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.

Robert Mugabe Accumulated Riches as Zimbabwe Crumbled (Yahoo News – November 21)

“It’s long been suspected that Robert Mugabe, his family, and close associates have been dipping their hands into state coffers, or otherwise plundering Zimbabwe’s immense natural resource wealth for their own benefit,” said Jeffrey Smith, executive director of democracy group Vanguard Africa.

Rebuilding after the Dictator: Gambia’s Slow Road to Reform (African Arguments – November 20)

“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.”

Experts Question the Role of Data Mining Firms in Kenya’s Annulled Election (Voice of America – November 17)

“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.

The Zimbabwean Military Says This Isn’t a Coup. It’s a Coup (Slate – November 17)

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”. 

Zimbabwe: Military Calculates Next Move After Mugabe Loses Iron Grip (The Independent – November 15)

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.”