International research groups have over the past three years been releasing reports on violence and discrimination against minority groups across the world with Africa being the worst performer. Despite the African Union’s claim of strong religious freedom and tolerance, the latest Human Rights Watch reports tell a different story. African countries have done little against violation of human rights and cases of churches being burned in Zanzibar and minority religious groups forced from their homes were reported in the continent last year. The report notes that violations against minorities occurred on many fronts, including but not limited to freedom of expression, gagging of media, women’s rights, freedom of worship, police impunity and official policies regarding refugees and asylum seekers. Various African countries have in the past vowed to entertain or tolerate any act of violence committed by any group in the name of the tribe and religion but tribal and religious attacks still occurred throughout the continent in 2013. There were 809 reported attacks on religious minorities in 2013, up from 767 attacks in the previous years.
Protecting women’s rights was also highlighted as an issue for Africa and there are cases of discriminatory regulations, cases of sexual abuse of women and in lawlessness countries of Central African Republic, Mali and Somalia rebels and militant groups imposed a “virginity test” for girls before marriage, saying that the test would prevent youths from engaging in premarital sex and prostitution which they claim is an evil practice imported from western countries although such tests were met with a public outcry. African governments have been accused of being mere talkers with no action when faced with religious groups intent on curbing the rights of women and religious minorities and unless they take decisive action there will be failures in defending the rights of minorities and weaker groups in the continent. Africa still has a long way to go before it can be considered a region of tribal, political and religious tolerance and freedom. Far too many African governments policies decisions in the last decade have had a negative impact on human rights and the challenge for Africa’s current crop of leadership should be to make human rights protection a top priority.