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Africa: Instability Slows Down Progress in Sustainable Development

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By Jeffrey Moyo

HARARE, Zimbabwe | 10 December 2023 (IDN) — For almost two years, Zimbabwe’s opposition politician, Job Sikhala, has remained jailed without conviction after he was arrested in 2021, facing charges of inciting public violence.

Another opposition leader, Jacob Ngarivhume, was jailed in April this year for four years on similar charges as in 2020 when he called for a national shutdown in protest over poor government leadership here. (P26)  Japanese | PortugueseSwahili | Turkish

Nevertheless, Sikhala and Ngarivhume faced the wrath of the regime even though one of the goals of the UN, known as the Sustainable Development Goals, SDG 16, is to provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels.

In September 2015, 193 countries, including Zimbabwe, came together at the United Nations headquarters in New York to commit to a long-term strategy to achieve sustainable global development.

The result was a list of 17 goals to achieve a sustainable future for all until 2030.

But as Zimbabweans like Sikhala and Ngarivhume suffer injustice at the hands of authorities, most of the SDGs are likely to be missed six years before the deadline, drawing criticism from human rights defenders.

Zimbabwean rights defenders have, therefore, denounced the regime for focusing on misplaced priorities.

“Zimbabwe has been struggling to alleviate poverty because of its record of bad politics, human rights abuses and misgovernance. Political instability hinders progress towards achieving the SDGs related to ending hunger and poverty. The achievement of these SDGs relies on stable governance and a conducive political environment,” Elvis Mugari, a Zimbabwean human rights activist, told IDN.

With political instability creeping into Africa, these goals have remained elusive for some African countries.


In Kenya, where violent anti-government protests have this year hit the country, progress towards achieving the SDG meant to provide access to justice for all has been stalled.

In July this year, six Kenyan protesters were shot and killed by police while more than ten others were injured; this after opposition leader Raila Odinga had called for civil disobedience and weekly nationwide protests against Kenyan President William Ruto’s government for tax hikes and raising the cost of living.

“What we have here is a culture of impunity where we ignore and fail to identify and punish human rights abuses,” Kakai Kissinger, a Kenyan human rights lawyer, told IDN.

A Rotary Peace Fellow in Kenya, Kennedy Monari sees even the worse as the East African nation grapples with seemingly political instability, which he said is gradually foiling the SDGs in the country.

“A concerning trend has emerged in Kenya’s political landscape, reflecting a society grappling with internal strife. The current administration pledged to achieve economic growth, anticipating that such progress would disrupt previous governance patterns and alleviate poverty through job creation, especially for marginalized groups like youths and women,” Monari told IDN.

DR Congo

In the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), dreams of achieving the UNSDGs before 2030 are even fading faster amidst political instability.

Moved by the unending political tensions in DRC, Ndatabaye Akilimali, a development expert, pinned the blame on the country’s political chaos for the slow pace at which the SDGs are being met.

“It’s obvious that political instability must have affected negatively the achievement of all the SDGs, but at this stage, I can’t tell which goal has been threatened most,” Akilimali said.

But in Eastern DRC, people have lived with war and displacement for years on end as armed groups have constantly killed civilians and impeded access to fields, roads, markets, income, education and food, according to the World Food Programme (WFP) in March this year.

In 2022, a surge in violence in the DRC’s eastern provinces of Ituri, North Kivu and South Kivu exacerbated insecurity in the country, triggering extensive internal displacement and substantial loss of life.

Consequently, according to the UN, more than 26 million people in DRC need humanitarian aid.


In Tanzania, work towards SDGs has been primarily constrained by an increasingly powerful executive branch, closing civic space and human rights violations, drawing human rights defenders’ ire.

“The pace of fighting poverty is very gradual; we have the goal of fighting poverty, but we have not seen very substantial or very serious interventions in improving people’s lives or human resources or human capital within the country,” Onesmo Ole Ngurumwa, who is Tanzanian Human Rights Defenders Coalition’s national coordinator, told IDN.

Ngurumwa added: “Poverty is still rampant in the country, in the rural areas. People in towns still live below $1 a day.”

Said Ngurumwa: “The chain of poverty is still huge in the country where one generation that is poor today will also make another generation poor tomorrow.”


In Mozambique, in a clear sign of political instability threatening the SDGs, in October this year, security forces used excessive force against peaceful protesters following disputed elections this year, according to Human Rights Watch.

As a result of the crackdown, the SDG, meant to provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels, came under threat.


In Zambia, political instability is creeping in as President Hakainde Hichilema fights with the man he succeeded, Edgar Lungu, who was stopped by police from jogging in public alongside his supporters after police deemed this political activism.

As such, for Zambia, as the elephants fight, the grass suffers, meaning even the SDGs have come under threat.

Government agencies in Zambia, however, see otherwise.

“The Zambian government administration has prioritized job creation in the public and private sectors. Since the current regime assumed power, more than 50,000 public service workers, including people with disabilities, were deployed last year, and this is a good milestone to end poverty,” Frankson Musukwa, who is the Director General of the Zambia Agency for Persons with Disabilities, told IDN.


Tainted by political corruption, Julian Mwase, one of Malawi’s human rights defenders, said her country has gradually degenerated into chaos, derailing the government’s ambitions to realize the 2030 SDGs deadline.

“The government introduced Affordable Input Programs to enable citizens to have access to cheaper farm inputs, but sadly, the initiative is being abused by politicians and traditional leaders,” Mwase told IDN.

Misplaced priorities

On the economic front, Zimbabwean economist Masimba Manyanya has blamed authorities here for focusing on misplaced priorities.

“Let’s start with the budget proposed by the finance minister recently. So much money was allocated to security ministries rather than for health and education. It means the government is more interested in maintaining its grip on power than in the health and welfare of its people,” Manyanya told IDN.

Prosper Chitambara, lead economist at the Labour and Economic Development Research Institute in Zimbabwe (LEDRIZ), said more needs to be done for Zimbabwe to fulfil the SDGs by 2030.

“There is a lot that we need to do as a country; I think we need to look at the number of Zimbabweans living in extreme poverty. We have seen an increase in informal employment. We need to ensure that the economy is growing in a highly poverty-reducing manner. We need to enhance rural infrastructure, ensuring the agricultural sector is productive,” Chitambara said. [IDN-InDepthNews]

Photo: The SDG 6 to ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all have come under threat in Zimbabwe as uncollected garbage lies haphazardly strewn in towns and cities. Credit: Jeffrey Moyo | IDN- INPS.





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