“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.”
“Armed with the lessons of other nations that have endured similar systemic injustices at the hands of officials charged with their protection, Gambia has a tremendous opportunity to craft a process that can achieve justice and healing simultaneously," said Jeffrey Smith, executive director of Vanguard Africa.
Jeffrey Smith, executive director of Vanguard Africa, a US organisation promoting free and transparent elections, said that observers in Kenya were seen as putting "a stamp of approval" on flawed elections.
"The bar for what constitutes acceptable elections in Africa has been lowered to such an extent that it is virtually meaningless," he said. "Now, when observers say 'peaceful' everyone hears 'free, fair and credible'."
This week’s guest is Jeffrey Smith, executive director of Vanguard Africa, a startup nonprofit that provides campaign advice and public relations support to pro-democracy leaders in Africa.
Smith aims to bring the international spotlight to Gambia, which is recovering from a more than two-decades-long dictatorship. Political and civil rights were nonexistent during the presidency of Yahya Jammeh, a former military officer who ruled the country from 1994 to 2016 . Vanguard Africa partnered with democratic forces in the lead up to and during Gambia’s 2016 election, which Jammeh ultimately lost.
Despite this accomplishment, Smith says Vanguard Africa’s work in Gambia is unfinished; a country cannot transition from dictatorship to democracy overnight. The nonprofit is now focused on holding the new government accountable. To aide with the transition, CIPE has partnered with the Gambia Chamber of Commerce and Industry to establish a national business council for the private sector.
“The courts in Kenya have long been the envy of activists and pro-democracy forces throughout Africa,” said Jeffrey Smith, Executive Director of the Vanguard Africa Movement, in an interview with Premium Times.
“Today’s Supreme Court decision only reinforces that perception and further bolsters the rule of law, today and going forward, in Kenya.”
Mr. Smith, whose organisation focuses on advancing good governance and reform across Africa, said Kenyan leaders must take caution to avert the aftermath of a similar ruling in Cote d’Ivoire in 2010.
While other regions on the continent, especially Central Africa, grapple with incumbent power grabs including “constitutional coups,” the story in West Africa has been more positive in recent years. In addition to Jammeh, the longtime president of Burkina Faso, Blaise Compaore, was forced to leave office in 2014 following a popular uprising, and more orderly transfers of power have occurred in countries like Benin, Nigeria and Ghana.
Morgan Tsvangirai, Zimbabwe’s longtime opposition leader and head of the Movement for Democratic Change party, announced a new coalition intended to finally topple President Robert Mugabe, who has ruled the country since it attained independence in 1980.
A few days before the general elections in Kenya, false information (also known as "fake news") continues to circulate on social networks. To try to educate the Kenyans, Facebook has put in place a strategy but the consequences of these false information on the elections seem already inevitable.
"Freedom of expression in Rwanda is virtually nonexistent, unless one is espousing the virtues of President Paul Kagame's leadership," Jeffrey Smith, Executive Director of the NGO Vanguard Africa, told IBTimes UK.