personnel and civilians on maintaining civilian control over the military in a democracy and the legal implications of the war on terror.
The United States sponsored a number of workshops and discussions exploring different religions and the importance of tolerance. The Embassy regularly met with Burkina Faso's Muslim community for discussions and exchanges. During the recent month of Ramadan, the Embassy hosted three Iftaar dinners during which American-Muslim employees of the Embassy shared experiences as a Muslim in America.
In addition, the United States funded several projects in the fight against TIP. A Burkinabe NGO rehabilitated and reintegrated 70 repatriated children in two U.S.-funded centers. The same NGO is also producing a documentary on local anti-trafficking laws. The United States also funded the translation of already-existing French language anti-trafficking films into local languages. Additionally, the United States is midway through a multi-year project intended to reduce child trafficking by creating locally relevant curricula in rural schools. The United States funded a program to combat child labor in the mining sector with the Interntional Labor Organization (ILO) as an implementing partner.
In 2005, Burundi completed its political transition as the first sub-Saharan African country since South Africa to move from minority rule to democratic, majority rule via negotiations and elections. The electoral process began in February with the adoption of a Constitution, continued in May, June, and July with local and legislative elections, and culminated on August 26 with the inauguration of Pierre Nkurunziza as Burundi's first democratically elected President since 1993. International observers monitored the elections and judged them to have been free and fair. Despite the change in government and an increase in respect for political rights following the adoption of the new Constitution, Burundi's human rights record remained poor. Security forces continued to commit numerous arbitrary and unlawful killings. There were credible reports of disappearances, and security forces continued to torture, beat, and otherwise abuse persons. Credible reports documented the rape of women and girls by security forces acting with impunity. Despite some improvements, prison conditions remained very poor. Impunity and the continuing lack of accountability for those who committed past abuses remained serious problems. Arbitrary arrest and lengthy pretrial detention were problems, and there were reports of incommunicado detention. The court system did not always ensure due process or provide citizens with fair trials. Freedom of the press worsened, primarily amid electoral tensions. Refugee and asylum seeker rights deteriorated markedly, and the Government cooperated to a much lesser extent with UN agencies and international organizations aiding refugees and asylum seekers. Rebel forces of the PALIPEHUTU-FNL, the only remaining rebel group, continued to commit numerous serious human rights abuses against civilians, including killings, kidnappings, rapes, theft, extortion, forced labor, and the forcible recruitment and employment of children as child soldiers.
U.S. human rights and democracy goals in Burundi included helping build a just and lasting peace based on democratic principles, protecting human rights, and relieving human suffering. These goals were supported by U.S. efforts to strengthen newly created and newly elected governing bodies, decrease corruption, strengthen civil society, promote ethnic, political, and regional reconciliation, support victims of torture, and reintegrate ex-combatants and former child soldiers. The United States engaged government officials and political party leaders to ensure respect for Burundi's transitional power-sharing arrangements and directly supported the conduct of free and fair elections. The United States also supported a variety of programs to promote media freedom and the freedom of speech, strengthen civil society, and mitigate local conflicts, including conflicts over national resources. To protect individual rights during the ongoing conflict, the Embassy raised specific cases and broader patterns of abuses with government leaders.
The United States supported the electoral process by providing training, electoral materials, and technical support to the National Independent Election Commission for a constitutional referendum and subsequent local and national level elections. The Embassy also helped coordinate electoral observation with international partners.
The United States advocated respect for freedom of speech and supported the strengthening of independent media organizations. When Etienne Ndikuriyo, a radio journalist and editor of an Internet-based newssheet, was arrested in June for writing that then-President Domitien Ndayizeye suffered from depression, the Embassy lobbied government officials for his release. Faced with increasing local and international condemnation, the Government released Ndikuriyo after nine days of detention.
The United States provided financial and material support to independent radio stations, as well as to the government's radio and television conglomerate. This financial and material support allowed them to produce programs focused on human rights issues, community reconciliation, conflict mitigation, and the promotion of democratic principles. In addition, U.S.-supported partners joined with other independent media to broadcast candidate debates and provide nationwide reporting throughout the electoral cycle. The Embassy also funded a series of seminars for local journalists and government officials that focused on freedom of the press, ethics in journalism, and media-government relations.
The United States funded programs to promote democracy and human rights through U.S.-based NGOs and supported local civil society organizations. These programs supported community associations that lobbied for women's rights; trained local officials and citizens in conflict prevention, mitigation, and mediation techniques; and encouraged the participation of civil society organizations in Burundi's peace process and the process of legislative reforms.
In the provinces of Gitega, Ruyigi, and Karuzi, U.S. assistance to NGOs aided victims of war and former combatants returning to civilian life. Returning refugees and internally displaced persons were assisted in reintegrating into their communities. Former rebel and army soldiers, including child soldiers, were provided with vocational skills training as well as training on human rights and conflict resolution.
The United States also financed a variety of smaller projects that advanced the interests of women, children, and the Twa minority group while promoting democratic values, good governance, human rights, conflict resolution, acceptable prison conditions, peace, and reconciliation.
The United States funded programs that provided medical, legal, and psychological support to victims of torture and rape and supported human rights monitoring and advocacy on issues related to torture.
The United States regularly raised the government's poor human rights record in meetings with government officials and continued to advocate for increased respect of internationally recognized human rights on the part of the Government and security forces. The United States addressed Burundi's poor human rights record at the 2005 UN Commission on Human Rights by supporting a technical assistance (known as Item 19) resolution on Burundi.
In 2005, the United States funded a local NGO to assist child soldiers and human trafficking victims. Assistance to child soldiers included the provision of vocational training and psycho-social counseling.
To promote worker rights, the United States funded the second year of a three-year regional initiative by the International Labor Organization's (ILO) International Program for the Elimination of Child Labor with the goal of demobilizing and rehabilitating child soldiers and reintegrating them into their former communities. The program focused on legislation, appropriate procedures, and monitoring mechanisms, along with building the capacity and expertise of government institutions to address child soldiering. The program facilitated and supported the economic reintegration of the former child combatants through education, training, financial support, and community-strengthening. It also aimed to enhance information sharing on child soldiers in the region.
Cameroon is a republic dominated by a strong presidency. President Paul Biya was reelected in 2004 and has ruled Cameroon since 1982. His party, the Cameroon People's Democratic Movement (CPDM), has been the dominant party since its inception. Cameroon has held multi-party elections at all levels since 1992. While opposition parties have been able to win some parliamentary and local contests, they have not yet been able to mount a serious challenge to President Biya and the CPDM. The Constitution provides for an independent judiciary but the judiciary is subject to significant executive influence and has suffered from corruption and inefficiency. Despite noteworthy improvements, Cameroon's human rights record remained poor. Police continued to commit numerous abuses and to use arbitrary arrest and detention. While child labor and trafficking in persons (TIP) remained problems, the Government made some progress by passing anti-TIP legislation in December. To strengthen Cameroon's democratic institutions and improve respect for human rights, the United States has actively engaged in human rights and democracy discussions at all levels of the Government, and with local and international NGOs, members of civil society, and the media.
The U.S. strategy to promote democracy and human rights focused on strengthening the institutions necessary for a stable democratic Cameroon, such as a transparent electoral process and a free, fair, and professional press. In addition the U.S. strategy focused on assistance for the creation of a human rights education program in schools, and programs to improve protections for human rights, including those focused on worker rights and anti-TIP. The United States also organized speakers, workshops, International Visitors Leadership Program (IVLP), and electronic conferences on protection of human rights including TIP.
In preparation for the June 2007 municipal and legislative elections, the United States continued its dialogue with key officials in an effort to encourage the creation of a truly independent National Elections Observatory (NEO). The United States supported refresher training by the NEO for all of its observers. The United States continued to work with donor states and the Government on ways to reform the electoral process, including the registration of voters, computerization of registers, and the elaboration of a new electoral code. The Ambassador attended and hosted meetings on elections and successfully lobbied other donors for additional support for electoral reform. On the legislative side, the United States worked with members of the Government and the National Assembly to strengthen the NEO and to encourage it to take an active role in overseeing future elections.
The United States met repeatedly with the President and other high-level officials to encourage concrete progress on the Government's stated objective of holding free and fair legislative and municipal elections in 2007 and presidential elections in 2011. The Embassy initiated a donors' working group in 2003 to coordinate policy and assistance expenditures in support of the election. Participants in this group include the UN Development Program, members of the EU, Canada, and Japan.
The Embassy's highest priority, in addition to promoting democracy, is highlighting the importance of good governance and the negative impact of corruption on all aspects of life in Cameroon. The Ambassador addressed the issue, and repeatedly raised the issue of governance and corruption with the Government and civil society.
In order to promote democracy and decentralization, the United States worked to develop the capacity of local government leaders. In April, the United States organized a two-week U.S. study tour for ten mayors, six ministers, and five Members of Parliament.
The United States supported media development in Cameroon, sponsoring grants to two nationwide media associations for extended training with a Knight Fellow and a major conference on "Media and Corruption" for all media in Yaounde. The United States has been the catalyst in creating and sustaining professional structures in the media. The Embassy sponsored the creation in Douala of an independent media federation for 23 francophone countries - the Society for the Development of Media in Africa - which is becoming an important player in protecting the rights of individual journalists in the region and developing the professionalism and independence of the sector.
Following the 2000 law authorizing the creation of private radio and television stations, the United States has worked closely with private media groups and the Government to ensure the issuance of licenses and to promote a watershed labor standard agreement for journalists in Cameroon. The agreement is now under negotiation between the media industry and two Cameroonian ministries.
To complement U.S. programs with local leaders and the press, the United States supported grassroots groups in the country. The United States funded training and the publication of printed materials for local youth groups as well as a nationwide youth federation. The Embassy promoted volunteerism in the community, partnering with other embassies in a neighborhood water project. The Embassy also issued grants to a community grassroots association in Limbe, and organized shared colloquia.
The United States supported local NGOs that implemented projects on promoting good governance and the rights of children and women. One of the projects educated the people of the three Northern provinces on the consequences of corruption and engaged them in the fight against it. The resulting institution of a culture of ethics and good governance will significantly promote democracy.
The United States supported a project involved in educating teachers and parents on how to adopt patterns of behavior that respect and promote children's rights. This project was funded as a result of 2000 investigation that revealed that 90% of pupils were beaten at home and 97% at school. According to experts, violence-based education encourages, among other traits, dishonesty, corruption, and irresponsibility. The Embassy also continued its close cooperation with a federation addressing the needs of persons with disabilities and joined with the group in celebrating its tenth anniversary.
The United States worked closely with the military and police to curb abuses by these organizations, and worked to foster more professional security forces by sending members of the Cameroonian Armed Forces to military schools in the United States. These professional education courses addressed civil military relations, military peacekeeping operations, and military subordination to civilian authorities as well as a broad range of legal and human rights topics including the Law of Land Warfare.
In May 2005, the Embassy received the prestigious Vieira de Mello Grand Prize for its unstinting support of human rights, peace, and democracy in Central Africa. The jury consisted of well-known private human rights activists and academics from the region.
The United States worked to advance women's rights throughout the year by organizing a variety of seminars that included a workshop on "Women as Political and Economic Leaders" and an African Network program on "Women Inspiring Hope and Possibilities," which involved approximately 300 women leaders. In conjunction with the Embassy's HIV/AIDS Task Force, the United States conducted a series of regional leadership workshops for young women. The United States funded a project to educate women and girls, and inform men, on the inheritance rights of women. Most women in the local traditional society are ignorant of the laws that protect their right to inherit property from parents and spouses and, as a result, can be deprived of their inheritance rights.
The Embassy organized a series of discussions and digital videoconferences on "Islam and Religious Tolerance" and a speaker on "Contemporary Islam in Africa," both of which received national media attention to promote religious freedom and tolerance. The Ambassador also reached out to the Muslim community of Cameroon by hosting an Iftaar dinner during the holy month of Ramadan. This is now an annual tradition at the Ambassador's residence. In 2005 the event highlighted Muslim women, and included an equal number of male and female guests at the celebration. The Ambassador also engaged Muslim groups and their leadership during his frequent and extensive travels around Cameroon.
The United States funded four projects to combat TIP, including a local NGO educating people on child trafficking, labor, and violence, and two small grants projects within the Center for Rural and Urban Transformation that also focus on educating people, including policy makers and law enforcement officials, on the dangers of TIP and child abuse.
Central African Republic
The Central African Republic (CAR) held elections in 2005 that international and domestic election observers judged free and fair, despite irregularities and accusations of fraud by opposition parties. Francois Bozize was elected President in a May 2005 run-off election. In 2005, the country adopted some key legal reforms, including the abolition of prison sentences for libel or slander. Despite marked political progress, the Government's human rights record remained poor. Security forces continued to commit extrajudicial and other unlawful killings, including government-tolerated executions of suspected bandits, and impunity remained a problem. Other abuses included harsh prison conditions, arbitrary arrest, prolonged detention without trial, and infringements on privacy. The security situation in northern CAR caused 15,000 refugees to flee into Chad during 2005. Although freedom of the press improved in some areas, the Government attempted to impose restrictions. Corruption remained a widespread problem. Violence and discrimination against women, female genital mutilation (FGM), prostitution, trafficking in persons, discrimination against Pygmies, and child labor continued to be problems.
The U.S. strategy to promote democracy and human rights in CAR focused on advancing a more active role for civil society in the political process. Among these institutions was the new National Assembly, which was susceptible to pressure from the Government to act quickly on legislation submitted to it. The United States also focused on supporting the efforts of President Bozize and Prime Minister Dote to address the issue of security and impunity for criminals in and out of military uniform. The United States encouraged the Government to allow trade unions to function independently, pushed employers to honor collective bargaining agreements, and helped build a free, independent, and professional media by supporting the local journalists' association and newspaper owners. After two and a half years of suspended operations due to security concerns, Embassy Bangui resumed operations in January 2005.
The United States supported the National Electoral Commission and contributed to secure ballots, public information, and miscellaneous electoral equipment.
To support the parliament, the Embassy funded a specially targeted radio program to explain to voters what an elected deputy should and should not do, how to get services from the deputies, and how to contact and visit the parliament.
The United States funded a series of activities sponsored by civil society and judicial institutions. The major activities included a campaign against FGM. The Embassy supported a women's organization that sponsored the project and developed an awareness campaign on the consequences of genital mutilation in targeted regions.
The Embassy funded the participation of two journalists in a regional conference held in Douala, Cameroon, to reinforce the capacity of the Independent Journalists Association. The conference strengthened professional ethics in journalism and established a continent-wide network. Following this regional conference, the United States sponsored a five-day workshop in Bangui for provincial journalists to discuss ethics and freedom of press.
Since the Government partially relaxed its monopoly of domestic radio broadcasting in the mid-1990s, many private radio stations are operating throughout the country. Some are affiliated with the Catholic or Protestant churches. The Embassy supported Radio Ndeke Luka that set an important precedent for independent media in CAR. The United States purchased and installed a 10 KW short wave transmitter to enable Ndeke Luka's programming to reach listeners throughout the entire country.
During 2005, the United States supported good governance, transparency, and human rights promotion in CAR by funding a post-election radio series on parliament, and the specific role of elected deputies. Under this program, a private radio station organized a series of live broadcasts called "Your Seat in Parliament" to promote open and free dialog among citizens from different rural areas and their elected deputies at the National Assembly. As the first public diplomacy radio program ever conducted in CAR, it proved to be a significant success reinforcing democracy and helping newly-elected deputies better understand their role.
The United States recruited a local researcher to explore the issue of international child labor and government effort to combat the worst forms of child labor.
The Government of Chad's human rights record remained poor. President Idriss Deby, with the support of his clan and the Patriotic Salvation Movement party, has ruled Chad since taking power in a 1990 rebellion. He was reelected president in May 2001. Fraud, vote rigging, and local irregularities marred the 2001 presidential and legislative elections. The Government staged a flawed referendum that removed presidential term limits from Chad's Constitution in June 2005. Security forces committed extrajudicial killings; tortured, beat, and raped persons; practiced arbitrary arrest and detention; and continued to intimidate the public. The judiciary was subject to executive interference. Corruption was a serious problem. Violence and societal discrimination against women, including female genital mutilation (FGM), was common. Lack of respect for women's rights and trafficking in persons (TIP), in particular of children, were serious concerns. The Government restricted freedom of the press by harassing and detaining journalists. Civilian authorities did not maintain effective control of the security forces, and there were frequent instances in which elements of the security forces acted independently of government authority. Security forces committed or sanctioned serious human rights abuses. Chad continued to host more than 200,000 Sudanese refugees who fled the war and genocide in Darfur. During the year, the security situation in the east grew increasingly tenuous due to the conflict in the Darfur region of Sudan on the country's border, and the Government expressed concern over bandits, Sudanese militias, and growing numbers of rebels that were operating in the east.
The U.S. strategy for promoting democracy and human rights in Chad focused on strengthening the institutions necessary for a stable and democratic Chad such as civil society and a free, fair and professional press. The United States focused on government institutions by promoting a more professional military, promoting transparency in governance, engaging directly with key government officials, and improving interaction between the Government and human rights groups. Efforts were also made to strengthen the credibility and capacity of civil society groups and governmental institutions in addressing human rights abuses, including involving them in visits of high-level U.S. officials. The United States encourages human rights groups and other civil society organizations to become a resource for both the Government and Chadian people on human rights issues.
The United States sought funding from a number of sources to meet its goals, facilitated dialogue by creating opportunities for activists and government officials to interact in professional and social settings. Government ministers, human rights activists, journalists, and opposition politicians attended a reception in honor of a Chadian human rights activist, who won the Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Prize.
To strengthen press freedoms and the media's ability to promote human rights and good governance, the United States provided equipment and training to print and broadcast journalists. Thirty private and public press organizations received material support including computers, generators, and motorbikes to enhance their ability to cover key events. Chadian journalists benefited from three training programs held in Chad, Nigeria, and Cameroon. The United States financed the creation of a private radio station in the far north, and promoted civil rights and civil liberties through a radio broadcast on human rights issues and civil liberties and civil rights education. This program was shared with other radio stations and translated into several local languages to help increase public awareness of basic human rights. In addition, the Embassy implemented a program to improve civic education teaching in schools. The Ambassador regularly highlighted press freedom and other human rights issues with government and civil society officials and during public ceremonies. The Ambassador's Independence Day speech emphasizing the importance of democratic ideals and our hopes of realizing them in Chad garnered applause and widespread attention throughout the country.
In 2005, U.S. support for rule of law, good governance, and transparency included a program on the management of defense resources. The United States provided technical assistance to the Oil Revenue Management College, the mechanism that reviews projects financed by oil revenues in an effort to promote accountability. In addition, the Embassy facilitated exchanges for Chadian parliamentarians with the Council of State Governments and Chadian attendance at a seminar on military budgeting. The Embassy selected an influential traditional leader, leading educator, and prominent administrator for the International Visitors Leadership Program (IVLP) on Democratic Governance and Civil Society, Grassroots Democracy, and Conflict Resolution.
Human rights activists and some officials acknowledged that strengthening the weak judicial system was critical to addressing human rights violations in a systematic and meaningful way. The United States provided manual typewriters and copies of legal codes to the courts as well as training for magistrates. The Embassy also supported legal assistance for victims of human rights abuses through a local NGO.
The ongoing humanitarian crisis in Sudan deeply affected Chad. More than 200,000 refugees have sought safety in eastern Chad. The United States is the largest donor to the ongoing humanitarian efforts. The Embassy is an active participant in implementation of the Darfur Humanitarian Cease-fire Agreement, which includes regular meetings of a joint commission and contributes personnel to the Inter-Sudanese Peace Talks on Darfur. The Embassy remained a key interlocutor with the Government of Chad, the rebel movements, and the AU on the Darfur peace process. The United States also facilitated the work of human rights organizations and NGOs working on protection issues for refugee women and children. The Embassy facilitated the production of a "Nightline" feature called "Lessons from Rwanda" to raise public awareness of the situation in Darfur from the perspective of Sudanese refugees in Chad.
The United States continued to provide support for the rights of women and children. The Embassy supported the elimination of the practice of FGM. Support to a local NGO resulted in the drafting and enactment of a law that criminalized FGM. And in 2004, the Embassy funded an education program to publicize and distribute copies of the law. The Embassy hosted a public forum on the impact of the proposed Family Code on the promotion of women's and children's rights. In addition, Embassy officers hosted a child protection network that brought together concerned government officials, police and NGOs on a range of issues affecting children. Congressional visitors also met with the First Lady, key officials, and NGOs on women's issues.
The United States used direct contact with Chadian soldiers, including training and visits by U.S. officials, and the sharing of information on human rights violations with high-level government officials to emphasize the importance of working together on human rights. The annual U.S. publication Country Reports on Human Rights Practices was used as a basis for collaboration. To date, government officials have been candid and responsive. Visiting congressional and military delegations supported the U.S. human rights agenda.
The professionalization of Chad's security forces was a key component of the U.S. strategy for improving the country's human rights record. The United States funded International Military Education and Training and Counter Terrorism Fellowship programs at U.S. military facilities, where training on human rights is incorporated into the courses. The U.S. Special Forces trained 170 members of the Republican Guard. In June and July, the United States trained a Chadian Air Force unit in February. In addition, 24 Chadian police officers and immigration officials received anti-terrorism training in the United States. The Embassy hosted a reception for the Deputy Commander of U.S. Forces in Europe to bring together civil society and human rights leaders with military officials.
U.S. Muslim outreach continued with a program for bilingual education with a respected local organization that promotes cross-cultural understanding. Two members of the High Islamic Council attended an IVLP on Leadership in the Muslim Community. The Embassy actively supported the Arabic media, including three radio stations, six newspapers, and a nightly television news show.
The United States supported Chad's efforts to combat TIP and child labor, bolstering the Government's efforts to protect victims of trafficking and enhance law enforcement's capacity to respond to trafficking cases. Embassy officers worked closely with Muslim leaders to design programs to combat the abuse of children by marabouts (Muslim teachers).
Congo, Democratic Republic of
The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), which emerged in 2002 from a war that has claimed an estimated four million lives, has had a Transitional Government since 2003. The Transitional Government made significant progress in unifying the country, although there were still armed groups operating outside government control. These armed groups remained primarily in the eastern provinces of North Kivu, South Kivu, Katanga, and the Ituri District of Orientale. The human rights record of the DRC remained poor. Serious human rights violations, including massacres, executions, kidnappings, torture, and rape, were perpetrated both by armed groups operating outside government control and often by the Congolese military itself. In 2005, however, the DRC took important steps toward democratic governance by registering more than 25 million Congolese to vote in a series of elections that are intended to transfer power from the Transitional Government to a government elected by the people. Congolese voters approved a new Constitution in a referendum held on December 18.
The United States addressed the human rights and democracy crisis in the DRC by providing support to the Transitional Government and Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) to help to promote democratic elections; working to end the conflict in the eastern DRC; promoting accountability for human rights abuses; and developing the infrastructure and capacity needed to consolidate stability, deter conflict, and prepare the way for a democratic transition in 2006. The United States also provided assistance to victims of human rights violations, funded training and education programs to support a change in the prevailing social climate, and made efforts to restore the crippled justice systems.
In 2005 the United States continued to participate on the International Committee to Accompany the Transition and on several commissions to advance the transition and facilitate elections. The new DRC Constitution, drafted with assistance from U.S. technical experts and since passed by popular vote, includes 77 articles relating to human rights protection, separation of powers, and government decentralization.
The United States supported the National Democratic Institute (NDI), which held capacity-building workshops and forums to strengthen political parties and sponsored a Code of Conduct signed by 187 political parties. It also conducted seminars on internal democracy, transparency, constituency development, and communications. Seminars for 980 civil society participants (230 of whom were women) allowed direct contact with political party representatives.
The DRC's IEC, which the United States assisted by funding IFES, registered 25 million voters in 11 provinces in a country the size of Western Europe with virtually no infrastructure. IFES worked on operational functions, including the management of employees and transportation and communications capabilities for offices in each of the DRC's provinces. Voter registration officials were recruited and trained to staff more than 36,000 voter registration centers. On the day of the constitutional referendum, 55 U.S. officials served as referendum observers in Kinshasa and throughout the country.
To promote media freedom and independence, the United States provided funding to NGOs for airtime on national radio and television stations for issues dealing with human rights, elections, and democracy. With embassy support, a youth group in the turbulent eastern part of the country published a magazine on democracy, elections, and political issues. A local media partner developed and provided political and elections information through 82 community radio and television stations, print media, and theatre. Through the International Visitors Leadership Program, the president of the Congolese Radio Owners Association traveled to the United States for an internship. U.S. funding also allowed two Congolese journalists to attend a regional conference on journalism in Africa.
Five Democracy Resource Centers, funded by the United States, became hubs for civil society engagement and facilitated the participation of 350 NGOs in the election process. Partner NGOs implemented activities to resolve local conflicts and empower citizens to promote democratic change in their own communities. The United States also supported 140 community-based conflict resolution programs in seven provinces.
U.S. sponsorship assisted civil society activists in the writing and revision of 66 new articles for the draft Constitution. These articles increase human rights protections and reinforce judicial independence; they will also establish checks and balances among branches of new government, once it has been elected. The Law on Sexual Violence has been added to the list of essential legislation for 2006 as a result of U.S. and partner backing.
The United States funded a comprehensive evaluation of the justice sector through the U.S. NGO Global Rights in four eastern provinces. Multiple U.S.-funded NGOs also provided legal support in 2005 for survivors of gender-based violence. The International Rescue Committee identified more than 100 victims of sexual violence and accompanied victims through the judicial process, from filing cases through court hearings. They educated 2,000 people on victims' rights and visited more than 100 religious, judicial, administrative, civil society, and traditional institutions to promote justice for sexual violence victims. U.S. support enabled a local NGO to create a book on prisoners' rights, translated into four local languages, for distribution to prisoners, police, and military personnel at three of the DRC's notoriously deplorable prisons.
The United States provided rape/sexual mutilation victims (of whom there are estimated to be at least 60,000 in the eastern part of the country) with medical assistance and referrals for services, as well as advocacy, socio-reintegration, and judicial support. U.S.-supported NGOs facilitated more than 30 rape prosecutions in South Kivu province alone. U.S. funding also helped identify sexually abused women and provide them with counselors and transportation to services.
More than 100 human rights groups received U.S. technical assistance and training in 2005, most notably to work with stigmatized children. The reintegration of these children—whether child soldiers, street children, gang members, children accused of witchcraft, internally displaced children, disabled children, or child laborers—remained a high priority. The United States provided support to communities at risk for child separation and abuse in an attempt to halt massive human rights violations against children.
The United States supported training that provided logistical and technical assistance to local Anti-corruption Committees to engage civilian, judicial, religious, and military authorities in the anti-corruption effort and hold public officials responsible for legal taxation practices and ending abuse of public authority.
In 2005, the United Nations addressed human rights issues in the DRC. The Commission on Human Rights passed a technical assistance (known as Item 19) resolution on the DRC, supported by the United States. The UN General Assembly's Third Committee overwhelmingly adopted a resolution on the DRC, with only Uganda and Rwanda voting against it.
Labor activities were supported through the U.S.-funded Solidarity Center, which promotes industrial harmony and conflict resolution. The center worked with employers, the Government, and unions to settle differences and disputes. The United States also funded the second year of a three-year regional initiative by the International Labor Organization's International Program for the Elimination of Child Labor with the goal of demobilizing and rehabilitating child soldiers and reintegrating them into their former communities. The multi-faceted program addresses the myriad needs of child soldiers through legislation, monitoring mechanisms, and capacity building of government institutions. It also supports the economic reintegration of former child combatants through education, training, financial support, and community-strengthening. To address the issue of trafficking in persons (TIP), Embassy funding supported an NGO working with young girls at risk of, or already involved in, prostitution in the conflict-plagued eastern regions. The United States also established a TIP fund working through UNICEF for the reintegration of women and girls abducted by armed groups. The intent of the fund is to develop a countrywide reintegration program for abductees that parallels the national Disarmament, Demobilization, and Reintegration program for ex-combatants.
Congo, Republic of
The Republic of Congo is ruled by a government in which most of the decision-making authority is vested in the executive branch. Denis Sassou-Nguesso was elected President in March 2002, and in May and June of that year the country held legislative elections in all jurisdictions except the Pool region, where most of the 1997-2002 civil war was fought. Independent monitors determined that the presidential and legislative elections did not contradict the will of the people.
In March 2003, the Government signed a peace accord with the Ninjas rebel group of Pasteur Ntumi, and the country has been relatively stable since that time. Uncontrolled and unidentified armed elements remained active in the Pool region, despite an ongoing demobilization and reintegration program.
The Government's human rights record improved in 2005, but significant challenges and problems remained. There were reports that security forces were responsible for extrajudicial killings, rapes, beatings, physical abuse of detainees and citizens, arbitrary arrest and detention, looting, solicitation of bribes, and theft. Prison conditions were poor. The judiciary continued to be overburdened, underfunded, and subject to political influence, bribery, and corruption. Interference with personal privacy, as well as limits on freedoms of movement and the press, continued. Discrimination and violence against women, reported trafficking in persons (TIP), ethnic discrimination, and discrimination against indigenous people were problems.
The United States focused on strengthening and building democratic institutions with the Government, press, NGOs, and international organizations. In 2005, the United States supported numerous programs to improve human rights in the country, including programs to reduce discrimination against indigenous people, repatriate refugees, and provide medical care in the war-torn Pool region.
To build general awareness of human rights among the population, the Embassy focused its efforts on youth, women, and minorities. The United States supported programs to improve understanding and tracking of human rights issues and to train community members to be more active, informed, and engaged in democratic decision-making at the local, provincial, and national levels. Other U.S. grants supported human rights education for the minority Pygmy population and protection of their environment and way of life for future generations. The United States funded workshops on professional journalism, job training for women and orphans, food production, shelter and school supplies for internally displaced persons in the Pool region, and education projects on combating TIP.
Through demarches, discussions with the Government, and cooperation with the international community, the Embassy continued to stress the need for the Government to increase transparency in accounting for oil revenues and other public funds. In 2004, the Government met minimal requirements for a Poverty Reduction and Growth Facility designation as a Highly Indebted and Poor Country. In addition to direct engagement with the Government on these subjects, the Embassy regularly partnered with the World Bank and International Monetary Fund to promote anticorruption programs and transparency in the budget and the use of government funds.
Through civil-military dialogue and military training exchanges, the United States encouraged greater military discipline, professionalism, and respect for human rights. The 2002 High Commission for the Reintegration of Ex-Combatants was established to reintegrate former rebel militia members into civil society and, for some, into the military. In 2005, reintegration programs continued and the disarmament program for Ninja combatants progressed, though slowly. The Embassy continued to support an English-language training program for military officers intended to facilitate other types of training.
To promote worker rights, the United States funded the second year of a three-year regional initiative by the International Labor Organization's International Program for the Elimination of Child Labor with the goal of demobilizing and rehabilitating child soldiers and reintegrating them into their former communities. The initiative focused on legislation, appropriate procedures and monitoring mechanisms, along with building capacity and expertise of government institutions, to address child soldiering. The program continued to facilitate and support the economic reintegration of former child combatants through education, training, financial support, and community-strengthening.
The Ivoirian political crisis continued throughout 2005, and the north is divided from south. The 2002 coup attempt and aftermath continued to divide the country geographically and politically. The political instability and uncertainty that led to the end of President Gbagbo's mandate in October increased tensions throughout the country. In October 2005, the AU decided to extend Gbagbo's term in office by one year. In December, a new prime minister, Charles Konan Banny was designated to lead a power-sharing government with Gbagbo that would work toward October 2006 elections and the disarmament of the rebel New Forces (NF). Little was accomplished on either task. The judiciary did not ensure due process. The 2002 rebellion reduced commerce and investment while unemployment and crime continued to increase. The Government's human rights record remains poor. Security forces continued to commit rape, torture, and extrajudicial killings, some of which were believed to be politically and ethnically motivated. Violence and threats against political opposition figures and UN peacekeepers continued during the year. The climate of political intimidation and impunity cultivated by pro-government supporters and militia groups intensified.
The NF's human rights record was also extremely poor. Rebels in the north summarily killed civilians, arbitrarily arrested and detained persons, committed rape, and conducted arbitrary ad hoc justice.
The U.S. strategy to support human rights and democracy focused on supporting national reconciliation, strengthening the democratic process and civil society, and combating trafficking in persons. In addition, the U.S. strategy addressed child labor issues by continued funding for the child labor monitoring system in order to comply with the Harkin-Engel Protocol. The Protocol certifies that cocoa beans and their derivative products have been grown or processed without any of the worst forms of child labor. The Ambassador and other senior U.S. officials frequently stressed these themes with interlocutors in the Government, the NF, and throughout Ivoirian society. The long-term U.S. objective is to help Cote d'Ivoire consolidate a democratic multiparty system in which all Ivoirians have a voice and which is characterized by good governance, respect for fundamental human rights, an independent judiciary, and a strong civil society.
The Ambassador was a key member of the UN's International Working Group (IWG), charged with ensuring that the Ivoirian parties follow through with the peace process. The Ambassador regularly engaged the Ivoirian President, the rebel NF, and all other political parties to act with good faith to advance the political process, to reconcile the country, and ensure that free and fair elections take place by October 2006.
The United States strongly supported the November 2004 UN Security Council (UNSC) Resolution 1572 calling for sanctions on individuals in Cote d'Ivoire who undermine the peace process, are responsible for serious human rights violations, publicly incite hate and violence, or violate the arms embargo. Since then, the Embassy has closely monitored statements of the Ivoirian parties for violations of the resolution. The United States also supported the October 2005 UNSC Resolution 1633 that called for the designation of a new prime minister and the creation of the IWG to support the peace process. The United States also funded a program in the troubled western part of the country to promote reconciliation and alternative means to resolve disputes.
To promote media freedom and freedom of speech, the Embassy co-sponsored a series of digital video conferences, book discussions, and round tables for reporters and editors that addressed the themes of press freedom and responsibilities. The Ambassador frequently met with the press to discuss these themes, as well as human rights. The Embassy funded a yearlong training program for Ivoirian editors and journalists, intended to help de-politicize the country's often polarized and hate-filled press. The United States also funded an NGO in a program designed to de-politicize the media and encourage professionalism. The Embassy sent an Ivoirian journalist to a regional conference in Cameroon, where an International Association of Journalists was created to promote, protect, and professionalize media practitioners throughout Africa.
The Embassy used the International Visitors Leadership Program in 2005 to help Ivoirian public and private sector leaders working to strengthen democracy and democratic practices, develop civil society, and protect human rights and diversity. The Embassy sent four Ivoirian mayors to the United States to observe and discuss U.S. practices and policies on good governance and democratic development. Two National Assembly Deputies participated in an exchange program focused on protecting minorities, as well as the challenges and opportunities inherent in legislative duties. In 2005, other Ivoirian NGO activists, local community leaders, and professionals participated in a variety of embassy outreach programs on conflict resolution, civic education, transparency and good governance, and women and development. The Embassy's outreach also included a targeted distribution of articles and books on human rights and democracy to key Ivoirian contacts throughout the country. In February, the Embassy co-sponsored a major conference in Yamoussoukro that involved national political and civic leaders, including the President of Cote d'Ivoire, to develop proposals for strengthening Ivoirian democracy and democratic institutions.
The Embassy worked with four local NGOs in 2005 to create a counseling center for victims who were raped since the outbreak of the crisis in September 2002. The Embassy also supported a sensitization and training program for community educators to combat female genital mutilation, provide training and education for young girls in Bouake who were forced to drop out of school because of the war and a leadership development program for women who are seeking electoral office.
The Constitution provides for freedom of religion, and the Government generally respected that right. However, after 2002, the Government targeted persons perceived to be perpetrators or supporters of the rebellion, who often were Muslim. Strong efforts by religious and civil society groups have helped prevent the crisis from becoming a religious conflict. The Embassy was instrumental in helping Ivoirian religious leaders form an inter-faith collective that is aggressively working toward peace and respect for human rights in the country.
The United States continued to fund a multi-year International Labor Organization (ILO) program aimed at ending child labor in the cocoa industry. Also in partnership with the ILO, the United States helped to fund the West African Project Against Abusive Child Labor in Commercial Agriculture to help remove children from the worst forms of child labor and enroll them in school.
Equatorial Guinea is nominally a multiparty constitutional republic. In practice, however, the ruling party founded by President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo after the country's independence in 1968 dominated all areas of the Government. The 2002 presidential election was marred by extensive fraud and intimidation, and the international community widely criticized the 2004 parliamentary elections as seriously flawed. While civilian authorities generally maintained effective control of the security forces, there were some instances in which security forces acted independently of government authority. The Government's human rights record remained poor, and the Government continued to commit or condone serious infractions. Physical abuse of prisoners was common, as were instances of arbitrary arrest, detention, and incommunicado detention.
The October 2003 reopening of the small U.S. Embassy, staffed by a single officer, was a tangible symbol of the growing U.S. commitment to democratic development in Equatorial Guinea. The U.S. Ambassador to Cameroon concurrently serves as U.S. Ambassador to Equatorial Guinea. U.S. officials continued to be actively engaged in all substantive and administrative areas, including the human rights agenda.
The U.S. strategy to promote democracy and human rights aimed to strengthen the key government and civil institutions necessary for democratic progress. The strategy focused on anti-corruption efforts and capacity building in the government ministries responsible for the country's vast oil wealth. In addition, the United States worked with opposition parties, civil society, and the press to strengthen their ability to contribute to the expansion of democracy and the promotion of human rights in the country. The United States pursued these objectives through active engagement with the Government, opposition parties, the media, and community representatives.
The Embassy used an active dialogue with the Government on potential actions to improve its status as a Tier 2 country under the U.S. trafficking in persons (TIP) ratings. The Embassy also used the International Visitors Leadership Program (IVLP) to address a variety of subjects that encompassed a wide cross-section of society, in addition to sponsoring a number of programs promoting human rights, democracy, and good governance. The Embassy advocated on behalf of companies and organizations subject to harassment in the country. The Embassy in Yaounde also provided frequent support to the Embassy in Malabo to strengthen its ability to effectively challenge and encourage the Government to improve its human rights record.
U.S. officials met several times with senior officials, including the Minister of Information and the Director General of the National Radio and TV in an effort to facilitate an affiliation agreement between the Government and the Voice of America. The Minister and the Ambassador signed this agreement in 2005. This agreement will signal a significant advance in conveying U.S. viewpoints in the country, and also in diversifying the sources of information for news and entertainment over the local radio waves. In all of their meetings with Government representatives, Embassy officials reiterated the importance of enhancing the country's media profile to include independent and private media outlets and finding ways for public broadcasters to air.
For World Press Freedom Day, the Ambassador addressed an audience of 150 calling for the development of independent and responsible news sources and diversified media ownership. The Embassy in Yaounde brought two journalists to Douala in October 2005 for an international conference on "Media in Emerging Democracies," which not only exposed the journalists to media training sessions, but also created contacts with press colleagues from 23 other African countries and gave them insight on an independent media practices. The Ambassador contributed a monthly column in "La Gaceta," a Malabo-based magazine that provided a high profile voice to encourage the advance of independent media in the country.
Privately owned print media was nearly nonexistent in Equatorial Guinea. There were three general-interest periodicals that published irregularly under nominal government control. Foreign entertainment magazines were available at foreign-owned grocery stores, but not newspapers. There were no bookstores or newsstands in the country. The Government continued to restrict domestic press freedom. International journalists, however, were permitted to fully cover the trial of the mercenaries involved in the March 2004 coup attempt. Local journalists worked primarily for state-controlled media and practiced self-censorship to keep their jobs.
There were no effective domestic human rights NGOs, but the Embassy engaged actively with UN organizations promoting human rights and the Government's new Inter-Ministerial Commission on Human Rights. Unlike in the previous year, the Government did not deny the opposition party Convergence for Social Democracy (CPDS) permission to hold a convention. In July, the CPDS was allowed to hold a convention in Bata with relatively little harassment.
In 2005, the United States funded programs aimed at further development of the country's historically weak civil society. Embassy staff encouraged the involvement of U.S. companies and international organizations to reinforce the importance of transparency, rule of law, and respect for human rights. In 2005, the Embassy sent a member of the Ministry of Justice to the United States as part of an IVLP on transparency and good governance.
The Embassy continued efforts to actively encourage effective and transparent management of the country's oil wealth for equitable social and economic development. There were concerns regarding the use of irregular payments made by oil companies into bank accounts controlled by the President and the ruling elite; however, the Government denied any misappropriation of funds. In July 2005, the President signed a decree creating a "Social Needs Fund" to accelerate investment of government funds in health, education, women's issues, and sanitation.
In meetings with high-level government officials, the United States pressed for improved transparency in public finance and the management of the oil sector. Following high-level statements of commitment to transparency in the oil and gas sector, the Government, with technical assistance from the World Bank, declared its intention to participate in the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative, but has not yet completed all of the prerequisite actions necessary to be a full participant.
In 2004, senior Government officials told foreign diplomats that human rights did not apply to criminals, and that torture of known criminals was not a violation of human rights. There were reports that officials tortured political opposition activists and other persons during 2005. The Government permitted the International Committee of the Red Cross to access penal facilities in the country, including visits to the mercenaries held in the infamous Black Beach prison. During several months in 2005, the Embassy in Malabo was permitted access to prisoners. During that time, family visits were reinstituted and general conditions improved. Progress was made before the end of the year by bringing some political prisoners into the judicial process. Visits were suspended in the last quarter, however, for as yet unexplained reasons. Through media programs, the IVLP, and active dialogue with the Government, the Embassy consistently addressed the issues of rule of law, transparency, due process, and political prosecutions.
The Embassy provided an outlet for vigorous and continuous on-the-ground promotion of respect for human rights addressing violations such as torture, extrajudicial killings, and women's and minority rights. The Ambassador regularly communicated U.S. concerns to Government officials regarding individual cases of reported abuse of human rights. In-country representation allowed the United States to observe and report local activities directly and accurately.
Staff from the Embassy in Yaounde made regular visits to the island and mainland in 2005, including frequent visits by the Ambassador to both Malabo and the mainland. The Ambassador and other U.S. officials have an ongoing dialogue with the Government on the need for development of true civic institutions and respect for justice and human rights. The Ambassador raised concerns with the President and high-level ministers over TIP, transparency, good governance, prison conditions, the role of the opposition, and fair judicial practices. He also continued to condemn torture and harsh prison practices. The Ambassador and other U.S. officials also held public and private meetings with members of the country's small opposition movement to address their concerns and subsequently challenged national security officials over unlawful detention of political activists.
In 2005, the Government of Eritrea's record on human rights worsened as it further restricted basic freedoms. Religious freedom for congregations not registered with the Government was severely constrained, and the United States designated Eritrea as a Country of Particular Concern (CPC) for the second consecutive year. The Constitution, ratified in 1997, contains considerable safeguards for basic human rights, but remained unimplemented. National elections have not been held since independence from Ethiopia in 1993, and the Government prohibited the existence of any political party other than the ruling party. Parliament did not meet and continued to be more of a concept than a political reality. The Government strictly controlled the media, prohibited independent press from publishing or broadcasting in the country, and continued to detain several independent journalists arrested in 2001. Torture was used as a form of punishment on members of minority religious groups, national service evaders, and government critics. Two local Embassy employees arrested in October 2001 remained in prison. Two additional Embassy employees were detained on August 1; one was subsequently released, but the other continued to be held and denied due process. Lack of due process, arbitrary, and often prolonged detention without charge or trial, and poor prison conditions remained serious problems. The Government cited national security concerns as their primary justification for arresting and detaining individuals, and security forces frequently rounded up men and women for failing to meet national service requirements. In 2005, police and military personnel also began arresting and detaining the parents of national service dodgers, requiring parents to pay fines and also threatening prolonged detention unless their children met their service obligation.
The U.S. strategy to promote respect for human rights and democracy aimed to increase access to information, provide opportunities for dialogue, increase understanding of human rights, and provide the means for citizens to have more control over their daily lives.
While there was initial optimism over the possibility of an expanded bilateral dialogue between the United States and Eritrea on human rights and democracy, this did not occur in 2005. Eritrean Government officials, including the President, unapologetically made it clear that there would be little or no change in the country's human rights practices until the border dispute with Ethiopia was resolved. In response, the United States made clear that the relationship could not progress until there was real dialogue and demonstrable progress on human rights.
In conversations with Eritrean officials at all levels, U.S. officials repeatedly stressed that addressing the Government's human rights violations - particularly widespread arbitrary arrests and violations of basic liberties - was vital to improving bilateral ties. U.S. officials also consulted regularly with European diplomats, who have undertaken a formal dialogue with the Government in the context of the EU-Africa, Caribbean, Pacific Cotonou agreement, to ensure a coordinated and consistent international message.
Since February 2004, the Government has imposed restrictions on movement outside of the Makaal region for all NGOs and the diplomatic corps. The Government seized vehicles of aid donors, including those of the UN and the United States. In July 2005, the Government requested the termination of U.S. development activities in Eritrea. The United States phased out development operations by December 2005, and only a small humanitarian liaison office remained as of February 2006.
The termination of U.S. development activities, many of which directly or indirectly supported the U.S. human rights strategy, resulted in fewer resources and opportunities to address human rights through programmatic means. However, the Embassy nonetheless increased its outreach by expanding its American Corner program, extending Internet access hours at the American Center and focusing resources more closely on women, minorities, and Muslim majority communities.
Through the American Center and two American Corners in Keren and Masawa, the Embassy provided access to materials on U.S. values, policies, and culture, as well as daily press releases and free access to the Internet. The Embassy also provided media materials to Embassy contacts. In a country with no independent media, these tools proved vital in promoting democracy and appreciation of human rights through greater access to information from the outside world.
In an effort to build support for democratic reform and human rights among Eritrea's opinion leaders, the Embassy held regular functions for alumni of U.S. exchange programs to promote discussion of U.S. culture, democracy, human rights, and other issues. The Embassy arranged speaking engagements featuring U.S.-based speakers and broadcasts of the Africa Journal. The Embassy recruited Government officials and others for the International Visitors Leadership Programs.
The United States sought to increase citizens' political and economic participation. Three U.S.-funded NGOs supported community development programs that extended opportunities for grassroots participation by working with parent-teacher associations, water associations, and local health committees.
The United States funded a program to train workers to fight the stigma of HIV/AIDS in society. The Embassy also addressed Eritrea's high rate of female genital mutilation by funding high school clubs to educate and build awareness on the issue among youth through the National Union of Eritrean Youth and Students.
U.S. officials continued to engage a wide range of Government officials and members of minority religious groups in an effort to promote greater respect for religious freedom. The United States imposed sanctions in response to the Government's continuing severe violation of religious freedom. U.S. officials consistently emphasized the importance of religious liberty for all faiths, including religious minorities. The Embassy worked with Government officials to promote the creation of mechanisms promoting interfaith dialogue, and support low-key visitors who could address legal and other aspects of respecting minority religious rights; however, this did not occur.
Although there were some improvements, the Government's human rights record remained poor and worsened in some cases. Ethnic conflict, lack of capacity, unfamiliarity with democratic concepts, and unrest related to the May 2005 national parliamentary elections threatened the country's nascent democracy. Inadequately trained federal and local police forces employed excessive force, resulting in unlawful killings, including alleged political killings. Police also beat and mistreated detainees and political opposition supporters. Arbitrary arrest and detention of thousands of persons suspected of sympathizing with or being members of the opposition was common. The judiciary remained overburdened and lacked capacity, resulting in lengthy pretrial detentions. The Government restricted freedom of the press, and harassed, detained, and arrested journalists, editors, and publishers for publishing articles critical of the Government, forcing journalists to practice self-censorship. Societal discrimination and violence against women, abuse of children, and trafficking in persons (TIP) remained serious problems; however, the Government formed a task force and began to address some TIP issues in 2005.
The May 2005 national elections delivered a shock to the country's emerging democratic system. The Government permitted unprecedented democratic openness, allowing opposition groups campaign freedoms and access to state media in the pre-election period. Opposition parties made an unexpectedly strong showing, increasing their parliamentary representation from 12 seats to 172. The Government subsequently rolled back elements of its pre-election openness. Opposition leaders from the Coalition for Unity and Democracy (CUD) questioned the election results, and many newly elected CUD members chose to boycott federal and regional legislatures. The CUD also called for a campaign of civil disobedience that quickly degenerated into violent protests. With most of the opposition leadership imprisoned and the Government struggling to control popular uprisings in urban areas, the environment for promoting democracy became increasingly challenging. Nonetheless, the election results themselves and the process of political dialogue that U.S. officials promoted continued to offer opportunities to make some progress on democratization.
The U.S. human rights and democracy goals in Ethiopia included lowering political and ethnic tensions, improving human rights, broadening representation and participation in Parliament, boosting the credibility and capacity of the National Electoral Board (NEB), and increasing access to the media and the quality of public information. The U.S. strategy to achieve these goals employed a mixture of cooperation and pressure in urging the Government and leading opposition organizations to overcome political confrontation and move toward consensus. To promote democracy and political freedoms, U.S. officials, including the Ambassador, in close partnership with other embassies, engaged the Prime Minister, other senior government officials, and the NEB regarding complaints from opposition political parties about harassment of their members. U.S. officials met regularly with government and opposition party representatives regarding illegal detentions and harassment of opposition party supporters by local ruling party cadres.
In coordination with other international donors, the United States undertook a program of support for the national legislative and regional council elections held in May 2005. The program included a cooperative agreement that brought the National Democratic Institute (NDI), the International Republican Institute (IRI), and IFES to Ethiopia, a contribution to a multi-donor fund for election support managed by the UN Development Program (UNDP), and a grant to permit the Carter Center to respond to the Government's invitation to observe the elections. In addition, a grant partially funded by the United States brought Women's Campaign International to the country to provide training for women candidates.
Soon after the arrival of NDI, IRI, and IFES, the Government unexpectedly expelled all three organizations. U.S. funding for the UNDP Election Program provided an important alternative to support a wide range of preparatory and follow-up election activities. Advice and assistance were provided to the NEB for administration of the elections and the post-election dispute resolution processes. As a result of this program, the NEB established a website, and senior NEB officials, judges, prosecutors, and police officers received dispute resolution training. Proportional financial, material, and technical assistance was provided to all political parties and independent candidates to enable improved campaigning. The UNDP program established a political party forum that became an important venue for discussion of, and compromise on, difficult electoral issues.
The Embassy used the full range of public-diplomacy programming to support media freedoms and freedom of speech. Public diplomacy funds allowed Ethiopian journalists, academics, religious leaders, and other opinion leaders to participate in Fulbright and International Visitors Leadership Program exchanges.
Through the UNDP election fund, the United States supported the development of codes of conduct to ensure balanced, non-inflammatory election reporting by both state and private media and balanced access by all political parties and candidates to state-run media. The program also provided training for private and public journalists on fair and impartial reporting and established a media-monitoring program with Addis Ababa University's new graduate School of Journalism and Mass Communication to provide analysis of media coverage during the election campaign.
In advance of Ethiopia's 2005 national elections, and again in the wake of post-election unrest, the United States funded professional development training seminars (in both English and Amharic) to state and private sector journalists with the specific goal of raising awareness among media practitioners of internationally accepted standards of reporting ethics. A senior U.S. Fulbright recipient provided expertise as acting Dean of Addis Ababa University's School of Journalism and Communications. The Embassy maintained close relationships with journalists across the political spectrum.
U.S. programs in all sectors sought to strengthen civil society's capacity to effectively engage local government institutions to improve the planning, implementation, transparency, and accountability of development projects and service delivery. Notable was the Community Government Partnership Program through which 16,176 Parent Teacher Association (PTA) members and education officials received training in school management. The training helped the PTAs rehabilitate their schools and manage educational activities in their communities. The United States continued to provide funding through the UNDP for several civil society organizations, including a grant to the Poverty Action Network of Ethiopia to conduct Citizen Report Cards on the effectiveness of Government services delivery. As part of the U.S.-supported UNDP election program, national NGOs provided civic and voter education to over 6.7 million voters.
The United States supported community reconciliation programs in the conflict-prone Gambella Region, and Southern Nations, Nationalities and Peoples Region, which focused on facilitating the establishment and training of government-civil society conflict prevention and reconciliation partnerships. In Gambella, a series of nine dialogues between major ethnic groups (Anuak, Nuer, and Majengar) or sub-groups resulted in local peace agreements and the establishment of peace monitoring committees. The United States assisted the Government in developing the capacity to provide professional law enforcement services based on democratic principles and respect for human rights. The United States continued to fund a training and assistance program designed to enhance professional investigative and forensic capabilities, assist in the development of academic instruction for law enforcement personnel, improve the administrative and management capabilities of law enforcement agencies, improve police-community relations, and create or strengthen the capability to respond to new crime and criminal justice issues. In 2005, the penal code and the Federal Police College curriculum were amended to reflect the program's recommendations.
In 2005, the Embassy provided funding for six democracy and human rights-related projects that impacted approximately 155,000 people in five of the country's 11 administrative regions. The projects worked to protect the human rights of several disadvantaged groups, including women and the elderly in Dire Dawa, who received free legal assistance. Disabled and homeless Addis Ababa residents also gained access to overnight shelter, wheelchairs, prosthetics, and orthopedic shoes.
Public diplomacy outreach to Ethiopia's Muslim community included a high-profile Iftaar dinner hosted by the Ambassador, and a series of events in connection with the visit of an American imam. A highlight of the imam's visit was his Friday address at Addis Ababa's principal mosque, giving an audience estimated at 100,000 a window into American Islam.
The United States funded a substantial program focused on the large numbers of citizens that fall victim to TIP. The program promoted prevention by raising general awareness of the problem and conducting anti-trafficking campaigns for the general population and government officials. Counseling services were provided for potential and actual migrants, human trafficking victims, and their families on legal, human rights, psycho-social, health, and financial matters related to labor migration. The program strengthened the institutional capacity of concerned government authorities, local NGOs, and civil society to develop a labor migration policy and anti-trafficking law for the prevention of TIP, protection of victims, and prosecution of traffickers. Shelter, medical care, counseling, clothing, and hygiene items were provided in Addis Ababa to facilitate the return and reintegration of trafficked victims.
The U.S. continued to fund a project that targets over 30,000 HIV/AIDS affected children who are subjected to the worst forms of child labor. The program aims to increase access to quality education for HIV-positive working children through awareness campaigns and support for children, their communities, and institutions.
Gabon is a republic dominated by a strong presidency. The Gabonese Democratic Party (PDG) came to power in 1968 and has circumscribed political choice. Following a 2003 constitutional amendment eliminating term limits, PDG leader El Hadj Omar Bongo, President since 1967, was reelected for a seven-year term in November 2005. The election was marred by irregularities. The Government's human rights record remained poor. Security forces disrupted demonstrations and assaulted journalists. Arbitrary arrest and detention were problems, and the judiciary remained subject to Government influence. Opposition parties remained small, disunited, under-funded, and marginalized. Since Gabon adopted a multiparty system in 1990, the ruling party has successfully convinced most opposition parties to join the ruling coalition. The Electoral Commission rejected attempts to form new parties in advance of the 2005 election. Gabon has made some progress in combating child labor and trafficking in persons (TIP), but these issues remained areas of concern.
The U.S. strategy for promoting human rights and democracy in Gabon was targeted in part toward diplomatic engagement in view of the 2005 elections. The strategy also focused on strengthening key institutions such as an independent, fair, and professional media and professionalizing the military. The strategy included advocacy and programs to combat TIP, especially the trafficking of children.
The Ambassador met regularly with Group of 8 (G-8) counterparts to formulate a common strategy for advancing democratic reform. Embassy officials also participated in joint donor efforts to promote good governance and protect vulnerable groups.
In advance of the November 2005 presidential election, Embassy officials discussed the importance of free and fair elections in meetings with national and local election officials, ruling party and opposition leaders and supporters, and other diplomatic missions in Gabon. Embassy officials obtained official accreditation as observers and deployed in teams to major population centers in the country to observe voting. The Embassy maintained contacts and consulted regularly with all major opposition groups.
The shortage of open and independent media sources in Gabon remained a concern. Embassy officials met frequently with members of the National Communications Council and other Government officials to discourage the closure of media outlets and to promote freedom of speech and a free and independent press. The Ambassador hosted a discussion on the life of Martin Luther King at his residence, fostering a free and open dialogue among Government and religious leaders, opposition figures, and prominent academics. When security forces beat two journalists, the Embassy met with a representative of the journalist's employer and discussed the case with Government officials.
The Embassy regularly discussed human rights with government officials and NGOs at all levels, stressing the important link between respect for human rights and the relationship with the United States. Embassy officials regularly attended seminars and conferences that promoted human rights and democracy.
To promote greater respect for human rights within the law enforcement community, the Embassy maintained regular contact with the National Police and Gendarmerie. The United States sent one official from each organization to the International Law Enforcement Academy in Gaborone, the first time Gabonese law enforcement officials attended the school.
In order to increase respect for human rights within the military, the United States worked to foster professionalism among the security forces by sending members of the Government to military schools in the United States. These professional education courses addressed civil-military relations, military peacekeeping operations, military subordination to civilian authorities, and a broad range of legal and human rights topics.
The United States launched a program to provide training for members of the Gabonese Armed Forces designated to serve in peacekeeping missions. Training for peacekeepers included a special focus on human rights issues and civil-military relations.
The alleged ritual murder of two children in February highlighted a problem in Gabon. Embassy officials met regularly with the founders of a new NGO dedicated to eliminating the tradition, and attended a seminar where a plan of action was developed to fight the practice.
The United States sponsored scholarships in Gabon to help girls from needy families complete their primary education. The program helped both urban and rural students, with a portion allocated to students from remote regions.
The Embassy maintained regular contact with all major religious groups including Muslim organizations and U.S. missionary groups, to support and reinforce the already tolerant environment in Gabon.
The United States made trafficking in persons a high priority. The Ambassador and Embassy officials approached Government officials at all levels, including parliamentary leaders, ministers, and the President, to persuade them of the need for further concrete measures to combat trafficking in persons. Recognizing the logistical difficulties faced by law enforcement agencies in housing, feeding, and eventually repatriating trafficking victims, the United States supported a television and radio public awareness campaign to announce the new anti-trafficking law and sensitize the Gabonese to the plight of trafficked children. The United States also supported the attendance of the commander of the police anti-trafficking brigade in an International Visitors Leadership Program focusing on women, families, and the law in the United States. The Embassy maintained close contacts with activists and NGOs concerned with this issue.
Labor unions are among the strongest NGOs in Gabon, and Embassy representatives regularly attended labor conferences and met union leaders to promote free association and the importance of unions in a democratic society.
The Gambia is a republic under multiparty democratic rule. The Government of President Alhaji Yahya A.J.J. Jammeh, who was re-elected for a five-year term in 2001 in an election considered free and fair, generally respected the human rights of its citizens; however, there were problems in some areas. Arbitrary arrest and detention and denial of due process occurred, and the courts sometimes yielded to executive branch pressure. The Government limited freedom of speech and the press by intimidation and restrictive legislation. Nevertheless, dissident voices were heard and a viable opposition movement exists. Violence and discrimination against women continued. The practice of female genital mutilation remained widespread, although the Government did not endorse the practice. Child labor persisted, mainly on family farms, as did trafficking in persons (TIP). The Government took positive steps to eradicate the problems of TIP and child labor, including passage of a Children's Act designed to promote the welfare of children.
The U.S. strategy to promote democracy and human rights was to focus diplomatic and programmatic resources to advance the three core values of democratic freedoms, the rule of law, and human dignity. To do this, the United States targeted active engagement with the Government, leveraging economic assistance with concrete improvements in democratic reform and human rights. The U.S. long-term strategy stresses anti-corruption measures for the Government and programs to strengthen civil society and the media.
Embassy officials maintained an active dialogue with all political parties and with civil society representatives, stressing the importance of free and fair elections. The Embassy also actively encouraged regular dialogue and meetings among the donor community to avoid duplication of effort and to ensure effective allocation of resources in election support.
The United States used a large grant to provide support to the relatively weak National Assembly. These funds paid for a major construction and renovation project that dramatically improved the working spaces of the Members of Parliament. This project generated significant goodwill for the United States among the National Assembly members, providing a tangible example of U.S. support for democratic institutions.
Relations between the Government and media were strained. U.S. officials consistently stressed that a free press is an essential part of a democratic society and used grants and the International Visitors Leadership Program (IVLP) to support independent media. The Gambian Press Union used grant funds to purchase a printing press. The United States provided equipment to a city radio station and funded a program that explained the Constitution to listeners in the widely-spoken Wollof language. All media representatives, regardless of political affiliation, had access to Embassy staff for interviews and reports.
The Embassy sent the head of the Gambia Press Union to the 2005 IVLP journalism program and sent two journalists to a regional conference in Cameroon aimed at establishing an African journalism federation. These participants shared their experiences with other members of Gambian media in meetings and, in the case of the head of the Gambia Press Union, through a three-part chronicle of the IVLP published in one of the independent newspapers.
The Embassy supported the Children's Protection Alliance in its efforts to combat trafficking of children in the country by increasing public awareness and sensitization to this important problem. The Embassy funded NGOs and small cooperatives throughout the country in 2005. These programs, while small in scope, had a large impact and may have been the most popular and highly visible examples of U.S. support for grass-roots democratic development and education in The Gambia. The Embassy supported the National Council for Civic Education's program to provide civic and human rights education nationwide.
Judicial independence and due process remained areas of concern. The Ambassador took every opportunity to stress to government officials the importance of an independent judiciary in a democratic society, while IVLP exposed promising jurists to the American judicial process.
On the anti-corruption front, the Government's "Operation No Compromise" continued in 2005, with a number of senior officials removed from office under allegations of corruption and misappropriation of funds. While encouraging efforts to combat corruption, the Embassy also stressed the importance of a transparent judicial process in prosecuting these cases.
To foster more professional security forces and reduce any tendency for human rights abuses, the United States resumed non-lethal military assistance to The Gambia immediately after sanctions, which were imposed following the 1994 coup, were lifted in 2002. In the past year, the Embassy arranged for several officers and civilian officials to attend International Military Education and Training (IMET) and expanded IMET programs in the United States. Most senior officers in the military, including the President, have participated in IMET. The United States also funded regional training and workshops for military officials. They, along with civilian officials, participated in conferences sponsored by the African Center for Strategic Studies. Finally, the Federal Bureau of Investigation funded training at their National Academy for a Gambian police officer.
Religious harmony is the norm in the country. To reinforce that harmony and bolster religious freedom and understanding, during Ramadan the Embassy hosted several Iftaar dinners that were attended by many Muslim spiritual leaders as well as members of the minority Christian clergy. The Embassy also hosted an inter-faith panel to discuss Judaism and religious tolerance.
The Gambia's TIP rating fell to Tier 2 Watch List in 2005. The Embassy responded with a robust anti-TIP program that included both financial support and guidance as the Government worked to improve its record in combating trafficking. The United States funded the Child Protective Alliance to assist efforts to protect and promote children's rights. This support contributed to the successful passage of the Children's Act in 2005. This Act contains detailed provisions specifically dealing with the worst forms of child labor and trafficking in persons, mandating stiff penalties for offenders.
In the last year, Guinea demonstrated achievement in political reforms and improvement in its human rights record. Sixteen of the 46 registered political parties, including all major opposition parties, participated in the December 2005 nationwide elections for municipal and local government councils. Observers noted some improvements over the 2003 presidential election. The Government continued to restrict citizens' rights to change their government. While opposition parties had more freedom to campaign and all parties had greater access to the media, numerous citizens were disenfranchised because they did not have identity cards. The authorities arbitrarily detained, and in some cases abused, more than 200 politicians and party supporters. In general, the authorities rarely held political prisoners more than a few days. Police and security forces injured several persons on election day.
The U.S. strategy to promote democracy and human rights focused on laying a foundation for a peaceful and democratic political transformation through support for constitutional processes, continued and expanded national dialogue, and liberalization of broadcast media. The United States encouraged civilian-led power transfer and constitutional succession through heightened military and diplomatic engagement; focused on the potential stabilizing role of the military through engagement across the civilian-military divide; and promoted civil-military relations, including political discussions and social exchanges. A comprehensive U.S. communication and public diplomacy strategy ensured that messages to advance freedom and democracy were included in all activities. The United States also heightened outreach to youth, women, and Muslim religious leaders.
The Embassy consistently presented democracy and human rights as the cornerstone of U.S. policy. U.S. officials highlighted this priority in speeches and meetings with interlocutors. The United States supported democracy by training citizens, locally elected officials, and representatives of government, and by facilitating dialogue through a more informed media and electorate. This assistance encouraged citizen participation in local governance; supported improved political processes, including more transparent elections; and encouraged civil society organizations to provide civic education and advocacy for citizen interests. After consistent Embassy engagement and discussions, opposition party leaders who boycotted past elections decided to participate in the December local elections.
The local governance program and civil society activities increased understanding of the electoral process by generating interest, informed citizens of their voting rights, and equipped NGOs to act as formal election monitors. Nearly two-thirds of the NGOs independently selected to serve as Guinea's first national election observers received training and technical assistance from the local governance program. On election day, the Embassy deployed 19 observer teams comprised of American and Guinean staff to gain valuable perspectives from the field.
The importance of civilian-military relations in the development of democracy and protection of human rights in Guinea was a major component of security cooperation. In May, the Embassy sponsored a successful five-day seminar bringing together 38 high-ranking military officers and 36 civilians from the parliament, political parties, and various Government ministries to emphasize the benefits of good governance and a responsible military. Ongoing military programs emphasized appreciation for rule of law and human rights.
A presidential decree to open radio and television broadcast media to private ownership was the successful result of diplomatic and programmatic support. Through various training and capacity-building programs for media organizations, the United States worked to speed its implementation. Embassy public diplomacy programs encouraged individuals to express their views freely; utilize rights to public information, especially information about government actions, policies, and programs; and understand and utilize their rights to change the Government. Embassy programs encouraged open discussion on all topics relating to U.S.-Guinean relations and particularly Western concepts of democracy and human rights. The United States sponsored Guineans to participate in International Visitor Leadership Programs (IVLP) with human rights and democracy agendas.
The U.S. funded two one-week journalist training workshops through a small grant to a local organization dedicated to media ethics. The first included more than 40 correspondents from the Guinean Government's Guinean Press Agency and National Radio. The second included representatives from Guinea's 12 rural radio stations. Both featured sessions on the participants' roles and responsibilities in the electoral process. The journalists developed concrete strategies to engage the National Network of Journalists for Good Governance. A digital video conference for journalists provided insights to reporting on corruption from a French-speaking, Paris-based American journalist for media capacity-building.
The United States implemented a program to strengthen NGOs that included a nationwide civic education campaign and a series of town hall meetings, trainings that focused on election procedures for political party officials in the interior, legal trainings for professional associations in Guinea, internal democratic governance, advocacy techniques, and technical training for media professionals. All U.S. activities supported working with and strengthening local organizations. In 2005, the United States trained and strengthened over 2,788 grassroots community-based organizations. In addition, the United States worked with 68 regional or national-level NGOs to help implement U.S. programs. Other donors and the Government acknowledged increased NGO capacity as a result.
The local governance program provided technical assistance, leadership development, and training to foster active citizen participation and improved performance of community management committees of local service institutions and rural organizations. Embassy intervention produced a capable and registered local NGO and a national association of professional organizations that engaged civil society and reached nearly 175,000 persons.
The U.S. focus on strengthening the rule of law highlighted one of Guinea's most serious issues. As a result of a U.S.-funded program, a national association of professional organizations was created and committed itself to reviewing and revising the laws regulating professional organizations. Although new, it successfully advocated for the release of an arrested lawyer.
A February 2005 program on corruption and good governance featured a representative from the Ministry of Finance and brought together members of the National Assembly, finance analysts, NGO representatives, and the media.
The United States funded projects targeting the promotion of the rights of women, students and teachers, and victims of HIV/AIDS; combating female genital mutilation (FGM); and providing training in conflict resolution and responsible media. This year, the Embassy funded an innovative radio drama series to increase awareness and promote dialogue on human rights and protection for women and girls. The United States financed the creation of a center for conflict resolution in Macenta with a focus on the historically volatile Forest Region. To combat torture and other human rights abuses in prisons, the United States funded several workshops bringing together penitentiary security and administrative staff with selected prisoners in two of the largest prisons in the country.
Promoting the rights of women and minorities is critical. The United States funded a program to reduce FGM in the Mamou and Labe regions. To reinforce these efforts, a returned participant in the IVLP led an April colloquium on AIDS awareness and tolerance for medical practitioners, NGOs, university students, and the media. In June, a high school theater production focused on HIV/AIDS and provided a forum for youth to dispel myths about the disease and combat discrimination.
This year, the Embassy initiated a partnership with the Ministry of the Islamic League. Representatives from both organizations met regularly to discuss issues and develop programs of mutual interest. The Director of the Islamic Center in Guinea's second largest city, Kankan, gave an interview to Rural Radio in Kankan and a lecture in his Center about his very positive experience on an IVLP in August. Another former IVLP grantee moderated a July program to introduce Hi Magazine to Imams, community leaders, and students. In September, a presentation on trafficking in persons (TIP) brought together over 40 imams and other Islamic leaders. A two-day workshop in September used the post-produced Civic Education Guide as a foundation for discussion and training of trainers and was offered for members of the Muslim Youth Association.
In 2005, the United States awarded three grants to combat TIP, in accordance with an action plan developed in partnership with Government officials to address Guinea's Tier 2 Watch List status. The projects focused on prevention through a national public awareness campaign and protection of street children and other victims. To complement these ongoing projects, in January 2006, in collaboration with the IOM, the United States brought together more than 30 participants from various Government ministries, NGOs, and civil society for an educational program on TIP. In March, the United States awarded a former IVLP participant a small grant to train social workers, police officers, human rights activists, and others on trafficking. In September, the program "Trafficking in Persons: American, Guinean, and Islamic Visions" brought together Muslim clerics, members of the Government, media, and civil society to demystify TIP issues.
Respect for human rights and democracy in Guinea-Bissau has increased since the 2003 removal of then-President Kumba Yala. Free and fair parliamentary elections in March 2004 resulted in the election of Prime Minister Carlos Gomes Junior and a clean slate of representatives to serve in the 100-seat National Popular Assembly (ANP). Former President Yala, who ruled by decree, had previously dissolved the Assembly in 2002. During its time in office, the Gomes Junior Government actively engaged Bissau-Guineans and the international community in a dialogue aimed at restoring democracy and protecting human rights. Since assuming office in late 2005, President Joao Bernardo "Nino" Vieira and Prime Minister Aristides Gomes have continued those efforts.
The primary threat to human rights and democracy in Guinea-Bissau continued to be an oversized and outdated military that did not always respect civilian authority. Violent dispersal of demonstrations, impunity, and corruption remained problems, although less so than in previous years. Prison conditions remained poor. Violence and discrimination against women, female genital mutilation (FGM), child labor, and child trafficking occurred, but no data existed on the extent of these problems. Reportedly, traffickers convinced parents to send their children to other countries, notably Senegal, for a Muslim education, but some schools forced the children into the streets to beg and remit their meager earnings to their teachers (marabouts). The other major obstacles to human rights and democracy in the country are a weak economy and fragile democratic institutions.
There has been no U.S. Embassy in Guinea-Bissau since 1998, when civil war erupted. The U.S. Ambassador to Senegal also serves as the Ambassador to Guinea-Bissau.
The U.S. strategy for supporting human rights and democracy consists of supporting the democratic Government; encouraging free and fair presidential elections in June and July 2005; promoting economic development to improve conditions for stability; strengthening nascent democratic institutions, such as the ANP and courts; and encouraging the military to reform and respect civilian authority.
As the aggressor in the mutiny of October 2004, the military requires reform and downsizing to transform it into a "republican army." The United States pursued a strategy of cooperation aimed at pushing the military toward reforms and away from destabilizing activities. In September 2005, the United States held a seminar on civil-military relations and military justice that examined the military's role in a democratic society.
The Ambassador and other Dakar-based officials met frequently with the Government. Through face-to-face contact with the leaders of Guinea-Bissau, the United States urged political, military, religious, and ethnic leaders not to interfere with the presidential election. In support of the two rounds of presidential elections, the United States carefully coordinated with the international community, especially the UN Secretary General's Representative in Guinea-Bissau, the Community of Portuguese-Speaking Countries, the Economic Community of West African States, and the EU. The Embassy in Dakar sent a total of 12 observers to the two rounds of elections, and, with the National Election Commission, the Supreme Court and the international community, concluded that both rounds of elections met international standards for freedom and fairness.
The United States funded a program to strengthen Guinea-Bissau's Parliament. A U.S. NGO worked with ANP members and staff, as well as civil society, to strengthen the ANP's ability to execute its legislative functions.
Guinea-Bissau generally has a free media that consists of a number of small and independent print, radio, and television outlets. The United States worked with the press by releasing statements, participating in interviews, and explaining U.S. policy as often as possible despite the absence of a permanent U.S. presence in the country. To highlight U.S. policies on Guinea-Bissau, as well as on regional and global issues, the Embassy initiated production and distribution of a Portuguese-language publication that showcases issues such as human rights. The Embassy also provided a grant enabling one journalist to attend a UNESCO-sponsored forum in Dakar marking World Press Freedom Day.
Civil society organizations are free to operate, and NGOs around the country address a variety of social issues, including FGM, child labor, and micro-finance. There was no pattern of repression or intimidation of civil society by the Government. However, due in part to the small number of international organizations and diplomatic mission residents in the country, organizations are small and seriously under-funded, with little ability to tap into international cooperative efforts. Consequently, civil society has yet to have a significant impact on affecting political change or enhancing democratic freedoms.
The rule of law has improved significantly since 2003, with the presidency no longer impeding the work of the ANP, the courts, and the press. However, the judiciary remained weak in dealing with minor crimes and was completely ineffective at stamping out corruption and other crimes of a political nature. Police sometimes abused their authority with impunity, and the courts still did not have sufficient training or resources. Nonetheless, following the 1998 civil war and years of extra-constitutional rule, the judiciary was beginning to resume its role in promoting democracy and the rule of law through normal civil proceedings. To assist the judicial branch in these efforts, the United States provided a grant for the compilation, publication, and distribution of the civil code. Officials, professionals, scholars, and citizens benefited by having ready access to the code, which covers family law, urban planning, and property law.
The United States discussed religious freedom issues as part of the overall U.S. policy to promote human rights. The country has a mixture of Muslim, Christian, and traditional animist beliefs. Although the Government prohibited activity by the Ahmadiya, an Islamic religious group, in March 2005, there were no reports that the Government declined to license any other religious group. In 2005, the Embassy sent one person to the United States using the International Visitors Leadership Program to participate in a U.S. African Regional Program entitled "Leadership in a Muslim Society." The United States also trained two English teachers from Islamic schools to increase their effectiveness as language teachers.
Building on the peaceful political transition to the Kibaki Government in December 2002, Kenyans voted peacefully and in large numbers during the November 2005 constitutional referendum. However, voters defeated efforts to pass a new Constitution, the delivery of which was one of President Kibaki's key pledges when he entered office. There have been no arrests or prosecution of Government ministers or assistant ministers on corruption charges. However, the Minister of Finance resigned in February 2006 amid allegations of corruption, which were also aimed at other senior level Government officials and the Vice President. Unemployment and underemployment remained close to 50% and more than one-half of all Kenyans continued to live in poverty. While the Government made improvements in some areas, such as prison conditions, serious human rights problems remained. Civilian authorities generally maintained effective control of the security forces. Police forces, however, acted independently of Government authority in some instances resulting in abuse and unlawful killings. Female genital mutilation (FGM), child labor, and trafficking in persons (TIP) continued to be problems. Apart from establishing free primary education, the Government made only modest progress on its goals of combating corruption and improving human rights.
The U.S. human rights and democracy strategy focused on encouraging strong government action against corruption; increasing the effectiveness of parliament; strengthening electoral processes, civil society, and the media; reducing TIP; and mitigating regional conflicts.
Following the success of the 2002 general election, the United States supported the electoral process leading up to and during the November constitutional referendum. The Embassy engaged with political leadership throughout the referendum process and encouraged officials to ensure that campaigning and polling were peaceful, lawful, transparent, and fair. The Ambassador made public statements emphasizing the importance of a successful referendum to Kenya's continued democratic development. Accredited U.S. observers visited over 90 polling stations and vote-tallying centers on polling day. U.S. observers, in collaboration with other diplomatic observers, submitted a report of their findings to the Electoral Commission of Kenya (ECK). The United States continued to provide assistance to improve the electoral process, including improving the administrative capacity of the ECK and, in particular, increasing the use of appropriate information technology to strengthen transparency, competition, and accountability in electoral processes.
The United States continued to support a legislative strengthening program to empower parliamentary committees to play a more productive role in legislative reform and provide effective oversight of the Executive. This program worked in conjunction with others to support key committees and promote quality legislation in the health, education, trade, environment, and agriculture sectors. To further increase legislative capacity, the Embassy sent two Members of Parliament to participate in the International Visitors Leadership Program (IVLP) in the United States. The U.S. Congress selected Kenya to participate in the House Democratic Assistance Commission peer-to-peer democracy program.
The United States supported media freedom in Kenya through outreach to mediapersons. Through the IVLP, the Embassy sent a number of print, television, and radio journalists, including an HIV/AIDS photojournalist, to the United States. The Embassy also sponsored a reciprocal visit by an American photojournalist to participate in an HIV/AIDS exhibition with Kenyan journalists. These exchanges helped to promote responsible journalism and the importance of media coverage of human rights issues.
In 2005, the United States continued to assist Kenyan NGOs that focused on conflict management and peace building, domestic violence and family protection, judicial reforms, and anti-corruption. The U.S.-funded Federation of Women Lawyers, an NGO that works to eliminate discrimination against women, succeeded in securing a legal requirement for the inclusion of women on newly established committees charged with overseeing government funds for constituency development programs. The United States supported local women's peace-building groups and traditional structures in the drought-stricken northeast to contribute to the prevailing peace in an area where scarcity of resources such as water and pasture land has often resulted in violent conflict.
A key U.S. objective was to help Kenya make further progress in the fight against corruption. Early in 2005, the Department of Governance and Ethics (DGE), the U.S. Government's key anti-corruption partner, asserted itself as the leading anti-corruption body of the Kenyan Government. However, in February 2005, Kenya's highest anti-corruption official, the Permanent Secretary of the DGE, resigned in frustration over Government unresponsiveness. This resignation and questionable Government commitment to addressing corruption within its ranks led the United States to cease support of the DGE. On numerous occasions, the Ambassador used public events, op-eds, and speeches to speak out publicly on the critical need for firm Government action against corruption.
The Embassy continued to work with the Department of Public Prosecution's (DPP) newly created specialized unit on anti-corruption, economic crimes, serious fraud, and asset recovery. In addition to creating the specialized unit, the program provided for a secretariat to manage the training and capacity building activities and equipped research facilities. The United States hosted, in conjunction with the DPP, an investigation and pretrial issue training course for Kenyan criminal prosecutors in which a number of U.S. officials participated. As a result of U.S. support, the legislature passed the Public Procurement and Disposal Bill and the Privatization Bill, significant milestones that expand the opportunities for ensuring transparency in use of state resources.
In 2005, the United States awarded small grants to four local NGOs for projects to eradicate the use of torture by security forces, increase the participation of women in local governance, prevent women's property and inheritance rights violations, and end FGM. Trainings educated 70 former circumcisers and secured commitments to campaign against the practice. Women's voter education programs allowed more women to vote without assistance during the November constitutional referendum.
To address the impact of HIV/AIDS on Kenyan women, the United States supported NGOs that advocate for women's property and inheritance rights and changes to other government policies that adversely affect women who have HIV/AIDS or suffer indirectly from its consequences.
Reinforcing the Government's efforts to improve prison conditions, the United States continued to support the expansion of HIV prevention and care services in collaboration with the Kenya Prisons Service. These activities included training of peer educators and medical workers within the prisons, improvement of capacity to diagnose and treat TB and HIV among prisoners, and the establishment of voluntary counseling and HIV testing centers at eight prisons, including a women's facility.
The Ambassador engaged frequently with religious leaders. The Embassy met regularly with Muslim leaders on the coast to discuss the sense of marginalization among Muslim communities in Kenya.
The United States continued annual funding for the American Center for International Labor Solidarity East Africa to promote the independence and good governance of African trade unions, national and regional democracy and anti-corruption efforts, improvement of industrial relations, HIV/AIDS workplace programs, and implementation of ILO core labor standards. Projects included training in advocacy, paralegal training for industrial disputes, programs to combat sexual harassment and workplace violence, exposure and prevention of sweatshop conditions in garment factories (especially those exporting to the United States), and country studies on human and labor union rights.
The United States supported a five-year project with the ILO's International Program on the Elimination of Child Labor aimed to reduce the incidence of the worst forms of child labor in Kenya. A total of 20,000 children were targeted for withdrawal and prevention services. A second regional project will improve the quality of and access to basic, technical, and vocational training for 30,600 HIV/AIDS-affected children who are working or at-risk of working in the worst forms of child labor.
In 2005, Kenya improved its anti-TIP performance from Tier 2 Watch List to Tier 2. The United States hosted a conference to increase awareness of the problem and strengthen collaborative anti-trafficking efforts by the Government of Kenya and NGOs. The United States agreed to fund three Kenyan NGOs to receive small grants for projects including victims' assistance programs and public awareness of human trafficking among the vulnerable refugee populations.
Liberia is a constitutional republic. In January 2006, the National Transitional Government of Liberia (NTGL), the interim government since the August 2003 termination of a ruinous 14-year civil war, was replaced by the democratically elected Unity Party Government, led by Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf. Legislative and presidential multiparty elections, held in October 2005, were deemed open and transparent by a number of national and international observer organizations. During the year, the NTGL respected the human rights of its citizens and the Government passed legislation to strengthen human rights; however, the country faced serious challenges, including a weak judiciary, official corruption and impunity, and extreme poverty that led to child labor. As a result of the 14-year civil war, the roads fell into disrepair, the educational system barely functioned, and the country continued to lack basic infrastructure such as communal electric power, potable water, or sanitary sewers.
The U.S. strategy to promote democracy and human rights in Liberia included support for a wide variety of programs designed to consolidate peace and foster respect for human rights. Through these programs, the United States helped improve prison conditions, police professionalism, anti-corruption efforts, voter and civic education, child protection, capabilities for combating trafficking in persons (TIP), and respect for the rule of law. The United States also built local capacity by supporting Liberian human rights organizations that do public outreach and human rights education. U.S. officials routinely and publicly highlighted the need for improvements in human rights conditions, and worked privately with Liberian officials, NGOs, and international organizations to identify areas of concern and encourage systemic reforms.
In support of national elections, the United States sponsored programs designed to strengthen political parties, promote voter registration, educate citizens, train polling place officials, advise the National Elections Commission, and otherwise support preparations for the October presidential and parliamentary elections as well as for the presidential runoff election in November. The Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs led an official U.S. election observer delegation for the October elections. For both elections, the United States sent observers to a combined total of 13 of 15 counties to observe voting, counting, and tallying procedures. In addition, the United States funded a monetary disclosure process to enable the National Elections Commission to trace the funding of presidential and senatorial contestants in a transparent manner.
During the national elections, the United States held a number of discussion sessions and programs to educate journalists on elections reporting. They included a video conference with a U.S. expert on how to report on elections, a discussion on media responsibility, and an elections media resource center open to national and international journalists. The Ambassador taped a public service broadcast for the UN Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) radio, urging citizens to accept the results and respect the supporters of other candidates. The U.S. Deputy Chief of Mission spoke at more than 10 universities and secondary schools on the importance of voting and respecting the results. In addition to elections-related support, the Embassy used the International Visitors Leadership Program to provide a senior radio reporter with an opportunity to visit the United States for professional development. As part of civil society strengthening, the United States continued to support local radio stations. For example, U.S.-supported programs enabled the transmission of voter education messages and calls for calm over 22 community radio stations in several counties during the election campaign.
Following the peace agreement in 2003, the United States allocated significant resources to fund relief and reconstruction and to support police and judicial reform as well as rule of law programs, in coordination with the UNMIL and other implementing partners and donors. These programs included a prison infrastructure project, support for rebuilding and training the Liberian National Police (LNP), the provision of U.S. civilian police advisors to the LNP, and support for judicial reform.
Corruption is a serious issue in the country. The United States publicly and repeatedly highlighted corruption-related issues with the National Transitional Legislative Assembly (NTLA), NTGL, and other relevant parties. In an effort to combat abuses, the United States helped frame, negotiate, and implement the Governance and Economic Management Assistance Program that placed internationally recruited financial controllers and management experts in the Ministry of Finance, the Central Bank, and other relevant ministries to encourage transparency and accountability. The United States worked with the Forestry Development Authority to ensure basic minimum labor standards for the industry, financial transparency, and conditions necessary for lifting UN sanctions on timber exports. The United States also provided a large grant to help the newly inaugurated Government comply with the Kimberly Process, an international certification process designed to prevent the trade of "conflict diamonds."
The United States promoted several programs that assisted in the passage of legislation in support of Liberia's Truth and Reconciliation Act. These activities included a nationwide survey on truth and justice issues, support to the Transitional Justice Working Group, an alliance of Liberian NGOs which advocates for national justice endeavors, and funding a former South African Truth and Reconciliation member to serve as a consultant to the Liberian Truth and Reconciliation Commission selection panel.
A number of other civil society organizations received U.S. support for human rights capacity building. The United States provided a grant to help develop the capacity of 23 Liberian NGOs to encourage transparency and good governance and to promote human rights. The United States funded a consortium of independent NGOs to work with political parties, the National Elections Commission, and the media on monitoring the parties' compliance with campaign finance regulations and combating the misuse of state resources for electoral purposes. The United States worked to create a sustainable peace and promote community reintegration by supporting the Liberia Community Infrastructure Program (LCIP) and the Women and Child Soldier Rehabilitation and Reintegration Program (WCRR). LCIP creates jobs and provides vocational training and psycho-social counseling for excombatants and other war-affected persons. In addition, the United States supported a community-based program that provided 30,000 war-affected youth with non-formal skills training in HIV/AIDS work, conflict mediation, and human rights awareness. The WCRR was implemented through cooperative agreements with various international partners to provide child protection services.
The United States further promoted community rejuvenation by supporting the return and reintegration of approximately 43,000 Liberian refugees and over 270,000 internally displaced persons and conflict victims since late 2004. Through support to the UN High Commission for Refugees and NGO partners, the United Stated helped secure durable solutions for refugees by facilitating returns and creating conditions in communities that encouraged returns, including medical services, water and sanitation programs, education, support to victims of violence against women, and family tracing and reunification programs.
The United States continued publicly and privately to encourage the legislature and other government agencies to prioritize issues that primarily affect women, such as rape and female genital mutilation. Through an international NGO, the United States funded a cross-border anti-TIP awareness program that reaches out to communities in Liberia and Sierra Leone. The United States publicly voiced support for anti-TIP programs as well as the anti-TIP bill that was passed in mid-2005 by the NTLA. Through another international NGO, the United States supported a child labor initiative to help eliminate the worst forms of child labor.
The United States launched a four-year program to contribute to the sustainable elimination of exploitive child labor in Lofa, Nimba, and Montserrado counties. It will conduct a baseline study on child labor, improve school access through scholarships, and promote family income generation. The United States seeks to improve basic infrastructure, supplies, and curricula for schools, as well as provide non-formal education programs. Initiatives target communities with awareness raising activities, and assist local partners with self-monitoring systems.
Madagascar has many elements of a modern democracy, but its institutions are weak and subject to executive influence. The Government generally respected the rights of its citizens; however, problems existed in some areas. A less than independent judiciary selectively enforced laws. A culture of impunity fostered public corruption. Civil society remained weak and unable to counter government excess. Access to public information remained inadequate for civil society and Government alike.
The U.S. strategy to promote democracy and human rights focused on strengthening key governmental and civil institutions. The Embassy advanced these goals in the monthly Human Rights Working Group (HRWG), democracy and governance activities, and programs financed with U.S. funding. In 2005, the HRWG conducted outreach designed to improve public understanding of fundamental human rights. Democracy and governance sector programs worked to strengthen civil society; increase access to information; promote women's rights; increase government transparency, accountability, and responsiveness to community needs; and strengthen the Government's capacity to address corruption. The Embassy worked in close coordination with the Government to combat trafficking in persons (TIP) and supported other grassroots human rights initiatives.
The Embassy coordinated and chaired the monthly Madagascar HRWG, which remained a significant forum for officials and civil society to discuss human rights issues. Topics discussed during the year included the Government's duty to protect human rights, the position of women in Malagasy society, law enforcement's role in protecting the rights of children, fostering support for civil society, advancing the rights of the elderly, and unionization. In December, the HRWG conducted a series of awareness and educational activities for International Human Rights Week. The Malagasy Constitution requires the Government to create apolitical organizations that promote and protect human rights. However, the Government's National Commission for Human Rights has been inactive since its members' terms expired in the 2002 political crisis. Throughout 2005, the HRWG actively lobbied for the Government to reinstate the Commission.
The Embassy sent several Malagasy leaders to the United States under the International Visitors Leadership Program to study issues such as religion, conflict resolution, grassroots democracy, and NGO management.
To promote freedom of speech in Madagascar, the HRWG hosted a three-day colloquium on press freedom. The colloquium featured presentations by the Minister of Communication, journalist associations, and representatives from public and private radio, television, and daily newspapers. The event fostered debate on how to protect press freedom while instilling a spirit of professionalism and responsibility within the press corps.
The Embassy supported a Multi-Sectoral Information Service in eight focus regions to link civil society decision makers and Government partners to sector-specific information sources. The Embassy's newly hired Radio Corridor Coordinator ensured greater access to radio in remote regions of the country. The coordinator's role included the dissemination of independent radio programming that included educational programs relevant to local populations.
The United States actively worked to build the capacity of civil society groups, including organizations that dealt directly with human rights issues such as violence against women and freedom of information. In June, the Embassy helped convoke a conference for the National Platform for Civil Society Organizations in Madagascar. During the meeting more than 300 participants representing 220 organizations adopted a common charter. The platform's objective was to improve coordination and communication to strengthen civil society as an advocate and government partner. One component of the new platform dealt specifically with human rights.
In 2005, the United States funded programs to strengthen civil society and improve women's legal rights. Embassy representatives participated in the Malagasy National Gender Network (MNGN), a group of NGOs, individuals, Government officials, and donors working to promote gender equality. The United States also helped to reorganize and revitalize the MNGN, which led to the organization's first procedure manual. Madagascar was a focus country for the U.S. Women's Legal Rights (WLR) Initiative, which implemented four regional workshops during the year to help 40 women-led NGOs gain a better understanding of the Malagasy Family Code and international conventions relating to women, as well as to develop a legislative action plan. Results of a recent pilot survey on family law, violence against women, and women's participation in civil life confirmed that violence against women occurred frequently. The results will be used to develop future activities to strengthen women's legal rights in Madagascar.
An arcane system of citizenship laws and procedures has created a pool of stateless persons in the country. A large majority of these people are Muslims of Indo-Pakistani origin, many of whom have pending naturalization requests. During the year the Ambassador regularly raised this issue with the President, Prime Minister, and Minister of Justice, and encouraged them to process the pending applications.
The United States funded two anti-corruption assessments focused on the tourism and crafts sectors during the year. The Anti-Corruption High Council (CSLCC) used the data to develop the second national anti-corruption strategy. The Embassy provided logistical support for two regional CSLCC workshops, which were part of a public consultation process to develop a revised national anti-corruption strategy document. Attendees included local government officials, CSO members, and private sector representatives. This program resulted in the completion of a feasibility study on a network of corruption observatories in three regions in Madagascar. The network will be used to monitor the evolution and mechanisms of anti-corruption reform.
The United States funded the CSLCC's Monitoring and Evaluation Specialist and the Independent Anti-Corruption Bureau's (BIANCO) legal specialist to attend the Brazil Global Forum on the Fight Against Corruption in June 2005. The forum addressed practical and effective measures for preventing and fighting corruption. Workshops stimulated discussion on a range of issues such as international conventions, money laundering, e-government, corruption measurement, conflict of interest, civil society, and local-level corruption. Funding also extended to anti-corruption "open house" campaigns in three provinces to raise awareness about BIANCO's role and mandate. The United States reinforced the capacity of anti-corruption NGOs including the local chapter of Transparency International, the Malagasy Arbitration and Mediation Center, and the Anti-Corruption Coalition to help these organizations become more sustainable. The United States hosted a special training session for the BIANCO office in Antananarivo.
In a November meeting with the Minister of the Interior, the Ambassador expressed U.S. concern over the closure of the New Protestant Church in Madagascar.
The Embassy continued to advance anti-TIP initiatives in close collaboration with the President's special inter-ministerial anti-TIP committee. During the year, the committee continued its comprehensive review of existing TIP legislation, increased enforcement of laws barring minors from nightclubs, and persisted in its efforts to rehabilitate children occupied in the worst forms of child labor, including commercial sexual exploitation. To support these efforts, the Embassy secured support from the Department's Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons to conduct an in-depth study of sex and labor trafficking in Madagascar as well as a nationwide information campaign. In addition, the United States provided assistance to victims of TIP in the at-risk cities of Nosy Be and Tamatave and published and distributed a training book with techniques to support investigations and trials.
Mauritania was a highly centralized Islamic republic dominated by a strong presidency. On August 3, military and security commanders led by Colonel Ely Ould Mohammed Fal, the Chief of National Police, seized power in a bloodless coup, established a military council to run the country, and deposed President Maaouiya Ould Sid'Ahmed Taya after 21 years as head of state. The council appointed a transitional government and dissolved parliament. After a formal set of consultations in October and November with political parties and civil society representatives, the military council released a consensus timeline for a transition to democracy, culminating in a presidential election in March 2007, and the disbandment of the military council by May 2007.
The United States condemned the coup, limited its engagement with the military junta, and suspended most non-humanitarian assistance. Suspended programs include International Military Education Training, Anti-Terrorism Assistance, International Criminal Investigative Training Assistance Program, and Foreign Military Financing.
Both the former and transitional Government's human rights record remained poor in 2005. Although there were improvements in some areas, numerous problems remained. Democratic institutions remained rudimentary. The former Government circumscribed citizens' ability to change their government. Some members of the security forces reportedly used excessive force, beat, or otherwise abused detainees. Arbitrary arrest, detention, and illegal searches remained concerns. While the former Government recognized several NGOs, and the transitional Government recognized one new political party, both Governments refused to recognize most political parties, NGOs, or human rights organizations. Discrimination against women continued. Female genital mutilation remained a widespread problem. Despite efforts of the former and transitional Governments, reports persist of slavery in the form of involuntary servitude, and in some areas slaves continued to work for former masters. Child labor in the informal sector was common. In a positive move, both the former and transitional Governments trained police and judicial officials on the application of the recently strengthened labor code prohibiting forced labor and related practices.
Given the extraordinary circumstances of the past year, the U.S. human rights and democracy strategy in Mauritania was primarily focused on making sure that the country moved promptly toward democracy through free and fair elections. The strategy included a robust regimen of diplomatic engagement, both with the transitional government, and with international partners and the UN. In addition to actively helping this democratization process, the U.S. strategy incorporated respect for fundamental human rights, developing civil society and responsible media, promoting religious freedom and tolerance, and combating forced labor, child labor, and trafficking in persons (TIP).
The United States repeatedly raised human rights and democracy issues at every level with the former and transitional Governments throughout 2005. During his December 2005 visit, Congressman Bennie Thompson also discussed human rights and democracy with junta leader Colonel Fal, various ministers, and representatives of political parties and civil society. The United States funded assistance projects in the areas of good governance, literacy, workers' rights, and the rights of women and children.
The United States funded and implemented programs to enhance the capacity and role of political parties and civil society in the preparation for elections. These programs involved town hall meetings concerning the role of women in the political process, as well as various training seminars on the role of political parties in shaping Government policy, including election planning. Activities assisted NGOs in becoming more engaged in the current transition to democracy and to serve as agents of change.
In an ongoing effort to support an independent press, the Embassy celebrated International Press Freedom Day on May 3. A daylong conference attended by more than 50 journalists from a wide variety of local newspapers highlighted the rights and responsibilities of an independent press. The events included a debate on the role of the press in Mauritania. A U.S.-sponsored reporters' writing competition awarded eight local journalists for their articles on freedom of the press, human rights, development, and women's participation in the political process.
In March, the United States awarded an International Visitors Leadership Program (IVLP) grant to the Chief Editor of Mauritania's first independent French paper. The program, which focused on the role of the media, included visits to various U.S. media outlets, and with political and civil society actors and high-ranking Government officials. The United States sponsored two other independent journalists in an October seminar focusing on democracy and the press in Douala, Cameroon. In addition, the Ambassador regularly invited journalists to accompany him and provide news coverage of his regular travels, highlighting the many U.S. development and human rights promotion projects.
In an ongoing effort to protect the dignity and human rights of all Mauritanians, U.S. officials visited various prisons and met with hundreds of inmates. Following these visits, the Embassy worked with prison and Government officials to improve prison conditions and press for judicial reforms to ensure that each prisoner received access to legal council and a fair and speedy trial. In July, the former Government sponsored a week-long human rights conference aimed at training attendees to detect, investigate, and try cases involving human rights abuses. More than 60 judges, lawyers, NGO representatives, and police and gendarmerie officers attended the conference.
The United States discussed religious freedom and tolerance with senior Government officials and religious leaders. The United States also engaged religious leaders in discussions denouncing terrorism and the use of Islam as a justification for terrorist acts.
In addition, the United States provided a grant to help expand the capacity of four NGOs dealing with victims of TIP. The United States aggressively investigated reports and allegations of slavery and slavery-related practices throughout 2005. The Embassy also emphasized the need for the Government to provide statistical evidence of its anti-TIP activities to the public.
In May and June 2005, the United States sponsored Operation Flintlock, a counterterrorism training operation involving the armed forces of seven African countries, including Mauritania. The principal purpose of the training was to enhance the capabilities of participant countries to halt the flow of illicit weapons, goods, and human trafficking in the region. The United States reviewed human rights records of members of military and security forces who participated in training. Embassy personnel based in Nouakchott used the opportunity presented by these Leahy Amendment reviews to discuss with senior security and military officials the importance of protecting human rights in the conduct of law enforcement or military activities.
Mozambique is a constitutional democracy. President Armando Guebuza was elected in December 2004, in what national and international observers judged to be generally free and fair elections despite some irregularities. Limited Government accountability and lack of transparency, however, contributed to persistent corruption and weak human rights safeguards. The Front for the Liberation of Mozambique (FRELIMO), the ruling political party since independence in 1975, has moved away from its Marxist beginnings to promote an increasingly open society. Press freedom continued to expand during the year. Government performance remained weak in other areas, and serious human rights problems remained. There were reports of unlawful killings, extremely harsh prison conditions, arbitrary arrest and detention, widespread discrimination against women and persons with disabilities and AIDS, and trafficking of women and children to South Africa.
In 2005, the United States carried out a wide range of programs to enhance municipal Government performance by improving accountability, responsiveness, transparency, and service provision. The United States also supported efforts by key Government agencies and civil society to draft a freedom of information bill and assisted in upgrading the police force.
To strengthen municipal governance, the Embassy invited seven mayors to the United States as participants in an International Visitors Leadership Program. As a result of this initiative, the mayors established collaborative links with American institutions to further enhance their understanding of the role and potential of local Government. In a separate initiative, the United States funded a five-year project to help five municipalities improve citizen participation, municipal management, and revenue generation. Additionally, the United States backed the first-ever Conference of the National Association of Municipalities, an organization representing local Governments which advocate for their priorities on the national stage.
Mozambique made progress on press freedom issues, as evidenced by the willingness of journalists to cover politically sensitive cases; however, some television, radio, and print media news outlets were not fully independent from Government or political party control. Additionally, the United States supported radio and print media organizations in efforts to enhance independence.
To strengthen democracy and good governance, the United States increased its emphasis on anti-corruption programs, including activities with both the Government and civil society. The United States worked to improve the performance of the recently restructured Central Office for the Combat of Corruption in the Attorney General's office by providing funds to train prosecutors in investigative skills. U.S. funds also supported technical assistance and scholarships for law and auditing degrees.
U.S.-funded anti-corruption programs supported citizen awareness campaigns, encouraging citizens to denounce corrupt behavior and publicizing the corruption reporting process. With U.S. assistance, Mozambique's only anti-corruption NGO, �tica Mo�ambique, opened Corruption Reporting Centers in seven provincial capitals. The centers received and tracked over 190 citizen reports.
U.S. officials met often with a Mozambican NGO that monitored allegations of torture and other gross human rights abuses. The United States also hosted a public roundtable on domestic violence and child abuse.
The United States supported a number of activities to increase religious freedom and toleration, particularly for the minority Islamic community. The United States funded and organized the visit of an American imam to Maputo and arranged for an inter-faith round table on religion during his stay. The Embassy also funded travel to the United States for two Mozambican imams during the year. During the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, the Embassy hosted several Iftaars (breaking of fast) to demonstrate support for and respect for religious observances.
The United States actively advocated for the formulation and passage of anti-trafficking in persons (TIP) legislation and provided technical assistance to the Government to draft the new law. Mozambique is a source country for an estimated 1,000 women trafficked to South Africa each year for the purpose of sexual exploitation. In addition, children were taken from Mozambique to South Africa to work on farms under extremely harsh conditions. Despite an interest to combat such trafficking, the Government had limited resources and lacked specific anti-trafficking legislation. As a result, it made little progress on prevention or prosecution. Through the Women's Legal Rights Initiative, the United States responded to a request from the Government for technical assistance in drafting an anti-TIP law. The United States also laid the groundwork for linking anti-trafficking efforts to existing HIV/AIDS activities in Mozambique's main transit corridors.
The U.S. Government funded a program to combat exploitative child labor through education.
The Government of Nigeria's record on democracy, the rule of law, corruption, prevention of internal conflict, and the welfare of its citizens remained problematic. The executive branch often hampered credible judicial reviews of challenged results from the 2003 elections with a lack of cooperation. The executive branch also ignored court verdicts related to the elections. The legislative branch passed relatively little legislation. Nigeria agreed to a G-8 Transparency and Anti-Corruption Compact at the Sea Island Summit in June 2004, and is a participant in the Extractive Industry Transparency Initiative (EITI). The Government established institutions to tackle rampant corruption, but with one exception—the former Inspector-General of Police, who received a very light sentence for corruption—those institutions have not brought trials of senior officials to either conviction or acquittal. Religious and ethnic divisions beset Nigeria, and the Government sometimes was as much a part of the problem as of the solution. Growing poverty and poor governance in many areas around the country added tension to the political climate. National debate centered on whether the 2007 presidential election will be free and fair.
The U.S. human rights and democracy strategy targeted building an accountable, transparent democracy with a robust civil society, respect for human rights, rule of law, good governance, and conflict resolution. In addition, the strategy focused on the need for the Government to improve the environment to have free and fair elections and to strengthen rule of law. Corruption, ethnic and religious violence, respect for the Constitution, and concerns over judicial independence were among many themes pursued by U.S. officials in Nigeria.
The United States combined programs to improve democracy and governance through increased accountability and the institutionalization of peaceful political processes. The United States also initiated programs to strengthen the rule of law through increased access to justice, revised legal frameworks and the mitigation of the causes and impact of trafficking in persons (TIP). The United States worked to improve governance by supporting fair elections, strengthening political parties and legislative institutions, and increasing civil society's capabilities to advocate for policy reform and monitor Government operations. Activities to strengthen the rule of law included management and dissemination of court information, codification of judicial ethics, and expanded access to justice by means of alternative dispute resolution.
The United States funded an American NGO in northern Nigeria to promote sound human rights reporting. The program includes a comprehensive training regimen for selected reporters that concludes with an annual ceremony and award presentation to the reporter who made the greatest achievement in human rights reporting over the course of the year.
With U.S. support, the Publish What You Pay coalition has been successfully engaged with the EITI process, appearing and presenting comment at several EITI secretariat-convened public meetings. In a significant effort to institutionalize civil society engagement, the secretariat has created and staffed the position of a civil society organization liaison officer.
The United States provided technical assistance to help the Nigerian Supreme Court develop a website, making available to the public critical information on the Constitution and legal precedents.
The United States continued to sponsor a successful community policing pilot project with the Nigerian Police Force. The project promoted tactics aimed at crime reduction, while improving the professionalism, responsibility, and performance of the Nigerian Police Force. A major portion of the program focused on respect for human rights, covering such topics as excessive use of force and extrajudicial killings.
The United States regularly distributes information via its Information Resource Centers (IRCs) on human rights, rule of law, and related topics. Information is distributed to targeted audiences that include journalists, academics, businessmen and women, civic organizations, teachers, students, Government officials, military, clergy, and traditional rulers. Such information may include U.S. and nongovernmental publications such as academic and think tank reports. The IRCs also distributed information throughout Nigeria via the American Corners program. American Corners are presently located in nine cities, with three more slated for opening in the near future. American Corners also serve as a venue for official and unofficial Americans to speak about human rights, good governance and rule of law, and other related themes.
The United States sponsors small-scale projects at the community level. Such projects in 2005 included a program in Kano to sensitize women on purdah (a cultural practice of keeping women segregated from men who are not their relatives), a two-day informational workshop on anti-corruption laws in Abeokuta, and a publicity campaign against female genital mutilation in Abia State.
As in previous years, the United States sponsored a Senior Leader Seminar attended by Nigerian military leaders, in which a plenary session was devoted to human rights. The "Next Generation of African Military Leaders" course, conducted in April and May, and attended by military leaders, also included a human rights component, demonstrating to participants that respect for human rights will enhance military professionalism and civil-military relations. The United States includes human rights training for all members of the military who receive military training.
The United States worked extensively on the problem of inter-religious violence and religious freedom, meeting with national and local political and religious leaders on multiple occasions to gain a better understanding of existing problems and to advocate resolution. Embassy officials gave speeches across the country calling for reconciliation and traveled extensively to work with state officials and Muslim and Christian leaders on promoting peace and ending discrimination, including holding interfaith celebrations of tolerance. A Christian pastor and Muslim imam from Kaduna, whom the United States sent for training in Vermont in 2003, in turn sensitized members of the Kaduna Peace Committee in 2004. The United States paid for radio and television programs on religious tolerance in which the pastor and imam discussed conflict issues in Kaduna and Kano. In recognition of the success of their peacemaking efforts, the pastor and imam received the prestigious Common Ground Award in 2004 from the well-known NGO Search for Common Ground. In 2005, the United States funded additional programs by the pastor and the imam.
As part of the U.S. efforts toward promoting religious tolerance, the United States sponsored some 20 Nigerian high school students from Kaduna, Sokoto, Plateau, and Taraba states for one academic year in the United States. About 32 alumni of this program have formed Peace Clubs in their respective schools in Kaduna and Sokoto, and are currently engaged in peace building efforts and community volunteerism.
Programs to manage conflict included sensitizing community and opinion leaders, youth groups, and faith-based organizations about the virtues of peaceful coexistence, establishing conflict early warning networks, and providing humanitarian assistance for internally displaced persons.
The United States sponsored speakers on the rule of law, religious tolerance, and democratic governance at major universities, think tanks, and American Corners in major cities outside the capital. Embassy officials hosted a workshop on civic education and published a manual on citizens' rights and responsibilities in a democratic society.
Embassy officials regularly met with local, state, and federal officials to discuss human rights trends in policymaking and law enforcement. They also worked closely with civic and international NGOs on such issues as worker rights, religious freedom, prison conditions, and women's, children's, and minorities' rights. Over the last two years, numerous International Visitors Leadership Program grantees have participated in programs on human rights and democracy. Several Humphrey candidates participated in projects on the rule of law, human rights, democracy, and investigative journalism.
The United States sponsored activities to mitigate the causes and consequences of TIP, including the dissemination of anti-trafficking materials via public media. The United States held press briefings and participated in workshops to increase public awareness and societal capacity to recognize and address the dangers of TIP.
Nigeria cooperated with the International Labor Organization on a country-wide program to reduce the worst forms of child labor. Another program supported the initiative in West Africa to eliminate hazardous child labor from cocoa production. Additional funds supported an effort to help the Government-sponsored Michael Imodou Institute for Labor Studies to upgrade its capacity to train workers about their rights as citizens and employees and to help it become a center for conciliation, mediation, and arbitration training for both labor and industry representatives.
In December, the United States, along with the International Law Institute at Georgetown University, hosted a delegation of high-level judges from Nigeria. The participants were briefed on the techniques of alternative dispute resolution and met with judges at various tribunals who use mediation programs.
The destruction of Rwanda's social fabric and institutional capacity during the 1994 genocide continued to have an adverse impact on the country's human rights situation. Rwanda nevertheless succeeded in adopting a Constitution in 2003 and electing a president, Paul Kagame, as well as a new legislature, in peaceful elections marred by numerous irregularities. The Government's human rights record remained poor and serious human rights abuses occurred, although there were some improvements during the year. Problems included unlawful killings, the use of torture and excessive force by security forces, impunity, arbitrary arrest and detention, denial of fair trial, political prisoners, including former President Pasteur Bizimungu, restrictions on freedoms of speech, press, assembly, and association, abridgement of protection rights for refugees and asylum seekers, restrictions on civil society, violence and discrimination against women, trafficking in persons (TIP), and child labor.
The genocide of 1994 continued to drive policy. The Government did not permit organizations based on ethnicity, although it did register a Batwa advocacy organization, denied registration during the previous year. The Government closely monitored its citizens, civil society, and the public and private sectors for any sign of a return to the divisive attitudes that led to the genocide. Accusations of dissent or criticisms of the Government resulted in limitations on political activity. The Government continued to strongly support the representation of women in government.
After ten months of extensive reform in 2004, the judiciary resumed operations in 2005 as a more effective institution. In practice, however, constraints on the judiciary's independence remained. Observers closely watched the appeal trial of former President Bizimungu for indications of the new Supreme Court's independence. The Court's guilty verdict and ensuing 15-year sentence for Bizimungu, on what were believed to be trumped up charges, highlighted the influence of the executive branch. As a result of the Government's ongoing campaign against "divisionism" and "genocidal ideology," no domestic independent human rights NGOs were active at the beginning of 2005. Only one NGO was active and openly critical of the Government by year's end.
The U.S. strategy focused on building the capacity of the judiciary, the Ministry of Finance, and local Government and supporting the professionalization of the military and security forces. The strategy aimed to increase civil society participation in national dialogue and support the overall decentralization of local Government functions. It also supported activities designed to make Government institutions more responsive to citizens. The United States sought to promote long-term stability, both in the country and in the region, by promoting reconciliation, respect for the rule of law, and human rights.
The United States consistently supported human rights and democracy in Rwanda. Concerns about human rights abuses were raised with Government officials, NGOs, and international agencies. The United States utilized a wide range of diplomatic tools, including close monitoring and reporting of human rights abuses, technical assistance and training to promote Government accountability and respect for human rights, and capacity-building programs to strengthen Rwandan institutions, NGOs, and civil society.
The United States sponsored public outreach for political parties and university students that focused on democratic institutions and good governance, including best practices. Rwandan journalists, business leaders, and Government officials, including judges, participated in professional training and development in the United States through the International Visitors Leadership Program. Training focused on print journalism, the role of the media, grassroots outreach, coalition building, democracy, transparency, and good governance.
The United States promoted rural economic growth and good governance by supporting projects that partnered NGOs with private and public sector actors. A five-year project was initiated in 2005 to support a large number of NGOs through small grants, primarily directed at service NGOs and activities for creating employment opportunities. A portion of the program was dedicated to encouraging interaction among elected leaders, NGOs, and the general population.
The United States engaged in programs designed to build the capacity of both NGOs and local government institutions. To improve community-based reconciliation efforts, the United States supported the Government's Genocide Survivors Fund, providing secondary education for approximately 2,640 students, many of who were orphaned by the genocide.
The United States provided support to the judiciary for the development of new financial management procedures and to prepare a budget with input from all levels of the judiciary. The United States funded Lawyers Without Borders to conduct a two-phase training program for judges. The program included an element to train 572 judges who, in the second phase, trained 43,288 judges for Rwanda's grassroots, community-based judicial system known as "gacaca."
On October 29, 2004, the United States resumed a limited security assistance program in Rwanda, which included an International Military Education and Training (IMET) program component. In 2005, the IMET program focused on respect for human and civil rights, civilian control of the military, and the proper role of the military in a democracy. Objectives included assisting the army in playing a positive role in Peace Support Operations, returnee reintegration, and ethnic reconciliation, as well as overall respect for human rights.
In 2005, the Rwandan Defense Force (RDF) deployed its forces in support of an African Union (AU) peacekeeping effort in Darfur, Sudan. Rwanda also deployed troops in support of the UN peacekeeping mission in Sudan. Officers and non-commissioned officers who attended previous U.S.-sponsored training in Law of Land Warfare and respect for human rights, as well as training funded by the Global Peace Operations Initiative, were instrumental in contributing to AU efforts to promote peace and stability in Darfur. Additionally, RDF officers and soldiers attended various training courses that included human rights components and focused on the development of a professional army.
In November, the United States sponsored a Rwandan police inspector to attend a counterterrorism seminar in West Point, New York. The training included sessions on human rights and democracy.
The United States continued to fund a three-year prevention and reintegration program for former child soldiers and war-affected youth, with a special emphasis on girls. The program focused on legislation, appropriate procedures, and monitoring mechanisms. It also worked to build the capacity of Government institutions to address child soldiering. The regional program facilitated and supported the economic reintegration of former child combatants through education, training, financial support, and community strengthening. Another component of the program enhanced information-sharing on child soldiers in the region.
The United States continued to fund a project that targeted over 30,000 HIV/AIDS affected children involved in the worst forms of child labor. The project aimed to increase access to education through awareness campaigns and other support for the children, their communities, and related institutions.
The United States supported the Government's efforts to combat TIP and to protect the rights of women and children. In collaboration with UNICEF, the Government identified the most egregious forms of child labor, sponsored three NGOs to assist children working in these sectors, and supported programs specifically designed to alleviate poverty in families where indigence was most often cited as the primary cause of child labor. The Government also offered rehabilitation programming to prostitutes, including employment training.
Sierra Leone is a constitutional republic with continuing challenges that resulted in part from the 11-year civil war that ended in 2002. The Government generally respected the rights of its citizens; however, widespread poverty, a destroyed infrastructure, and decades of bad governance contributed to numerous human rights problems. Security force abuses, police corruption, official impunity, poor conditions in prisons and detention centers, prolonged detention, restrictions on freedom of the press, societal discrimination and violence against women, female genital mutilation, trafficking in persons (TIP), and child labor were problems.
The U.S. strategy to promote democracy and human rights in Sierra Leone focused on peace and stabilization, strengthening key Government and civil institutions, increasing transparency and greater participation in the political process, and addressing the endemic corruption that continued to undermine the country's developing democracy. While engaging closely with high-level Government officials on these goals, the United States focuses many of its efforts at the grassroots level. Programs to improve human rights and democracy focused on issues such as civic education, child labor, and TIP.
An overly centralized Government, ineffective leaders, and corruption had contributed substantially to Sierra Leone's 11-year civil war. The United States strongly supported Government efforts to decentralize and to increase transparency and accountability. While district and town council representatives have been in office since mid-2004, many of them remained unskilled in their roles. U.S. assistance helped 82 local communities and their local council representatives build a community framework to discuss governance issues.
The United States also consulted closely with the Government and other international donors to develop and implement a plan to strengthen the National Electoral Commission and Political Parties Registration Commission ahead of the 2007 presidential and parliamentary elections, which will be an important barometer of Sierra Leone's progress toward sustainable peace.
The United States helped to promote local governance and strengthen civil society by sponsoring over 1,200 hours of radio air time dedicated to the discussion of democracy and governance issues. For example, decisions by the majority of citizens in the Kailahun District to not pay taxes were resolved through the auspices of a U.S.-sponsored radio program. Representatives from the Kailahun District Council broadcasted the rationale for recent tax increases and how tax revenues were used. After the program, counselors, civil society representatives, and citizens successfully mobilized Kailahun residents to pay their taxes.
The criminal and seditious libel provisions of the 1965 Public Order Act remained an obstacle to media freedom. The Ambassador advocated for an alternative to the Public Order Act at a local workshop. The Ambassador also advocated for press freedom on a number of occasions, including during a trip to the town where a journalist had recently been harassed by traditional authorities and sent away from his job. The journalist had publicly criticized political manipulation during the ruling Sierra Leone People's Party convention to choose their presidential candidate.
The country's human rights oversight capacity was extremely weak. Although the 1999 Lome Peace Accords called for the establishment of a National Human Rights Commission, a civil society panel of screeners had identified no qualified applicants for presidential consideration. The UN peacekeeping mission had assumed a significant human rights oversight mandate; however, it fully withdrew from the country before year's end. It was replaced by a much smaller peace building mission, requiring local NGOs to assume a greater oversight role. The United States also funded local NGO projects such as court monitoring and civic education on the role and activities of Parliament.
The United States is the largest contributor to the Special Court for Sierra Leone. The Court has a mandate from the UN Security Council to bring to justice those with "the greatest responsibility" for violations of international humanitarian and human rights law committed in the country from 1996 to the war's end in 2002. Successful implementation of this mandate would send a strong message throughout Africa that the culture of impunity is unacceptable. The Ambassador and his country team were in regular contact with senior Special Court officials to determine how the United States could most effectively support the Special Court.
Exceptionally poor civil-military relations were a chronic impediment to democratic governance. The United States continued to participate in the UK-led effort to remake the Republic of Sierra Leone Armed Forces and Sierra Leone Police into effective forces under civilian authority. American military personnel embedded in the International Military Advisory and Training Team (IMATT) provided experienced military guidance and training, contributing to IMATT's capabilities. The United States also organized three conferences to promote improved civil-military relations.
One of the country's most enduring problems was the abuse of women's rights. Both civil and customary law discriminate against women, and gender-based violence was a common occurrence. The United States supported women's rights by hosting a series of events called "Women in Leadership" at the Embassy. These events were aimed at strengthening women's networks and raising awareness of women's issues. The United States supported a local NGO composed of former Sierra Leonean refugees called the Men's Association for Gender Equality to advocate for the prevention of gender-based violence in Kailahun District. The group stressed to men and boys the negative impact that such violence had on their communities. The United States also used an IVLP to promote women's rights; in 2005, a Sierra Leonean attended an International Visitors Leadership Program in the United States on women and the law.
Bonded and child labor continued to be serious human rights abuses in the country's alluvial diamond fields. The United States continued to address these and other issues, working to make diamond mining a legitimate, more transparent, more humane, and effectively monitored activity. The United States also began an extensive, four-year child labor project to provide education to children at risk of working in or already engaged in one of the most severe forms of child labor.
The country was initially assessed as a Tier 3 country for TIP in 2004. Although the Government made significant efforts to address the problem and was able to avoid sanctions, Sierra Leone remained on the Tier 2 Watch List in 2005. The United States worked closely with Government officials and civil society to establish a TIP Task Force and to advocate for the passage of anti-TIP legislation, which President Kabbah signed into law in August 2005.
Somalia has been without a central Government since Mohamed Siad Barre fled the country in 1991. The country's human rights record remained poor and serious human rights abuses continued. During the 1990s, Somalia slipped from 123 to 172 on the UN Development Program's Global Human Development Index, which includes 174 countries. Somalia has not been ranked on the index since 1997 as the pervasive destruction and looting of the country's infrastructure during the civil war made statistical data unavailable. Since 1991, the situation in Somalia has been characterized by clan-based factions vying for power with total disregard for the safety of the civilian population. Members of rival clans and sub-clans targeted each other for murder solely on the basis of their affiliation. Rival clans tortured and even mutilated young men to ensure that they would not join opposing forces. Women and girls were raped. In rural areas, clans and brigands looted crops and livestock to feed their fighters. Belligerents also prevented farmers and herders from resuming their labor, to deprive the enemy and their potential civilian supporters of food and sustenance. Once in control of territory, most of the various factional leaders made no attempt to provide for the welfare of the people in their areas or create any sort of meaningful public administration, and they demonstrated no remorse for the starvation and suffering that their actions created. Somalia has been the site of continuous humanitarian operations since 1990. Severe malnutrition is widespread, with some of the highest general acute malnutrition rates in Africa.
The U.S. human rights and democracy strategy in Somalia focused on achieving national reconciliation, nurturing civil society and other democratic institutions, strengthening the rule of law, and mitigating conflict. The paramount goal of U.S. policy was to encourage the return of Somalia to the international community as a legitimate and reliable member that would not serve as a haven for terrorism. The United States does not have diplomatic representation in Somalia. The U.S. Embassy in Nairobi is responsible for promoting democracy, governance, and human rights in Somalia. In 2005, the Embassy was forced to suspend programs for Somalia due to the difficulty of monitoring projects within the country.
The Somalia National Reconciliation Conference concluded in 2004 following the formation of a transitional government, the components of which are known as the Transitional Federal Institutions (TFIs) and include a President, Prime Minister, 90-member cabinet, and the 275-member clan-based Transitional Federal Assembly (TFA). Throughout 2005 the United States actively promoted the unification of the TFIs as the only available means to return governance to Somalia. In 2004, the TFA elected a Speaker of the Assembly, Shariff Hassan Sheikh Adan, and a Transitional Federal President, Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed. The President later appointed Ali Mohammed Ghedi to serve as Prime Minister. A cabinet (the Council of Ministers) was named and received approval by the TFA in January 2005. Deep political and personal divisions appeared in the TFA and Council of Ministers in March. Roughly two-thirds of TFI members relocated from Kenya to Somalia, but were scattered around the President's and Prime Minister's interim capital of Jowhar, the national capital city, Mogadishu, and the rest of the country.
The self-proclaimed Republic of Somaliland, in northwestern Somalia, held a presidential election in April 2003 and parliamentary elections in September 2005 that were described as credible and transparent by international observers. The United States maintained informal contacts with Somaliland authorities, as it did with a number of other Somali groups, including the semi-autonomous region of Puntland in northeastern Somalia. The United States funded a program to empower political parties and candidates in Somaliland to participate in activities critical to their successful participation in the legislative elections. The program also followed up on the political process following elections, and assisted Somaliland's political parties to organize and implement an effective civic education program. U.S. officials visiting Somaliland encouraged political leaders to develop democratic institutions.
One of the U.S. strategic objectives for Somalia was to strengthen Somali capacity for local governance and conflict mitigation. In this regard, the United States sought to strengthen civil society to improve good governance and peace building at the grassroots level. In 2005, the United States supported a civil society expansion program in Somaliland designed to increase the capacity of selected civil society organizations in designing and implementing sustainable projects that improve maternal health, access to education, and livelihood security. The United States also supported the efforts of community-based organizations to develop and expand democratic institutions, build community participation in local affairs, and create the necessary ownership of local governance by the Somali people. U.S. officials encouraged participation in Somali reconciliation efforts to develop countrywide democratic institutions and addressed human rights violations on an individual basis when possible.
By supporting the engagement of a broad cross-section of Somali people in public discussion, the United States contributed to reconciliation efforts by local and international actors in Somalia. Civil society groups have become key partners in carrying out conflict awareness and management programs. In 2005, 30 consultative meetings involving more than 600 Somali stakeholders facilitated the mapping of regional and national conflicts, as well as the issues at the core of those conflicts and the key actors involved. The United States continued to support the War-torn Societies Project (WSP), an innovative field-oriented research-and-action project, which sought to help create an environment conducive to the consolidation of peace and sustainable development. This project supported three local participatory research organizations, located in Somaliland, Puntland, and Mogadishu (for south-central Somalia), designed to be successor organizations to the project. The United States funded the WSP to establish five satellite peace research centers in Kismayo, Baidoa, Beletweyne, Burao, and Galkayo.
In 2005, the United States led international efforts to resolve the multiple conflicts plaguing Sudan and continued its role as the largest humanitarian and peacekeeping donor for the country. U.S. diplomatic engagement and financial and technical support contributed significantly to the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA), ending Africa's longest running civil war. In Darfur, the United States provided life-saving humanitarian assistance, critical leadership, and financial support to address the crisis of violence against women and girls, and financial and technical support to the AU Mission in Sudan (AMIS) and the AU-sponsored Inter-Sudanese peace process in Abuja, Nigeria.
On January 9, 2005, the Government of Sudan and the Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM) signed the CPA, ending the 22-year civil war between northern and southern Sudan and paving the way for the establishment of the Government of National Unity (GNU) and the regional Government of Southern Sudan (GoSS). John Garang, Chairman of the SPLM, was inaugurated as the First Vice President of the GNU and the President of the GoSS. The Interim National Constitution was ratified on July 10. John Garang died in a helicopter crash on July 30. Riots erupted thereafter in Khartoum and Juba, with hundreds killed or arrested. Salva Kiir succeeded Garang as the First Vice President of the GNU and the President of the GoSS.
In Darfur, Government and Government-supported militias (Jinjaweed) continued to commit serious human rights and humanitarian law abuses. The Jinjaweed were responsible for killing hundreds of civilians, razing villages of African tribes, forcibly displacing tens of thousands, and committing acts of torture and violence against women, including rape. Then-Secretary of State Powell described the violence as genocide in September 2004. The Secretary of State has since affirmed that judgment. In January 2005, the UN International Commission of Inquiry on Darfur concluded that the violations of humanitarian and human rights, which could be considered crimes "no less heinous than genocide," had occurred. While large scale violence, in which entire villages were destroyed, diminished in 2005, attacks changed in frequency and type to include increased conflict between the rebel groups, violence instigated by the rebels, intertribal violence, and banditry. The World Health Organization reported that, as a result of the Darfur conflict, at least 70,000 civilians had died, more than 1.9 million civilians had been internally displaced, and an estimated 210,000 refugees had fled to neighboring Chad since the start of the conflict.
The AMIS was able to decrease instances of violence where it was present, but security remained a major problem and violence continued. The situation in Darfur received significant international attention, including visits by the Secretary of State and four visits in 2005 by the Deputy Secretary of State. Numerous other official visitors and Members of Congress traveled to Sudan during the year and met with top Government officials in an effort to end the conflict and improve the living and security conditions of those affected. The United States led international efforts to improve the situation in Darfur through the UN, the AU, and bilaterally with the Sudanese Government. Nonetheless, the Government's human rights record remained poor, and serious abuses continued.
The U.S. human rights and democracy strategy in Sudan focused on supporting the implementation of the CPA; ending the violence in Darfur and urging a peaceful and diplomatic resolution to the conflict; promoting accountability for perpetrators of human rights violations; supporting conflict resolution at the community level; promoting respect for fundamental human rights; combating violence against women in Darfur; promoting press and religious freedom; and combating trafficking in persons (TIP). On February 10, 2006, President Bush met with Rebecca Garang, the Minister of Transportation, Roads, and Bridges of the GoSS and widow of John Garang, to discuss implementation of the CPA and continued violence and human rights abuses in Darfur. High-level visitors such as the Secretary of State, the Deputy Secretary, and the Assistant Secretary for African Affairs underscored the need to address human rights violations, especially against women and girls in Darfur.
The U.S. democracy assistance strategy to support the implementation of the CPA focused primarily on the power and wealth sharing protocols. The United States also provided assistance to the areas of Abyei, Nuba Mountains, and Southern Blue Nile. The Protocol on Power Sharing calls for an autonomous GoSS and general elections. The Agreement on Wealth Sharing calls for transfers of revenues from the central GNU to the GoSS, among other items. The United States supported the establishment of the GoSS by providing technical assistance for the drafting of the GoSS Constitution and training and technical assistance to the GoSS Office of the Presidency, the Cabinet, the Ministries of Finance, Constitutional and Legal Affairs, and Public Service, and the Bank of South Sudan. U.S. assistance also supported local authorities. The United States helped to lay the foundation for democratic political processes in Sudan by providing training and technical assistance to democratic political parties and to the South Sudan Center for Statistics and Evaluation, which is charged with completing the southern portion of the Sudan census. U.S. assistance launched civic education programs on the peace agreement and citizens' rights, roles, and responsibilities and supported focus group research in southern Sudan to ensure political leaders were informed of public views on the peace process. The United States initiated a civil society program focusing on building institutional capacity, targeting organizations led by women and those that support marginalized groups. The United States opened a new consulate in Juba as part of its efforts to coordinate assistance to Southern Sudan and monitor implementation of the CPA.
The United States continued to promote increased access to independent information through funding for independent media and targeted radio distributions. Funding continued for the Sudan Radio Service, which broadcasts into Sudan in 10 local languages, providing access to news, civic education, and health messages. U.S. assistance also supported training for journalists from The Sudan Mirror and other print media. Local NGOs received support for disseminating summaries of the Protocols and for disseminating and fostering dialogue on the CPA and the Abyei Boundaries Commission (ABC) report. Pilot radio distribution was conducted in Blue Nile state.
The United States facilitated and funded the travel of two Sudanese journalists to the International Center for Journalists in Washington, DC. U.S. officials organized a reception for the editor of the independent newspaper, Maghoub Salih, the recipient of the Knight International Press Freedom Award, as well as a workshop featuring U.S. journalist Jon Sawyer, who spoke of his efforts to cover the Muslim point of view in the United States and overseas.
The Sudanese press suffered from suspensions, arrests, and harassment by the Government. The Embassy actively monitored press freedom and delivered statements to newspapers and the Government protesting press suspensions and detentions. The Embassy also conducted a series of meetings with local media outlets to discuss freedom of the press.
The United States focused on ending both the conflict and human rights abuses in Darfur. The U.S. observer team to the Abuja peace talks played a key role in bringing the Sudanese Government and Darfur rebel groups together to sign the Declaration of Principles for the Resolution of the Sudanese Conflict in Darfur, which established 17 points that serve as the framework for negotiations on wealth and power-sharing issues. U.S. officials stressed to government officials at all levels the importance of human rights benchmarks, emphasizing press freedom and religious tolerance, an open political process, and freedom of speech, movement, and assembly. Embassy officials, in conjunction with Western donor embassies, used the Joint Implementation Mechanism to obtain commitments from the Government concerning violence against women in Darfur, access to prisons, the judicial system's handling of the Khartoum riots, and the forced relocations of internally displaced persons (IDPs). The Charge d'Affaires and other U.S. officials met regularly with opposition politicians and political leaders from around the country, as well as religious leaders, human rights activists, and members of the media.
In response to widespread violence against women and girls in Darfur, the United States supported a multi-million dollar initiative to address root causes of the violence, improve immediate protection of women and other vulnerable civilians, and provide immediate services to the victims of violence. Programs encompassed five strategic areas: (1) combating impunity/improving access to justice, (2) enhancing human rights monitoring and advocacy, (3) increasing access to accurate information/media, (4) enhancing protection and decreasing women's risk through humanitarian activities, and (5) building grassroots capacity to address these issues. As part of the initiative, the United States supported the creation of a Darfur-wide network of pro bono lawyers, the training and deployment of Sudanese human rights monitors, and many income-generation activities to reduce women's exposure to violence.
U.S. programs supported several NGOs and civil society members in their efforts to promote human rights and democracy. The United States provided funding for human rights awareness programs, including building IDP awareness of the Sudanese Bill of Rights, the training of Sudanese human rights monitors, and supporting a human rights conference in West Darfur. The United States funded numerous projects that contributed to enhanced stability and conflict management in Southern Sudan. The projects included direct support to grassroots-based peace processes and capacity building of local peace actors in all regions of Southern Sudan and in the areas of Abyei, Southern Blue Nile, and the Nuba Mountains.
U.S. officials continued to discuss the rule of law with Sudanese officials and stressed the need to follow the human rights guarantees in the Interim National Constitution. The United States continued to provide funding and assistance for peace mechanisms in the south, such as the Civilian Protection Monitoring Team (CPMT), the Nuba Mountains Joint Monitoring Mission, and the Verification Monitoring Team. The CPMT objectively documented southern militia attacks against civilians in the south and brought them to the attention of the Government, the SPLM, and the international community. Incidents have decreased significantly since the monitoring began in 2002. The CPMT's mission officially ended in October 2005 after investigating and reporting on more than 100 incidents involving alleged attacks on civilians and civilian property over its three-year mandate. The team's presence also helped to build trust among the parties involved and the civilians. The CPMT posted its reports on the Internet and provided them to local media for publication. The 12-nation Nuba Mountains Joint Military Commission continued to monitor government and SPLM adherence to a cease-fire in the Nuba Mountains.
The AU deployed troops in Darfur in an effort to curb the violence and report on ceasefire violations, including human rights abuses. In 2005, the United States vigorously supported AMIS, providing extensive financial support and technical assistance including airlifting, training, housing, and equipping troops. The United States continued to provide substantial, ongoing financial support for the United Nations Mission in Sudan (UNMIS). In 2005, the United States continued its substantial support for humanitarian assistance to Sudan, including Darfur, as well as support for development and governance.
The United States supported UN Security Council Resolution 1591, which authorized the creation of a Panel of Experts on Sudan to monitor and implement targeted sanctions against perpetrators of atrocities in Darfur. By not opposing UN Security Council Resolution 1593, the United States allowed the International Criminal Court process for Darfur to move forward. At the UN General Assembly's Third Committee, the United States co-sponsored a resolution with the EU condemning Sudan's human rights record. In February 2006, the United States supported a UN Security Council Presidential Statement authorizing immediate planning for the transition from an AU peacekeeping force to a UN peacekeeping operation in Darfur.
The Embassy monitored implementation of the GNU's Action Plan to Combat Violence Against Women, which was released on November 28. Under the plan, the Government agreed to disseminate widely a decree removing the legal requirement for rape victims to file a criminal report (Form 8) before seeking medical attention, create state sub-committees charged with implementing the plan, train Darfur police officers in human rights and awareness of violence against women, and increase the number of prosecutors in Darfur to improve victims' access to legal recourse. By February 2006, the Government had circulated an advisory bulletin stating that the Form 8 requirement had been rescinded; however, officials made minimal effort to enforce the change in the Form 8 requirement. Two of three Darfur states created sub-committees to address violence against women; however, these committees rarely met. While the Government deployed 15 prosecutors to Darfur for prosecuting rape cases, Government-sponsored training of police officers in Darfur on human rights did not occur. NGOs working in Darfur remained skeptical regarding full implementation of these reforms and of the extent of political will to address violence against women vigorously.
Since 1999, Sudan has been designated a Country of Particular Concern under the International Religious Freedom Act for particularly severe violations of religious freedom. U.S. officials continued a dialogue with the Government about international religious freedom, stressing the need for the allocation of land to build churches. Furthermore, U.S. officials regularly engaged the Government-supported Sudan Inter-Religious Council to push for the allocation of church land and engaged Christian and Muslim leaders about religious freedom. The Embassy held discussions on religious freedom, including a discussion on "Shari'a Law in Post Peace Sudan" by a notable American anthropologist. The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom visited Sudan from January 11-21, 2006 and met with high-level interlocutors about the status of religious freedom in Sudan, especially focusing on Christians living in Khartoum.
U.S. officials met with the Government-sponsored Committee for the Eradication of Abduction of Women and Children (CEAWAC) and other Government officials to push for the return of abducted persons in accordance with international protection principles, to promote CEAWAC outreach programs, and to encourage the Government to provide CEWAC with needed funding. U.S. officials also continued to follow the Government's efforts to combat the problems of children trafficked for soldiering and camel jockeying. A U.S. State Department Trafficking in Persons official made two extensive visits to Sudan in 2005 to report on the status of trafficked persons as well as their rehabilitation and the scope of trafficking in the country.
The United States continues to strive for peace and stability throughout Sudan and remains committed to the protection of human rights and the advancement of democracy for the benefit of all Sudanese people.
Swaziland is a modified traditional monarchy with executive, legislative, and limited judicial powers ultimately vested in the King. The country faced serious problems, including drought, poverty, and an HIV/AIDS rate of 42.6%. Despite these challenges, the Government made some progress in the areas of human rights and democracy. The country adopted its first Constitution in 32 years when the King signed the Constitution Bill on July 26. The Constitution took effect in February 2006. The judiciary was generally independent, and there have been no credible reports of abuse since the Court of Appeal was reconstituted in November 2004. The Government amended the Industrial Relations Act to increase workers' rights by strengthening the role of the Conciliation, Mediation, and Arbitration Commission. However, the Government's human rights record remained poor, and it continued to commit serious abuses. Democratic institutions were weak, and political choice was limited. The 1973 Proclamation banning political parties was still in place. Police used excessive force on occasion, and there were reports of torture and abuse. Legal and cultural discrimination, violence against women, lengthy pretrial detention, impunity, and abuse of children remained problems.
In light of these concerns, the U.S. strategy to combat human rights abuses and bolster democracy focused on highlighting the importance of respect for the rule of law, supporting the Prime Minister's anti-corruption program, strengthening the rights of women and children, and improving respect for internationally recognized workers' rights. U.S. officials worked to improve public understanding of constitutional principles in efforts to promote democracy. The Embassy disseminated NGO reports critical of the Government to all Cabinet members, Members of Parliament, and the press to enhance high-level officials' understanding of Swaziland's international image. The United States compiled and presented information on Swaziland's Millennium Challenge Account criteria ratings to officials and encouraged them to boost the country's "Ruling Justly" and "Investing in People" scores.
The international community and local civic groups representing a variety of interests criticized the new Constitution for its substance and the manner in which it was drafted and ratified. Meaningful implementation of the Constitution will be critical to addressing concerns over separation of powers in the country. U.S. officials routinely and publicly stressed the importance of a constitution and discussed the need for the Government to address its more problematic issues, including the separation of powers and the legalization of political parties. The Embassy distributed copies of the U.S. Constitution and the Declaration of Independence to numerous civil society organizations, including labor unions.
The Government discouraged critical coverage of the royal family in the press and withheld advertising from the one independently owned newspaper. The director of the Swaziland Broadcast Information Service was able to travel to the United States on an International Visitors Leadership Program focusing on radio broadcasting. The Embassy held a seminar for the Government's public relations office geared toward running an effective press office.
The United States supported the promotion of a stronger and more robust civil society. U.S. officials met with leaders of NGOs, providing them with information and potential funding leads.
The Government issued several policy statements concerning corruption, including the King's speech at the opening of parliament in February 2005. In March 2005, Finance Minister Majozi Sithole told the parliament that experts estimated government losses at almost seven million dollars a month due to corruption. To help combat this growing problem, the United States funded a well-received study that analyzed anti-corruption legislation, due to become law in early 2006, and made recommendations for improvement of the relatively new Anti-Corruption Commission. The United States sponsored a Digital Video Conference on anti-corruption with guest speaker Robert Smolik, Deputy Chief of the U.S. Mission to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. The audience included several prominent lawyers and key government figures, including Swaziland's new Attorney General. The Embassy sent a financial sector official to the United States on a program to promote accountability in government and business.
The subordinate role of women in Swaziland led to abuse, rape, and sexual harassment. Women were legally treated as minors, and a woman generally had to have her father's or husband's permission to borrow money, open a bank account, obtain a passport, leave the country, gain access to land, or obtain a job. The Embassy engaged in several activities to strengthen the role of women in society. The United States sent two prominent Swazi women, one an AIDS activist and the other the head of the Swaziland Action Group Against Abuse, to the United States on a program dedicated to leadership development for women. A lecturer at Swaziland's only university attended a program on women in the law that specifically addressed women's rights and constitutionalism. A regional NGO located in Swaziland, Women and Law in Southern Africa, collaborated with the U.S.-funded Women's Legal Rights Initiative to develop an advocacy manual and a series of workshops designed to train lobbyists and advocates.
The United States also worked to improve the rights of persons with disabilities. The Embassy contributed to a workshop hosted by the Federation of Organizations of the Disabled People in Swaziland for Members of Parliament and an 18-part educational video in sign language on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights by the Swaziland National Association of the Deaf.
Swaziland has a 42.6% HIV/AIDS adult prevalence rate, the highest in the world. The pandemic has left an increasing number of children orphaned and vulnerable to a host of social problems and child labor. The United States funded two important labor initiatives in the region; the first targeting the worst forms of child labor in Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia, and Swaziland, and the second designed to combat exploitive child labor through education in southern Africa.
Increasing Government and business community interest in workers' rights was a vital part of the U.S. strategy to promote human rights. The United States funded the Federation of Swaziland Employers and Chamber of Commerce to update the Swaziland Labor Law Compendium (last revised in 1988). In addition, the Embassy sent a prominent rural labor leader to the United States for a program focusing on organized labor.
The end of 2005 saw the election of Tanzania's fourth president since independence in 1961. Though technically a multiparty state, the Government is dominated by the long-ruling Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM) party and a strong executive, headed by the popular Jakaya Kikwete, winner of 80.2% of the vote. Zanzibar, while integrated into the country's governmental and party structure, maintains considerable autonomy with its own president and legislature.
The Government of Tanzania's overall human rights record remained poor; however, there were several significant improvements in important areas. The Government demonstrated more respect for citizens' right to change their Government peacefully, took steps to reduce mob killings, and citizens perceived corruption to be less of a problem in 2005 than in 2004. Nonetheless, serious human rights abuses occurred in 2005, especially on Zanzibar. During Zanzibar's presidential, parliamentary, and local councilor elections in October, security agents used excessive force to disperse protesters angry over perceived voting irregularities; at least one protester was killed and more were injured. Independent observers of the October elections reported some administrative improvements over previous elections, but also noted serious voting irregularities, such as lack of access to voter rolls prior to election day. The December elections to elect a new Union President, representatives to the Union's National Assembly, and councilors on the mainland were primarily peaceful and judged to be freer and fairer than previous elections. On the mainland, there continued to be some limitations on freedoms of the press, privacy, speech, assembly, and association; on Zanzibar, more serious limitations occurred. Throughout the country, instances of arbitrary arrest and prolonged detention occurred, and prison conditions remained harsh. The judiciary was inefficient, understaffed, and subject to corruption, limiting the right to fair and expeditious trials. Mob justice remained widespread and resulted in several unlawful killings. Anti-refugee resentment and hostility remained high in the west, evidenced by the Government pressuring Burundian refugees to repatriate, occasionally refusing entry to asylum seekers at the border without following procedure, and not always cooperating with the UN refugee authorities. Discrimination against women and girls, child labor, trafficking in persons (TIP), and female genital mutilation remained problems.
The U.S. democracy and human rights goal in Tanzania was to assist in the establishment of a more accountable, representative, and effective Government based on institutions that actively promote rule of law, human rights, and democratic pluralism. The U.S. strategy aimed to accomplish this goal by facilitating the Government's efforts to reduce corruption, promoting open and fair electoral systems, parliamentary independence and civil society, and increasing awareness of human rights, child labor, and TIP.
The United States sought to promote democracy in Tanzania through diplomatic engagement and financial and programmatic support in advance of the 2005 election cycle. The Embassy worked to decrease tensions on Zanzibar by meeting with Union President Benjamin Mkapa, Zanzibar President Amani Karume, and frequently with other key leaders of CCM and the main opposition party, the Civic United Front. The United States endeavored to support free and fair elections by meeting with the Zanzibar Election Commission to encourage transparency throughout the election process, and funded the purchase of equipment for the creation of a permanent voter registry. The United States supported Research and Education for Democracy in Tanzania, a local NGO which observed the registration process and the elections, as well as the National Democratic Institute's independent election observer team.
The U.S. democracy assistance program focused on long-term efforts to build civil society and parliament as foundations of a more robust, accountable democracy. The United States supported a multiyear project to strengthen the National Assembly's representative, lawmaking, and oversight functions. Members of the National Assembly more effectively exercised their oversight function by questioning and amending several requested appropriations during budget presentations in parliament.
The Embassy worked to support a free press by sponsoring an investigative journalism course for 50 journalists from Dar es Salaam, Zanzibar, and Arusha in February. The United States also donated a computer and a fax machine to the Arusha Press Club. Four journalists visited the United States through the International Visitors Leadership Program and a three-member journalist team spent two weeks in the United States on a television co-op program sponsored by the Foreign Press Center.
Judicial backlogs and limited police investigation skills hindered the right to a fair and expeditious trial, a factor that aggravates severe prison overcrowding in Tanzania. The United States provided funds to support a forensic laboratory that improved police investigation skills, sped up investigations, and reduced the number of wrongful arrests and convictions.
The Embassy also pursued more targeted outreach for Government policymakers. The Embassy honors Dr. Martin Luther King by naming a "Drum Major for Justice" laureate each year. The prestigious award receives widespread publicity and the awards ceremony attracts senior-level government attendance. In 2005, Dr. Salim Ahmed Salim, Special Envoy of the African Union and Chief Mediator at the Darfur Peace Negotiations in Nigeria, received the award for his long-standing commitment to, and work for, independence, equality, and peace.
The United States supported programs to reduce rape and other sex and gender-based violence in refugee camps in Tanzania, home to approximately 350,000 Great Lakes refugees.
Through the International Labor Organization, the United States continued to support a multiyear effort known as the Timebound program. Timebound focused on reducing the number of children engaged in the worst forms of child labor through advocacy and targeted support for vulnerable children. The educational component of the program, Mambo Elimu, is known nation-wide and is being adopted by the Ministry of Education.
The United States raised awareness about TIP through discussions with officials and NGOs. The Embassy opened and attended a three-day conference for senior policy makers, civil society, and the press. The conference laid the groundwork for a national action plan to reduce TIP. As a focus country of the Presidential Anti-Trafficking Initiative, Tanzania benefited from anti-trafficking assistance that provided a new shelter for the protection of victims as well as preventive measures and tools for prosecutions. U.S. efforts contributed to Tanzania being moved from the Tier 2 Watch List to Tier 2 in the 2005 Trafficking in Persons report.
Togo is a republic governed by newly elected President Faure Gnassingbe, son of the late Gnassingbe Eyadema, who was in power for 38 years and unexpectedly died in February 2005. Eyadema and his political party Rally of the Togolese Persons (RPT), strongly backed by the armed forces, dominated politics, and maintained firm control over all levels of the country's highly centralized Government until his death. Following some prohibited constitutional changes in the National Assembly, the military installed Faure Gnassingbe as the new President. Faure eventually bowed to sustained international pressure and stepped down to allow presidential elections. On April 24, Faure was declared President in an election marred by severe irregularities and violence. Following some initial positive steps in early 2005 and after Eyadema's death, the Government's human rights record worsened as it tightened its grip on power and cracked down on opposition voices. Security forces continued to be responsible for politically motivated killings, disappearances, rape, and other serious abuses. Because of the unstable post-election environment, 40,000 Togolese fled to neighboring countries. During the election period and in late 2005, harassment of journalists intensified. Violence and discrimination against women and trafficking in persons (TIP) remained serious problems. There were instances of prisoners dying while in detention and of security forces beating civilians without being brought to justice. The Government jailed and at times abused political opponents and critics. Arbitrary arrest and detention were problems, and long periods of pretrial detention were the norm. Trials were not fair or expeditious. Prison conditions remained very harsh. The Government limited workers' rights on the issue of collective bargaining, and child labor was a problem.
The U.S. strategy to promote democracy and human rights focused on strengthening key Government and civil institutions through diplomatic and programmatic engagement. The United States raised the importance of human rights through sustained communication with Government officials, opposition leaders, civil society, international financial institutions, and other international donors. The Embassy pressed the Government to fulfill 22 democracy and human rights-related commitments made to the EU, to end military impunity, and to ensure a secure environment for refugees to safely return. The United States has encouraged all principal players to constructively engage in the political process and provided technical assistance and training to promote democratic ideals. In addition, the U.S. strategy included using public diplomacy resources to work with local NGOs, develop the capacity of political parties, and improve the human rights record of the military with limited International Military Education and Training programs.
The United States used the occasion of the Togolese presidential election as a vehicle to advance democratic political processes. The Embassy organized a radio voter education program, aired once per week for ten weeks. Each broadcast addressed a different aspect of elections, from explaining the election process and electoral laws to describing the role of media, civil society, Government entities, and youth in an election. The Embassy also held a discussion, targeted specifically at journalists, Government representatives, and political parties, about the roles various actors play during an election period. The United States sponsored a conference about the role of political parties in civic education. The Embassy held a training session for international election observers, and Embassy personnel also served as election monitors.
U.S. efforts to promote media liberties and freedom of speech included conferences, debates, and seminars on topics such as the role of media in a democracy, the relationship between the media and the Government, and how to affect non-violent political change. Several Togolese journalists were selected to take part in the International Visitors Leadership Program (IVLP). The United States also provided small grants to two radio stations to broadcast programming concerning democracy, citizens' rights and duties, the constitution, and women in politics. The Embassy sponsored a media workshop to promote collaboration among independent journalists.
The Embassy supported NGOs in their work to educate women about their rights and potential for leadership roles, to instruct teachers, administrators, and students about human rights and civic education, and to eradicate the practice of female genital mutilation. The United States promoted good governance by financing periodicals publicizing legal information and civil society projects on ways to combat corruption.
The Embassy also supported the Government's judicial reform project through various forms of assistance. To promote the rule of law, transparency, and the presumption of innocence in criminal proceedings, the Embassy organized discussions and presentations.
Limited security assistance allocations for Togo were dedicated to professionalizing the military and expanding its sensitivity to human rights issues.
Through educational programming, the Embassy supported various endeavors, such as campaigns to promote women's rights. The Embassy initiated seminars encouraging women to engage in the political process and sent four women to the United States on IVLPs to promote the participation of women in politics. Additionally, the United States funded a local NGO to conduct a study on the participation of women in the Togolese Government and to present its findings to the Government. Togo also participates in a joint sub-regional project with the United States and the International Labor Organization for HIV/AIDS workplace education. This multi-year project is designed to combat discrimination in the workplace against people living with AIDS.
Togo's Constitution provides for freedom of religion, and this right is generally respected. Amicable relations among various religious groups contributed to religious freedom. The United States discussed religious freedom issues with the Government as part of its overall policy to promote human rights. The Embassy provided Muslim women and girls scholarships to learn English and about religious freedom in the United States.
Following direct U.S. encouragement, the Government passed a law against TIP in 2005. The United States subsequently sent several Government officials and members of the security forces to a training session to learn investigative and prosecutorial techniques with respect to TIP. In 2004, the United States provided financing to an ongoing project that assisted with the reinsertion of a number of trafficked children into their families.
There were important areas of improvement as well as significant setbacks in Uganda's progress toward democratization in 2005. Ugandans voted to adopt a multiparty system of government in a national referendum in July. Participation in the referendum, however, was disappointingly low. This result was due, in part, to confusion over the referendum question and mixed messages from Government leaders who favored passage without embracing a multiparty system. Political parties, for the first time in 20 years, were fully authorized to participate in government and compete for power. During the same period, however, parliament removed presidential term limits under pressure from the executive. President Yoweri Museveni announced he would seek to extend his rule to 25 years by running for re-election in February 2006. Shortly after the President's announcement, government authorities jailed Museveni's principal challenger for the presidency, Kizza Besigye, on charges of rape, treason, terrorism, and firearms offenses. The arrest prompted two days of unrest in Kampala, which left at least one person dead. The Government also announced severe restrictions on public assembly and public expression in relation to the Besigye case. A civilian court ordered Besigye's release from military detention on January 2, 2006, and on January 31, 2006 the Ugandan Constitutional Court ruled that a military court did not have jurisdiction to try Besigye on terrorism and firearms offenses. Museveni was reelected in peaceful elections; however, Besigye has vowed to challenge the results in court. In northern Uganda, the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) killed hundreds of civilians and perpetrated horrific crimes against humanity, including the abduction, rape, and torture of women and children. Torture and lengthy pre-trial detention remained serious problems throughout the country. Corruption was a significant and growing problem, particularly in the executive branch.
The U.S. human rights and democracy strategy in Uganda promoted democratization, respect for human rights, honest and accountable Government institutions, and transparency. The strategy also combated child labor, trafficking in persons (TIP), and discrimination against women. The Ambassador and other U.S. officials regularly raised these issues in public speeches, interviews, and in meetings with national and local officials. The Ambassador also met with President Museveni and other senior officials to discuss democratization, freedom of speech, and corruption.
The United States strongly supported Ugandans' decision to adopt a multiparty political system and helped strengthen political parties during the transition. The United States funded programs to enhance voter participation, political pluralism, and the effective administration of Uganda's presidential and parliamentary elections. A U.S. program trained political parties to develop organizational structures, party constitutions, and campaign platforms. U.S. funds also sponsored national polls to measure Ugandan public opinion on different political issues and candidates. Workshops instructed political parties to use the polling data to focus outreach efforts and to improve party messages.
The United States supported the electoral process by strengthening the Electoral Commission. A U.S. program trained over 100 Electoral Commission staff. The Electoral Commission, with U.S. resources, developed more effective voter education manuals and leaflets. U.S. funds also helped support a national campaign to update and expand the voter rolls. This support included upgrading the Electoral Commission's information technology system. The campaign successfully registered two million additional voters, provided voter ID cards, and added photographs to the voter registrar for identification purposes.
Two U.S.-funded programs contributed to voter education in the run-up to the general election. One program organized issue-based debates featuring national politicians from different political parties. Facilitators ensured that the politicians presented and debated their plans to address poverty reduction, corruption, education, and the insurgency in northern Uganda. The debates occurred in six major Ugandan cities and were broadcast on the radio. The U.S. also funded the publication of a parliamentary report card to promote transparency in government and voter scrutiny of elected leaders. The report card scored Members of Parliament on their attendance, voting record, and participation in the debates.
Strengthening the legislature remained a focus of U.S. assistance. A U.S. program organized training for all parliamentary committee clerks on their new role in a multiparty parliament. Another program worked with the parliamentary Committee on Equal Opportunities to draft a bill on the rights of persons with disabilities. Four U.S.-sponsored consultative workshops gave persons with disabilities the opportunity to review and comment on the draft. The United States also co-sponsored a workshop on electoral law reform.
The United States viewed Uganda's independent newspapers and especially its burgeoning independent FM radio industry as key institutions of Uganda's democratization. The United States supported efforts of radio stations outside Kampala to report on issues of national and community interest. The United States also sponsors an annual radio-reporting award to encourage media professionalism and responsibility. The United States sponsored the travel of four journalists to participate in an International Visitors Leadership Program on journalism themes, including seminars on media freedom, ethics, and operations.
The United States also funded programs designed to develop grassroots-level participation in Uganda's democratization. Local NGOs representing indigenous communities and special interest groups including women, youth, disabled persons, and workers received grants to raise awareness about their political rights and interests.
The United States supported activities to strengthen the judicial system and rule of law. One program published a compendium of judicial opinions. The report provided attorneys with a valuable reference tool for court arguments. The report also provided the judiciary, law students, and human rights organizations with up-to-date developments in Ugandan law. A human rights organization received U.S. funds to petition the legal system on the alleged mistreatment and torture of detainees awaiting trial.
A major focus of U.S. strategy to protect and strengthen human rights has been to provide assistance to the victims of a brutal insurgency in northern Uganda. U.S. assistance helped fund child reception centers for children rescued from LRA captivity. Most children had suffered horrific abuse including torture, rape, and brutal forced labor. The reception centers provided psychosocial rehabilitation and facilitated the reunion of victims with their families and communities. U.S. assistance also supported several overnight shelters where children stay to be protected from LRA abduction. The United States continued to support efforts to promote a dialogue of peace and reconciliation among civilians in northern Uganda. One program organized four stakeholder meetings for cultural and religious leaders to discuss how to maintain harmony in communities where former rebels are reintegrated. The United States also sponsored a civil-military relations seminar to promote human rights awareness among Uganda People's Defense Forces (UPDF) officers. Seminar participants, including civil society leaders and UPDF officers, discussed methods to improve human rights protection and justice.
To promote the status and rights of women, the United States funded an extensive program to train women to compete for elected positions in government. The program developed a training manual used to train more than 300 women candidates for local and national offices. The program also organized mentoring sessions between women Members of Parliament and prospective female candidates. Another U.S. program funded a women's group in northern Uganda to promote awareness about gender-based violence and women's rights to justice. U.S. assistance also supported efforts to promote the awareness and protection of human rights among disadvantaged or vulnerable groups including women and children affected by conflict and HIV/AIDS.
In support of religious freedom, the U.S. Embassy sponsored digital video conferences between scholars and religious leaders in the United States and Uganda to discuss the role of religious institutions and leaders in politics.
The United States funded programs to combat TIP and child labor. Ongoing U.S. assistance in northern Uganda has helped enroll 2,403 formerly abducted children in schools or vocational training. Another anti-trafficking program organized a national working group composed of Ugandan Government officials and NGO representatives. The working group supported efforts to draft a new anti-trafficking law, coordinate NGO activities to prevent trafficking, and monitor trafficking issues in Uganda. The program also sponsored training sessions for judges, prosecutors, and police on enforcing trafficking crimes. The United States funded four extensive child labor programs that rescued children from the worst forms of child labor, reunited them with their families, and provided them with informal, transitional, or vocational training. Two of the programs also targeted educational interventions for children made vulnerable by conflict or HIV/AIDS.
Zambia made strides toward democratic governance, but many challenges remain. The December 2001 election that brought President Mwanawasa into office faced a legal challenge that was resolved in February 2005 by the Supreme Court. The Court upheld the results of the vote, but expressed serious concerns about the effectiveness of the Electoral Commission of Zambia, opposition access to the media, and abuse of Government resources in election campaigns. Parliamentary elections conducted in 2005 were marked by allegations of vote buying, inappropriate use of Government resources, and in some cases, violence and intimidation of voters prior to elections, although there were recent signs of improved performance by the Electoral Commission. There were frequent reports of human rights abuses committed by Zambian law enforcement officers, including unlawful killings and physical abuse of criminal suspects and detainees. Arbitrary arrests, prolonged detention, and long delays in trials were problems. The Government restricted press freedom. Violence and discrimination against women remained widespread. Child abuse, child labor, and discrimination against persons with disabilities were problems. Workers' rights were limited, and there were reports of trafficking in persons (TIP).
The U.S. human rights and democracy strategy for Zambia focused on building the demonstrated will of leaders both inside and outside of Government to undertake reforms, improving democratic governance and increasing the professionalism of law enforcement agencies. An interagency working group chaired by the Ambassador coordinated U.S. democracy and governance activities.
U.S. efforts to foster democratic, transparent, and fair governance in Zambia included support and technical assistance for legal and institutional reform. In the area of institutional reform, the main focus was the Parliamentary Reform Project (PRP) initiated by Zambia's National Assembly. Following the successful conclusion of a one-year pilot project, the United States continued its commitment, with the Governments of four other nations, to provide funding to support this three-year project. The goal of the PRP is to help the National Assembly become an effective, independent legislature that can act as an equal partner in the governance of Zambia. The PRP strengthened the National Assembly in 2005 by introducing reforms to the standing orders governing institutional procedure, allowing members greater opportunity to question government and introduce motions. The PRP also continued to support constituency offices in rural and urban areas, which promoted accountability by offering citizens greater opportunities to interact with their representatives in Parliament. Training, procedural changes, and increased interaction with civil society groups also improved the effectiveness of parliamentary committees, particularly with regard to oversight of the budget process. Other ongoing activities included public forums on electoral reforms, youth workshops on good governance, and empowerment of village women on land issues.
The United States sponsored training designed to promote independent media and freedom of speech. The United States funded investigative journalism training. The Embassy also hosted a workshop for video editors and technicians and helped the national broadcaster organize a live TV program discussing media reforms and press freedom. The United States supported a one-year program for an American Fulbright scholar to research press freedom in Zambia, in addition to donating books related to media freedom to the Media Institute of Southern Africa Zambia Chapter, a leading advocate of press freedom in Zambia.
In 2005, the Embassy supported the production and broadcast of 13 television programs on basic human rights. The programs covered violations of human rights, human rights as it applies to Zambian culture, and identification of specific human rights. The programs were rebroadcast due to an overwhelming demand from viewers. The United States also financed an award-winning documentary film on children's rights, which was shown on a mobile video unit in both urban and rural Zambia.
The United States provided assistance to the Task Force on Corruption, which coordinated the work of investigators and prosecutors in a wide range of landmark corruption cases. This work helped the Government and civil society establish an improved climate of accountability. In 2005, the Government continued prosecutions against former President Chiluba, former cabinet ministers and military commanders, senior civil servants, and managers of state owned enterprises charged with theft and abuse of office.
The United States supported training with significant human rights components for Zambian law enforcement officers. Nearly 100 Zambian security officials received training at the International Law Enforcement Academy in Gaborone, Botswana and Roswell, New Mexico. The United States trained an additional 133 law enforcement officers in Zambia.
In an effort to improve the professional standards of Zambia's law enforcement agencies, the Embassy continued its commitment to support the Police Public Complaints Authority (PPCA). The PPCA received 367 complaints of police misconduct during the year, yet it reviewed only approximately 50 cases from Lusaka Province. The PPCA directed the Police Inspector General (IG) to dismiss three officers in April 2005, but the IG had yet to comply with these orders at the time of this report.
Embassy officials met with a wide spectrum of religious representatives to promote inter-religious dialogue and collaboration on several issues. The United States hosted a religious pastor for a three-week International Visitors Leadership Program on religion and the community. The Embassy focused on outreach to the Muslim community, meeting with groups of Muslim women, providing Internet training, and hosting other programs.
Child labor and child prostitution were Zambia's most serious manifestations of TIP. The United States funded the second phase of an ongoing program to combat exploitative child labor through education. The United States continued to raise awareness of TIP highlighting the issue at all levels of government. The Embassy hosted a TIP awareness program that involved 90 individuals from various youth organizations and included a lively and highly informative open discussion led by three Zambian experts. Parliament enacted an amendment to the penal code that made it illegal to traffick a person for any purpose; however, trafficking was not adequately defined in the law. The Government inter-ministerial anti-trafficking committee continued to meet in order to develop an anti-TIP strategy that would focus on law and policy reform, data collection, and increasing public awareness.
Zimbabwe is constitutionally a republic that has been ruled by President Robert Mugabe and his Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF) party since independence in 1980. In 2005, the political opposition and civil society continued to operate in an environment of intimidation and repression. The Government extended authoritarian rule, and its human rights record remained very poor. In March 2005, the country held parliamentary elections that were neither free nor fair. While violence during the election campaign period was lower than in previous elections, the Government and its supporters intimidated voters, constrained campaign activities of the opposition, and distributed food in a partisan manner. The Government subsequently used its control of the electoral machinery to give the ruling party a two-thirds majority in parliament, allowing it to amend the Constitution without a referendum or broad consultation.
Operation Restore Order, a Government campaign to demolish allegedly illegal housing and businesses, displaced or destroyed the livelihoods of over 700,000 persons and significantly disrupted the already deteriorating economy. Security forces selectively harassed, beat, and arbitrarily arrested opposition supporters and critics within human rights organizations, the media, and organized labor. In 2005, the Government strengthened laws restricting freedom of assembly and freedom of speech and press. In politically sensitive cases, the judiciary showed indications of being politically influenced or intimidated. The economy continued to decline, with skyrocketing prices and widespread shortages, primarily due to the Government's command and control of economic policies.
The U.S. human rights strategy in Zimbabwe focused on maintaining pressure on the regime, assisting democratic forces, strengthening independent media, increasing public access to information, promoting accountability for the regime's crimes, and providing humanitarian aid for Zimbabwe's suffering people. The United States sought to implement this strategy by supporting the efforts of civil society, democracy groups, and the media as vital checks to the regime's power, and engaging multilaterally and bilaterally to increase pressure on the regime. Embassy officials regularly communicated to the ruling party privately and publicly the importance of improving the political situation, including cessation of human rights abuses. Underscoring this message, the United States expanded financial and travel sanctions in 2005 to include additional ruling party and Government officials. U.S. officials observed the March parliamentary elections in almost half the country's constituencies and concluded that the elections were fraudulent.
Although the ruling party maintained its monopoly on the Executive branch, other institutions, including parliament, the judiciary, and local government, at times were able to exert independent influence. The United States continued to encourage the development and independence of these branches of government and, in selected instances, supported some of their efforts. A program to strengthen parliament resulted in increased debate in parliament and in more transparency through public hearings on legislation. U.S funding and support enabled local citizen groups and selected local authorities to improve transparency, accountability, and municipal service delivery.
The United States sponsored programs and supported organizations that promote the free flow of independent and objective information. The Voice of America's Studio 7 medium wave radio station provided uncensored news to the public. Zimbabweans had access to independent information through the Embassy, American Corners in libraries throughout the country, and a newsletter with information on world events and U.S. foreign policy. U.S. programs provided funding to NGOs that collected and disseminated information on civil society, human rights, and Zimbabwean government policy and actions. The United States sponsored a Fulbright scholar who taught a course in journalism and provided workshops on investigative reporting in different parts of the country. The United States also hosted two conferences in Zimbabwe that highlighted the importance of press freedom. Four professional journalists participated in professional exchanges in the United States.
The United States funded NGO programs on a wide variety of issues, including social welfare, the Constitution, human rights, women's empowerment, and public advocacy. A program to support citizens' ability to combat human rights abuses in the courts promoted rule of law and judicial processes. The United States supported investigations of cases of alleged human rights abuses, and U.S. diplomats interviewed victims of political violence. The United States supported programs providing medical and psychological treatment for victims of torture. Several grants supported the efforts of organizations dedicated to educating the Zimbabwean people on peace, human rights, and development. One organization involved members of all political parties, traditional leaders, and other local leaders in its activities. Another grant supported workshops on promoting women's participation in politics.
U.S. officials continued to raise Zimbabwe's human rights record in international forums and with other Governments. Statements by U.S. officials, including highly critical commentary on human rights abuses, corruption, and gross economic mismanagement, received prominent coverage in the Zimbabwean media, but Government-controlled outlets often distorted the message. U.S. officials emphasized in all substantive contacts with Government and party officials the importance of reducing human rights abuses in Zimbabwe. U.S. officials widely circulated human rights-related reports among civil society, Government and party officials. Three opposition Members of Parliament visited the United States immediately after Operation Restore Order and shared their concerns about the wave of Government repression with key U.S. officials and members of the NGO community.
In support of religious freedom, the United States widely disseminated relevant reports on religious rights, and U.S. officials privately and publicly emphasized concern regarding intimidation and harassment of religious officials who criticized the Government. The United States supported efforts by religious leaders to highlight human rights abuses and flawed economic policies and to sustain a dialogue to improve Zimbabwe's political situation.
The United States funded programs to support workers' rights to organize and participate in the political process. It further supported programs through the American Center for International Labor Solidarity aimed at assisting trade unions in Zimbabwe to respond to and represent their members' interests. The United States promoted efforts by the Government to combat trafficking in persons. U.S. officials met with government representatives to convey U.S. interest in the issue and to promote cooperation and sharing of best practices. U.S. officials widely disseminated relevant reports and participated in local and regional meetings to address the issue.