Sub-saharan African countries face threats from armed groups and terrorist organizations. Groups such as Al-Shabaab and Boko Haram have no respect for human rights. They carry out massacres, conduct ethnic cleansing and target civilians. Governments aim to protect people against the threat of such groups. However, they can inflict significant civilian casualties when doing so.
The universality of the right to life comes into question in times of war. When defending its citizens governments are authorized to use lethal force. The use of force is not allowed in all situations. It can be limited under the laws of war, generally known as International Humanitarian Law (IHL).
PROTECTING THE LIVES AND RIGHTS OF CIVILIANS
Sometimes government forces attack civilian targets and kill hundreds of civilians. This can happen due to reckless action, or even intentionally. This is a failure by the government to protect its citizens and a violation of the right to life. Civilians in areas of armed conflict often are disadvantaged or belong to a persecuted minority group, meaning that governments could be discriminating against minorities.
For instance, when carrying out counter-terrorist operations against Boko Haram, the Nigerian military has committed numerous IHL violations. In 2017 an airstrike targeted at Boko Haram fighters hit a refugee camp, killing 234 civilians. The government blamed the deaths on faulty intelligence, but their actions were a violation of IHL. When governments do not follow the restrictions set by IHL their use of force violates their citizens