Will democracy in Africa become a fleeting memory or it will continually be our way of living? Not sure, what do you TINK?
The last thirteen years have been a story declining freedom and it’s really disheartening. The most recent event being the coup d'état experienced in Sudan. Although this trend is not limited to Africa as we have seen unsettling events occur in other countries like Venezuela, Myanmar, Nicaragua, Serbia, Hungary, and so on. For the purpose of this article, I will limit concern to Africa alone.
These unsettling events are largely political and are the root cause of the civil wars experienced thus far. In a recent report released by Freedom House, Freedom in the World 2019 shows the state of many African countries today as they have journeyed from Free to partly free to not free.
In Uganda status declined from Partly Free to Not Free due to attempts by long-ruling president Yoweri Museveni’s government to restrict free expression, including through surveillance of electronic communications and a regressive tax on social media use.
In Zimbabwe status improved from Not Free to Partly Free because the 2018 presidential election, though deeply flawed, granted a degree of legitimacy to the rule of President Emmerson Mnangagwa, who had taken power after the military forced his predecessor’s resignation in 2017
In Angola, new president João Lourenço took notable actions against corruption and impunity, reducing the out sized influence of his long-ruling predecessor’s family and granting the courts greater independence.
In Ethiopia, the monopolistic ruling party began to loosen its grip in response to three years of protests, installing a reform-minded prime minister who oversaw the lifting of a state of emergency, the release of political prisoners, and the creation of space for more public discussion of political issues.
More often than not, political opposition in countries across the continent has met a different fate as governments have used a variety of tactics to restrict freedoms and dissent. These include shutting down the internet (Cameroon, Zimbabwe), imposing social media taxes (Uganda), and imposing blogger licenses (Tanzania). Governments have also resorted to outright violence in Burundi, Senegal, Togo, and Zambia.
Freedom House’s 2019 Freedom in the World Report further suggests that political liberalization in countries like Ethiopia and The Gambia belies “creeping restrictions” and a general trend toward authoritarian behavior.
This trend is confirmed in the most recent survey conducted by Afrobarometer, an independent African research network. It was conducted between late 2016 and late 2018 in 34 countries. On average across all the countries surveyed, citizens appeared to confirm that civic and political space was closing. Many also expressed a willingness to accept restrictions on their liberties in the name of security.
In a bid to secure we take steps that restrict and encage people, this is everything democracy is not. Owing to this rising trend, what would our beloved Africa be like tomorrow?