President Cyril Ramaphosa, who is also chairman of the African Union, has been too silent on crackdowns against opponents ordinary citizens by various governments on the continent, the opposition Democratic Alliance said on Tuesday.
In an open letter to Ramaphosa, DA head of international relations and cooperation Darren Bergman said Ramaphosa’s failure to speak out against occurrences such as the attacks on those protesting police brutality in Nigeria could be interpreted as condoning the actions.
“Over the past few months, under the cover of the global Covid-19 pandemic, our continent and her people have been suffering due to unrelenting violence and it is now time to let your voice as African Union (AU) chairperson be heard,” Bergman said.
“I understand that the Covid-19 pandemic has placed South Africa, like so many other countries around the world, in turmoil, but your silence on what is happening in the rest of Africa can unfortunately be read as condonement of the violence unleashed upon our brothers and sisters.”
He also cited the imprisonment of Zambian opposition leader Dr Chishimba Kambwili on forgery charges, saying this “questionable incident” had been followed by the arrest and humiliation of his wife and daughter.
“Your silence on the Zambian president jailing an opposition leader for the second time before an election does little to inspire confidence in internal investors and the rest of the continent,” said Bergman.
Guinean President Alpha Condé’s apparent successful bid for a third term in office was problematic, Bergman said, and even more concerning was the violence that had followed an opposition candidate’s assertion that the recent election was rigged.
In Nigeria, Bergman noted that attacks on protestors against the West African country’s controversial Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS), which have left several people dead or injured, had made international headlines.
“There have been many casualties and while this caused Nigerians in South Africa to march to the embassy in Pretoria and President Muhammadu Buhari to deny that this unit was part of his army, the AU chairperson has not been quoted once in any of the stories,” the DA legislator said.
The letter also pointed to clashes ahead of October 31 elections in Ivory Coast which had left several people dead, querying whether the African Union would be able to back up its original assessment of a free and fair election process.
“Mr President, as chairperson of the AU you must speak out on these matters that deeply affect our fellow African states,” Bergman concluded.
“These events pose a serious threat to democracies on the continent and must be condemned in the strongest terms.”