Africa’s two-decade journey towards democracy run into headwinds – Gyimah-Boadi

Politics Africa Democracy
Politics Africa Democracy

Professor Emmanuel Gyimah-Boadi, Co-Founder and Board Chair, Afrobarrometre, Monday said despite the recent gains in democratic governance, Africa’s two-decade journey towards democracy and accountable governance has run into headwinds.

“We are seeing multiple signs of retrogression and backsliding across the continent – even in countries hitherto deemed on track to democratic consolidation, such as Benin, Ghana, Senegal, and South Africa,” he said.

Prof Gyimah-Boadi said this in Accra at the opening of a five-day ‘Stakeholder Engagement on Governance, Democracy and Human Rights in Africa’.

He said elections were being held regularly but their overall quality was declining due to voter intimidation and electoral violence and were increasingly likely to result in retention of power by incumbents, due to vote-buying and other manipulation.

The programme was organised by Data for Governance Alliance (D4GA) consortium, in collaboration with the Ghana Centre for Democratic Development (CDD-Ghana) with funding support from the European Union.

It seeks to enhance capacity of pan-African civil society organisations in the use of data to guide their advocacy and policy engagements.

This is the first of three convenings planned for 2022. The second convening would take place in Cape Town in South Africa from October 3 to 7, and the final one would be held in Nairobi, Kenya from October 17 to 21.

Prof Gyimah-Boadi said Africa had recorded several significant democratic milestones in recent months; saying “In Kenya, presidential power was smoothly transferred just two weeks ago (Monday, September 5) from Uhuru Kenyatta to William Ruto, after a highly competitive but peaceful presidential election about a month earlier.

That was, however, followed by an unsuccessful challenge at the Supreme Court by the losing candidate and others, he said.

“Angola held its second transition elections also in August, the incumbent party retained power, but the opposition recorded significant electoral gains,” he said.

Prof Gyima-Boadi noted the absence of credible regulation of political parties and candidate financing, with lax or zero enforcement of the few existing regulations.

“Parties and candidates enjoy practically unfettered access to funding from a range of illicit financiers who expect payback,” he said.

“Elite democracy capture also enables political leaders to get away with gross corruption, impunity, low levels of trust and unresponsive governance.”

“All of this is causing loss of faith in the status quo of the multi-party democratic order.”

He said the Africa Centre for Strategic Studies reports that 22 African rulers had tried to remove or modify term limits since 2015.

That, notwithstanding, findings from Afrobarometer surveys spanning over two decades and covering 80 per cent of the continent’s adult population in close to 40 countries, authoritatively affirm that Africans preferred to live in a democratic political order, he said.

Dr Kojo P. Asante, the Director of Programmes and Advocacy, CDD-Ghana, said through the Afrobarometer surveys, the D4GA project would produce data on African citizens perception on several governance issues, including human rights, corruption and security.

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