Jeffrey Smith, executive director of Vanguard Africa, says the odds are slim that outsiders will do much beyond issue statements of concern—something the U.S. Embassy and the European Union have already done in the wake of Hichilema’s arrest. In fact, Smith argues, Zambian officials have for years now been able to intimidate critics and target journalists with relative impunity, taking advantage of the country’s reputation for peaceful elections and transfers of power. “I think Zambia has been given quite a bit of leeway given their past successes,” Smith says.
Jeffrey Smith dirige Vanguard Africa, une agence de soutien médiatique aux David qui se battent contre les Goliath africains au pouvoir.
A doctors’ strike in Cameroon left patients without critical care in the capital Yaoude on Monday, the latest in a string of union actions that have crippled a country in the midst of political crisis.
"With elections coming up next year, we can expect the situation to get much worse before it gets better," said Jeffrey Smith from advocacy group Vanguard Africa.
Three months ago, Cameroon’s English speaking regions had their Internet access cut off due to mounting protests over the government bias in favor of French-speaking Cameroonians.
Jeffrey Smith, executive director of Vanguard Africa, a US pro-democracy group, said Mr Hichilema’s detention fit “part of a larger pattern” of “intruding authoritarianism” in Zambia.
The former president, who is accused of decades of human rights abuses, fled to Equatorial Guinea in January after being offered asylum by fellow dictator Teodoro Obiang. Since then, nothing has been heard from him - but photos have now emerged showing him starting a new life in agriculture.
“A prosecution may only come in the long term, after the truth and reconciliation committee plays out, but I think the new government in Banjul will pay attention to those campaigning for it to happen,” says Jeffrey Smith, executive director of Vanguard Africa, an American pro-democracy NGO. “I wouldn’t be surprised if ultimately one day we see Jammeh in handcuffs.”
“The U.S. in particular is just so desperate for a development success story that leaders at least on this side of the Atlantic are willing to turn a blind eye to these other, more negative developments,” says Jeffrey Smith, executive director of Vanguard Africa, a Washington-based group that promotes reform-minded opposition politicians.
Likable and responsive, Jeffrey Smith has built relationships with dozens of activists, from Angola to Zimbabwe, and has American officials at the highest echelons on speed dial. One of his strengths: Getting D.C. power brokers and activists who fight repressive regimes in the same room. Another? Twitter, which he has used to build a constituency for change among human rights wonks, policymakers, and leaders and activists in Africa and its diaspora. For Smith, Twitter is part watercooler, part advocacy megaphone. He tweets throughout the day on serious topics, like political economy and dictatorship, but also uses Twitter to create and nurture camaraderie, even community.