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.
A strikingly toxic campaign ad was unleashed online in Kenya just weeks before national elections – a potentially explosive move in a country where politics and ethnicity are closely aligned.
Jeffrey Smith, executive director of Vanguard Africa, a nonprofit group that advocates for good governance and free and fair elections in Africa, says the warning signs of “a significant and troubling democratic reversal” in Zambia have long been evident in the successive Patriotic Front governments.
The party has been in power since 2011.
“That President Lungu has been allowed to ratchet up the repression without any real consequence or condemnation has further emboldened his heavy-handedness,” he told Daily Maverick. “History shows, unequivocally, that despots grow strength in the darkness and that is precisely what we are seeing unfold in Zambia.”
My guest today Jeffrey Smith helps spotlight Africa’s “presidents for life.” His organization, Vanguard Africa, is very new but they already have one success under their belt– assisting the peaceful transition of power from The Gambia’s longtime ruler. He now has his sites set on Africa’s second longest ruling leader, Paul Biya of Cameroon.
We kick off with a discussion of the situation in Cameroon and have great digressions about the Zimbabwe, some deficiencies of the NGO community in D.C. and, of course, the Gambia.
Jeff discusses how and why he came to focus on issues of democracy and human rights in Africa and how he found inspiration from the hero of an anti-apartheid movement in South Africa. If you want to learn how foreign NGOs can help local democracy activists topple longstanding “presidents for life” then have a listen to this Global Dispatches podcast episode.
Vanguard Africa is pleased to announce the addition of Dr. Aref Ali Nayed and David Rice to our distinguished Advisory Council, which includes some of the world’s leading advocates for good governance, democracy and transformational leadership.
Dr. Aref Ali Nayed is a renowned scholar on Islamic theology and interfaith dialogue, as well as the founder and director of Kalam Research and Media (KLM). Dr. Nayed brings decades of unique experience as a diplomat, having represented the government of Libya as ambassador to the United Arab Emirates, and a wealth of experience in democracy building in highly complex environments. “I am honored to join the exemplary team of experts and committed activists at Vanguard Africa, an organization that has emerged as Africa’s premier pro-democracy organization in a very short period of time,” said Dr. Nayed. “I look forward to joining my colleagues to help create a loud and collective call for free and fair elections and ethical leadership in Africa.”
David Rice is a development economist who has written and taught extensively about economic development, governance, and public policy in Africa. His research has specifically focused on the critical role that the private sector must play in driving broader economic growth and social development across Africa. Most recently, he was the founding director of the Africapitalism Institute – which was supported by the Tony Elumelu Foundation – a pan-African think tank based in Nigeria, which he ran through the end of 2015. He is currently researching a book on the recent democratic renewal in the Gambia, a project in which he is collaborating with Vanguard Africa’s executive director, Jeffrey Smith. “Vanguard Africa is the type of organization that is needed at this crucial juncture in Africa’s democratic development. Having witnessed the profound impact made in the Gambia last year, I am convinced that this project has barely scratched its vast potential,” said Mr. Rice. “2017 will surely be an exciting and challenging year and I look forward to the positive impact that we can surely make together.”
Please join us at Vanguard Africa in welcoming the newest additions to our outstanding team. We could not be more proud or more enthusiastic to collaborate together in the coming year. We also encourage anyone who believes in our core mission to connect with us through our website or social media – both on Facebook and Twitter – and help our team continue to build the necessary support for fair elections and ethical leadership across the African continent.
Jeffrey Smith, the executive director of Vanguard Africa, was one of the international observers closely monitoring the election in Gambia. Smith, who has been an advocate for human rights and democracy in Africa throughout his career, started Vanguard Africa “to shed a necessary spotlight on the need for free and fair processes and why they’re so important to democracy in the short and the long term, particularly in countries like the Gambia that don’t necessarily get the attention we think they deserve.”
Jeffrey Smith, executive director of nonprofit organisation Vanguard Africa, says the centralization of power within dynasties has a profoundly negative effect on the state of democracy in Africa. "What we have today in many instances are family fiefdoms in which the control of state power, and the massive unprecedented looting that often accompanies it, is impoverishing the very citizens these leaders have sworn to protect," he says.
Cameroon’s tendency to cry terrorism when cracking down on dissent is understandable for the simple reason that outside protest in such cases is often muted or nonexistent. Jeffrey Smith, founding director of the Washington-based pro-democracy group Vanguard Africa, notes a similar phenomenon in Ethiopia, which has been under a state of emergency since October.
In Cameroon, Smith says, invoking terrorism grants “a dubious patina of legitimacy” to the repressive tactics Biya’s government has long embraced. “This notable shift away from overt brutality to legal repression, or what some have termed ‘rule by law,’ doesn't come with the same level of international scrutiny or criticism,” he says, “and autocrats like Paul Biya have certainly learned this lesson.”