Amnesty International on Tuesday urged states in West and Central Africa to tackle corruption and stop "persecuting" human rights defenders who speak out against it.
In a report launched for Africa Anti-Corruption Day, the organization denounced the "arrests", "harassment", "detention" and "even death" against human rights defenders fighting corruption in the 19 countries of West and Central Africa.
“These people play a crucial role in the fight against corruption and thus in the defense of fundamental rights. Yet they are the target of attacks, intimidation, harassment, and persecution when they come to light with the truth”, said Agnès Callamard, Secretary General of Amnesty International.
The human rights organization cited the fate of Cameroonian journalist Martinez Zogo as an example. He had been abducted by unidentified men on January 17, then found dead five days later, his body mutilated, while he investigated and published information on the alleged embezzlement of hundreds of billions of CFA francs from political figures and from the business world close to the government, underlines Amnesty.
In Togo, journalist Ferdinand Ayité was arrested on December 10, 2021, after accusing two members of the government of corruption.
He was sentenced on March 15, 2023, along with a colleague, to three years imprisonment and a fine of three million CFA francs (4,500 euros) for " contempt of representatives of public authority" and "dissemination of false information".
Both appealed against this decision but had to flee the country for their safety, according to the organization.
Ms. Callamard called on governments in the region to “address the pervasive culture of impunity” which she said continues to fuel endemic corruption and deprives victims of access to justice and remedies.
Amnesty International calls on these states to adopt laws, and policies, and implement practices to "strongly protect themselves" against corruption.