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Africa lets human rights slide

Africans are healthier and wealthier than before. But a slip in democracy across the continent undermines its progress, said a report out today.

Access to economic opportunities has improved in 41 out of 53 African countries between 2004/2005 and 2008/2009, said the 2010 Ibrahim Index of African governance.

And Africa had also made strides in improving health and social welfare, with 44 countries showing improvements, particularly in health care.

But five decades after most Africans first got a vote, standards of security and political rights have actually deteriorated in 35 African Countries. "Overall we saw significant declines in the area of political rights and personal safety," said the index’s Mamphela Ramphele. Of the 53 countries surveyed, she said, "almost two-thirds declined in human rights."

The study said Africa's economic growth is being undermined by a "democratic recession,” and urged African leaders not to neglect the political side of development. “We have seen from evidence and experience across the world that discrepancies between political governance and economic management are unsustainable in the long term,” Ibrahim foundation board member Salim Ahmed Salim said in a statement.

The yearly index was started in 2007, by Mo Ibrahim, the multimillionaire Sudanese founder of Celtel, one of Africa's largest mobile phone networks. It scores countries in four criteria: safety and rule of law; participation and human rights; sustainable economic opportunity; and human development.
The Indian Ocean island, Mauritius was ranked the best-run African country for the fourth year with 82 out of 100, followed by the Seychelles, Botswana, Cape Verde. South Africa stayed at fifth place. The bottom five countries were Somalia, Chad, DR Congo, Zimbabwe, Eritrea.

War-torn Somalia was very bottom of the league with a score of 8, while the once conflict-ridden west African country of Liberia was the rising star, improving on all scores.

These are depressing findings, said Martin Plaut, the BBC's Africa editor. “Countries near the bottom of the index, such as Somalia, Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo, all still suffer from rebellions and civil wars - problems Africa was meant to put in the past," he said.

Ms Ramphele encouraged African countries to focus less on leadership and more on the potential of ordinary people."The energy that is trapped in citizens is huge," she said. "Africa's problems will persist until we put enormous investment into making people part and parcel of its development."

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