Journalists, Not Terrorists: In Cameroon, anti-terror legislation is used to silence critics and suppress dissent (Committee to Protect Journalists – September 20)

“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.”

The President of Togo is Under Pressure to Resign (The Economist – September 21)

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.”

CPJ Report: Cameroon Uses ‘Anti-Terror’ Laws to Silence Journalists in Cameroon (News24 – September 20)

“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.”

Holding Jammeh to Account is Crucial: Jeffrey Smith (The Point – September 18)

“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. 

Observers Under Fire for ‘Rubber Stamping’ Kenya Vote (AFP – September 12)

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'."

Democracy That Delivers Podcast: Jeffrey Smith on Political Change in the Gambia (Center for International Private Enterprise – September 5)

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.

Kenya’s President Kenyatta Speaks on Canceled Election (Premium Times – September 1)

“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.

Tiny Togo, a Democratic Laggard, Sees Signs of an Energized Opposition (World Politics Review – August 31, 2017)

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. 

Will Zimbabwe’s Latest Opposition Alliance Outdo its Predecessors? (World Politics Review – August 10)

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.