03 July 2010

Trend: Africa's Failing Democracies

The American magazine "Newsweek" yesterday published on its website a short article by Ethiopia-based journalist Jason McLure, titled "Africa's Failing Democracies".

The full text of the article can be read free of charge here:


Excerpts: "When [H]uman [R]ights Watch criticized the results of Ethiopia's May elections, in which the ruling coalition 'won' an improbable 545 out of 547 seats, leaders in Addis Ababa didn't ignore the influential NGO. Instead, they paid tens of thousands of demonstrators to gather in the capital and denounce the report. Ethiopia's political shenanigans are emblematic of a growing trend away from democracy in Africa. The swing includes not only pariah states like Eritrea and Sudan, but also U.S. allies like Rwanda, where President Paul Kagame is up for reelection and seems set to duplicate the improbable 95 percent victory he posted seven years ago. [...] In Gabon and Togo, the deaths of long-serving autocrats have meant elections in which power was smoothly transferred – to their sons, that is. Mauritania, Guinea, Madagascar, and Niger have all suffered coups in the past two years.

"Freedom House, a nonprofit that tracks democratic trends, dropped three African countries from its list of 'electoral democracies' last year, and reported declines in political freedom in 10 others. [...] Why the backsliding? It's partly thanks to the rise of China, which provides cheap loans and investment to resource-rich countries while asking no hard questions about human rights, thus strengthening the hold of authoritarian governments. The West is to blame, too. The Obama administration and its European allies have turned a blind eye to autocratic trends in places like Uganda, Burundi, and Ethiopia because of those countries' role in battling Islamists. [...] 'If this is their representation of democracy and human rights, they shouldn't talk about it anymore,' says Hailu Shawel, an Ethiopian opposition leader. 'They should shut up.'"

I can't figure out whether the article also appeared in print.

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