What is Happening in Ethiopia? State of Emergency, Protests and Political Crisis Explained (Newsweek – February 19)

"The latest state of emergency in Ethiopia, the second in two years, is an extension of the long repressive status quo, and that status quo is increasingly untenable," Jeffrey Smith, Executive Director at Vanguard Africa, which advocates for free and fair transfers of power in the continent, told Newsweek.

"If the country's leaders are in any way committed to pulling the country out of its economic, humanitarian and political tailspin, then long overdue democratic reforms are necessary."

Zimbabwe Government to Help in Laying Late Opposition Leader Morgan Tsvangirai to Rest (Voice of America – February 15)

The executive director of the US-based nonprofit Vanguard Africa, Jeffrey Smith, also paid tribute to Tsvangirai on twitter. “Go well and rest in power, Morgan Tsvangirai. His steadfast courage and willingness to stand tall against one of the most repressive regimes on the African continent should be applauded. He pushed #Zimbabwe's pro-democracy struggle further than anyone. He will be missed by many.”

Ethiopia Wants Political Prisoners to Sign “Confession” Forms Before Release (Quartz Africa – Feb. 12)

Jeffrey Smith, the executive director of advocacy nonprofit Vanguard Africa, says that undertaking these actions against prisoners “will only exacerbate the social and political fissures that are increasingly evident in the country.”

Beyond Bell Pottinger: Larger Trends Shape Africa's PR Market (PR Week - February 9)

Emerging democratic governments are also enhancing Africa’s economic growth. For instance, Gambia voted dictator Yahya Jammeh out of power at the start of last year. Supporting that ouster was Vanguard Africa, a nonprofit that works to implement free and fair elections. Chris Harvin, cofounder of Vanguard Africa, says a more open society results in a freer press and opportunities for firms offering counsel to high-end clients. 

What One Man’s Detention in Cameroon says about France’s Role in Central Africa (World Politics Review – February 8)

“It’s not that France has taken a hands-off approach,” says Jeffrey Smith, an activist who pushed for Atangana’s release in past roles at Freedom House and Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights, an advocacy organization. “They’ve taken a hands-on approach with a very pro-stability lens. They’re really trying to maintain the status quo, which is in their best interests.” 

Gambia’s Diaspora Helped Oust a Dictator. Now They’re Asking: What Next? (Christian Science Monitor – January 29)

The diaspora leadership also worked with Vanguard Africa, a nonprofit that advocates for pro-democracy politicians. Jeffery Smith, the executive director of Vanguard Africa, helped Gambians in the US get meetings at the State Department and connect with international media. The diaspora was crucial in focusing attention on Gambia in the lead-up to the election, he says.

“Dictators grow strength in the shadows. They become more emboldened in the darkness and [the diaspora] were able to take that away from Jammeh,” he says. “The international spotlight was on the country. The people in the country recognized this; they were becoming more emboldened because of that.”

Cameroon’s Anglophone Crisis is Threatening to Spin out of Control (Quartz Africa – January 14)

Jeffrey Smith, the executive director or advocacy nonprofit Vanguard Africa, said the situation risks deteriorating if possible solutions aren’t found. “With elections due later this year, and with President Biya’s increasing unpopularity, this is a potentially explosive situation that merits much more attention than it has been receiving, namely from regional leaders who should, in theory, have an interest in containing the regional unrest,” he said.

U.S. Sanction of Yahya Jammeh ‘A Victory for the Gambia’ (The Point December 22)

Reacting to the Trump Administration’s announced a global freeze order on assets of Yahya Jammeh, and a list of many other international investments related with the exiled dictator, Mr. Smith said it is “a further testament to the collective tenacity of their allies who’ve sought to hold the past regime accountable and help the country move on to a brighter, more prosperous and democratic future,”.

ADVISORY: A Momentous Opportunity for Democratic Reform in Zimbabwe

November 22, 2017

The unprecedented events in Zimbabwe over the past several days have rightfully seized the world’s attention. Vanguard Africa has closely followed developments in the country and has collaborated closely with activists and pro-reform political parties long before our organization was formed in 2016. At this truly historic juncture in the country’s history, the Vanguard Africa team wishes to extend our well wishes, strength and hope to the millions of Zimbabweans who can now look forward to a potentially brighter and more prosperous future.

The hard work now begins. The same military officials responsible for egregious human rights violations, disdain for the rule of law and countless killings, disappearances and detentions of activists, journalists and dissidents are poised on the precipice of immense power. This will require vigilance on the part of Zimbabwean citizens. The future of the country undoubtedly lies in your hands.

In order to set a sustainable democratic foundation in Zimbabwe, a broad-based coalition authority will be necessary. This transition period will ideally be followed by free, fair and credible elections -- including the presence of legitimate international poll monitors -- as soon as it is feasible. Importantly, elections should take place after significant state reforms are implemented and the country’s laws are properly aligned with the 2013 constitution.

We additionally urge the United States government to back democratic forces in Zimbabwe by investing in programs that support a robust civil society, a free and independent media and an empowered citizenry that is enabled to safeguard basic democratic rights. Objective technical support for the upcoming elections -- including assistance with the country’s electoral register and data systems -- will be paramount in order to prevent the type of brazen election rigging that has plagued Zimbabwe in the past.

We also call on U.S. lawmakers and Department of State officials to increase diplomatic pressure and principled engagement with leaders in Harare at this critical time— these moves can help expedite necessary electoral and legal reforms and raise the odds that Zimbabwe’s new leadership will adequately reflect the will of the people, which is long overdue.

At Vanguard Africa, we continue to stand in solidarity with the countless courageous Zimbabweans who have, quite literally over the years, put their lives on the line to advance social change. You have inspired us all. We sincerely look forward to your next chapter, and to helping you attain your country’s long latent potential.

Disclaimer: Several members of the Vanguard Africa team have directly supported Zimbabwe’s political opposition movements since 2008. To stay updated on all of our activities, including in Zimbabwe, please follow us on Twitter and Facebook, or visit our website. We look forward to being in touch.