“It’s clear the new government is genuinely resolved to make a clear and unequivocal break from the dictatorial past,” says Jeffery Smith, director of Vanguard International, a pro-democracy outfit that works across the continent. “But the perceptions is that much of that goodwill has yet to be translated to on-the-ground results.”
“You have a lot of these organizations, these PR firms, lobby firms, out there, and they’re essentially just mercenary outfits that do work for the highest bidder, regardless of their bloodstained track record,” Jeffrey Smith, executive director of Vanguard Africa, an organization that advocates for good governance on the continent, told VOA.
All of this is very awkward for other African governments. Under ideal circumstances, regional leaders, including South Africa, would probably prefer Mnangagwa. He’s anything but a reliable democrat—as Todd Moss and Jeffrey Smith note “He was the chief architect of a massacre of some 20,000 civilians in the 1980s, an episode known as Gukurahundi” and “is also implicated in billions of dollars in missing diamond revenues”.
"He is a war veteran and a military commander by training. He is one of 'them,'" Jeffrey Smith, analyst and executive director of Vanguard Africa, told IBTimes UK.
Could this military takeover truly lead to democratic transition? It’s not a given, says Jeffrey Smith. The executive director of the pro-democracy non profit Vanguard Africa told The Independent that “Zimbabwe's military has long been a chief impediment to democratic progress in the country” and a true transition would require them to engage in a “genuine dialogue with civil society and the political opposition.”
The rapid developments followed a warning for Mugabe from General Constantino Chiwenga, who demanded the president stop removing members of his own Zanu PF party or face a mobilized military.
Jeffrey Smith, analyst and executive director of Vanguard Africa, told IBTimes UK a coup is not likely at the moment.
"While the events in Zimbabwe today are certainly alarming, a military coup is likely not imminent. The troop movements are a public seeping of the long-widening fissures within the country's ruling party, ZANU-PF," he said.
"It appears to be a public show of force meant to accomplish two key things. First, it reminds, unequivocally, who wields true power in the country. And second, it puts those on notice who are backing Grace Mugabe's political rise, and potential presidency, that such an outcome will not be tolerated by the military and security forces."
In Kenya, if the court wanted a fair process, critics charge that the president and his allies did not. The breakdown of the voting system was “a symptom of the overall lack of democratic governance and respect of the basic rights of their citizens,” says Jeffrey Smith, executive director of Vanguard Africa, a nonprofit that supports free and fair elections. After the ruling, Kenyatta called the decision a coup. “This lack of respect for the rule of law is not a recent phenomenon,” Smith and co-author Arthur Gwagwa wrote in World Politics Review. His government shows a “pattern of sacrificing liberal ideals, such as respect for the rule of law, for sheer political survival.”
“With elections on the horizon, many in Cameroon rightfully fear a heightened and more violent crackdown,” said Jeffrey Smith, executive director of Vanguard Africa, a U.S.-based nonprofit that advocates for good governance and fair elections in Africa. “Biya is essentially drawing upon age-old lessons that authoritarians have long relied on to maintain power: kill dissent, sometimes literally, and openly target your critics so as to create a broader chilling effect in the country.”
Some of the opposition look to the Gambia, which saw off attempts by Yahya Jammeh, its longtime dictator, to cling to power after losing an election last year. Jeffrey Smith of Vanguard Africa, a nonprofit group that advised Adama Barrow, the Gambia’s current president, says: “Behind the scenes many Togolese and Gambian activists are collaborating, sharing lessons learned.”