America’s 2023 Country Report on Human Rights Practices: Who Policies the USA?

On 22nd April, 2024, the US Congress with a fore note from the Secretary of State, Antony J. Blinken, issued the 2023 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for all other countries that are on earth, except itself. It has been a practice it has committed itself into fulfilling since 1977 and not so much can be said as having started with bad intentions. In deed, human rights are a concern supposed to keep every person (individual or artificial) on high attention to either advance, protect or preserve. It’s therefore a commendable practice thus far. Many countries across the globe have its citizens suffering at hands of human rights violators in all forms. Some of these are out of territorial breaches, while others are internally castigated by kinsmen and kinswomen whose jobs it should be to do better. Lives still get lost for example, in many African, Latin America, and the Middle East at hands of both internal and external perpetrators. In unison with the subject reports, this is wrong, and should never be normalized as practice anywhere.

The forewords by Antony Blinken were interesting, especially how they described Kremlin’s actions in Ukraine, versus the description of Israel’s actions in Palestine. Interesting still, the language used to condemn practices by the People’s Republic of China. But while on a look out of a balanced analysis of the report, of all the countries as noted, the US could not bring forth a report on itself and how it’s ‘respecting’ human rights both internally and abroad. So, who polices the US foreign policies? It remains an unsolved question for many years despite many dissenters pointing it out, that while it’s commendable to make focus of other world key players regarding human rights practices, the watch should equally be made on the US, by itself and other state and non-state actors. As noted in the reports’ forewords, it points to major monitoring on states from whom US aid is supplied. That shouldn’t be passed off as a conflicting situation for the recipients, and therefore a compromise on taking equal watch on the donor.

As noted in the report, it coincides with the 75th anniversary of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), and at its inception, Eleanor Roosevelt, one of the authors of the UDHR noted, “The destiny of human rights is in the hands of all our citizens in all our communities.” It is an indictment on everyone to take center attention. The US as it did at the time of inception of the UDHR, committed to preserving human rights especially abroad but 2023 was quite an interesting year regarding the US foreign policies and it remains a non shocking scenario that the US couldn’t publish a similar report on itself and its activities. Rather, as many years before, any such statements on global state of affairs come as justification for their actions rather than self condemnation.

2023 was an equally busy year for the US especially in the middle east, and while the Israel-Palestine and Ukraine-Russia conflicts steal the attention for US actions, in similar measure as it maintained focus on Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Act, and consequential withdraw of funding, Cuba’s regime actions, Nicaragua’s government crackdown on dissent, Russia territorial breach on Ukraine’s border, and much more, the US had a run on Iraq and Syria. For many years now, the middle east has been a military play ground for the US. Many countries have consistently condemned the US involvement in the region’s politics citing instigation of more incitement. Baghdad condemned the strikes by the US on its territory which occasioned deaths and wounding of Iraqi citizens.

Of these attacks in the region since October 7, 2023 since the Israel-Hamas war peaked, there have been reported more than 66 separate attacks in the region. This comes off as though it’s the US so much concerned about stability of the region, using war to being more war. The attacks have been gazetted as warranted and even with the wanton killing of numerous civilians in the region by the US in 2023, it didn’t call for equal urgency to issue a report on its own human rights violations. Much as there are numerous world actors that have consistently showed concern and more especially with the players with valuable commercial interests in the area, not many are willing to raise a finger at the self appointed global police. This happens at a time when the United Nations, a body supposed to be impartial has been spotlighted as running selective interests to the West bloc.

As of April 2024, the US faces internal concerns regarding respecting the freedoms of expression and association that are guaranteed by the first amendment of the country’s constitution. Over 200 students across major Universities have been arrested and more crackdowns are still ongoing on the students protesting Israel’s war actions in Palestine. From the Northeastern University in Boston, to Yale, Columbia, Southern California, and more Universities joining the protests against the ongoing war, many peaceful protestors have been arrested and charged with inciting violence, vandalism, and criminal trespass, accusations many have criticized as unfounded, embarrassing to the national image, and illegal. But just as Anthony Blinken quoted Eleanor Roosevelt, human rights are a concern for all, and it’s only fair that in 2024 and years to come, similar documentation on both triumphs and condemnation be issued against the US by the US as it does annually for other global actors.

Alan Collins Mpewo is a Senior Research Fellow, Development Watch Centre.

60 Years of Congo’s Independence: Power, Complicity and Protest

By Hans Haebeke, Anymar Nyenyezi, Koen Vlassenroot

As the Democratic Republic of Congo celebrates its sixtieth birthday, the country stands at an important crossroads. Marked by the struggles and protests of a population suffering from violent conflicts, predatory rule and social exclusion, after six decades the current leadership, led by President Felix Tshisekedi, has a historic opportunity to embark on a long and difficult path to further emancipation. To succeed, he must give space to the voice of Congo’s citizens and their strive for change.

The recent popular protests in Kinshasa against the parliamentary consideration of three bills, which aim at reforming the judicial system to considerably strengthen executive control, illustrate the stakes and challenges at play today in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). When protesters  invaded the seat of parliament late June 2020, they wanted these bills abandoned. Irrespective of any factional political considerations, many protesters believe that the attempt to muzzle the judiciary on the heels of the historic trial against Vital Kamerhe (the President’s chief-of-staff) is only one of the many strategies in which former President Joseph Kabila, and his parliamentary majority, continue to drag the population. As one of the demonstrators expressed:

‘These politicians want to muzzle justice because they are afraid of being convicted of corruption and embezzlement. But if justice cannot or will not do its job, we will continue our resistance on behalf of the people, even if it costs us our lives.’

The Tshisekedi presidency responded that it understands the people’s reaction, showing its attachment to the rule of law.

This political context reminds us that the DRC’s sixty years of post-colonial history are essentially a history of struggle and protest, which have often confronted, in opposition or complicity, the ruling elites, international actors and the ordinary Congolese population. A rereading of this long and complex history through such a lens allows us to understand the country’s current potential turning point, towards a future shaped by the choices and power relations between these three main forces.

The six past decades have seen a succession of war, attempts at secession, decades of kleptocratic authoritarian rule (over 30 years under Mobutu and nearly 20 years under Joseph Kabila), regional conflict and intervention. The economy and infrastructure have been reduced to rubble while the social fabric has been tested to breaking point with the generalised mantra of ‘débrouillez-vous’ (take care of yourself). Most of the countries’ citizens endure debilitating poverty, while those living in several provinces, mostly in the East, see little relief after decades of violence. The country, often dubbed a ‘geological scandal’ for its abundant mineral resources, lingers at the bottom of (human) development and governance indexes.

Starting with independence from colonial rule in 1960, there have been several aborted opportunities for change, mostly because of a mix of domestic and external causes. The current state of affairs indeed has its roots in a larger history of colonialism, neo-colonialism and predatory rule. Yet, we should be careful not to reduce our reading of Congo’s history to one solely in terms of what went wrong. Most of the discussions triggered by the 60th anniversary of independence will be no exception to the existing narrative that limited effort has been made to increase the well-being of Congo’s population. Elsewhere, we argue that we should  create space for a counter-narrative and try to look at the endogenous processes and struggles that have been a constant part of Congo’s history. Such view could confirm that the country today might indeed be at a crossroad towards a more emancipatory future.


The deep social crisis to which Mobutu’s thirty-two years of rule gradually led the DRC is strongly rooted in Belgian colonisation, Cold War neo-colonialism and predatory rule. The Congolese had to wait until the end of the Cold War – when the Western allies no longer needed Mobutu – to raise their voices and for the international community to stop turning a blind eye to Mobutu’s crimes against his own population. The aspirations for change in the 1990s, triggered by the announcement of a democratisation process, ended in the collapse of Zaire and its institutions and the war that installed Laurent Desire-Kabila. The civic movements that mushroomed during these processes, which gave voice to a broad range of agendas from democratisation to the resistance against what was considered the country’s foreign occupation, helped to awake and shape a strong political consciousness.

The ‘end’ of the regional wars in 2003 and the elections of 2006 were the next moments of hope. Even though it led to a sense of normalisation in different parts of the country, the dreams of structural change proved short-lived. Violence in the East continued and the economy was captured by the ruling elite that governed through increasingly violent repression. This could not prevent the Congolese, little by little, claiming the streets to raise their voices and discontent. In early 2015, when the Kabila regime seemed to lay the foundations for a constitutional change that would allow it to perpetuate its hold on power, the street said ‘enough!’ Congolese society at large rejected the status-quo. International and regional actors understood that any attempt by the regime to remain in power would lead to high levels of violence and increased pressure on the Kabila regime to respect the constitution.

When delayed elections were finally organised in December of 2018, these did not result in the immediate, revolutionary change that many had hoped for, yet they showed a sophisticated reaction to a complex political situation. The recent protest directed at the legislative attempt to impede the rule of law shows that the population has not demobilised – it remains a potent force for change.

Congolese are now a little more than three years away from the 2023 presidential, legislative and provincial elections. The immediate political future remains highly uncertain, and power struggles in Kinshasa and protracted conflict in the East continue to produce a risk for further turmoil. In a speech to Parliament, President Tshisekedi argued that it is necessary to provide a future president with a stronger mandate. As he stated, this should be part of a broader national reflection on electoral reform. The outcomes of such reflection will strongly depend on his capacity to listen to the voices of the Congolese and to the partnership that can be formed between both dynamics. The DRC’s regional and international partners have the responsibility to accompany this process.


This article was first published in the LSE website



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