Democracy Desperately Needs a Reboot (Nation of Change – June 13)

Move back a few steps to get the bigger picture and the retreat of democracy looks like a global rout. Here, for instance, is Nic Cheeseman’s and Jeffrey Smith’s take on Africa in Foreign Affairs:

IN TANZANIA, PRESIDENT JOHN MAGUFULI HAS CLAMPED DOWN ON THE OPPOSITION AND CENSORED THE MEDIA. HIS ZAMBIAN COUNTERPART, PRESIDENT EDGAR LUNGU, RECENTLY ARRESTED THE MAIN OPPOSITION LEADER ON TRUMPED-UP CHARGES OF TREASON AND IS SEEKING TO EXTEND HIS STAY IN POWER TO A THIRD TERM. THIS REFLECTS A BROADER TREND. ACCORDING TO FREEDOM HOUSE, A THINK TANK, JUST 11 PERCENT OF THE CONTINENT IS POLITICALLY “FREE,” AND THE AVERAGE LEVEL OF DEMOCRACY, UNDERSTOOD AS RESPECT FOR POLITICAL RIGHTS AND CIVIL LIBERTIES, FELL IN EACH OF THE LAST 14 YEARS.

Uganda: Bobi Wine Threatens Museveni’s Three-Decade Rule (Deutsche Welle – May 1)

Jeffrey Smith, executive director of Vanguard Africa, told DW: "In the eyes of President Museveni and the security apparatus around him, I think they rightly view Bobi Wine as a threat to their power and legitimacy. He's resonating particularly with Uganda's majority youth population." Vanguard is a nonprofit organization that partners with African leaders and democracy activists to consolidate democratic gains and advocate for free and fair elections in Africa.

Kenya’s Political Truce Holds, Shifting the Political Landscape (World Politics Review – April 4)

Absent amid all the maneuvering are any real efforts to move beyond the ethnic- and elite-driven political system that has long defined Kenyan politics. Jeffrey Smith, the executive director of the pro-democracy group Vanguard Africa, calls the developments “concerning” for Kenyan democracy and the ripple effects it sends around East Africa. “Once again, Kenya’s ruling class seem intent on prioritizing short-term political gain and self-interest over the long-term development of the country, and at the expense of Kenya’s democratic foundations,” he says.

The U.S. Could End Up Paying Dearly For Trump’s Disregard of Africa (Minnesota Post – March 4)

In 2013, three-quarters of Africans surveyed said democracy was the best form of government. Since then, the figure has slid. And democracy is struggling. In a story in Foreign Affairs, Nic Cheeseman and Jeffrey Smith cited a handful of troubling statistics: One measure of the level of democracy has decreased each of the last 14 years; just 40 percent of those in another survey said their last elections were free and fair.

Zimbabwe Drifts Towards Online Darkness (Coda Story – February 26)

“Shutting down the internet has become a go-to tactic. Robert Mugabe, who was rightly reviled for the human rights abuses, did not go so far as to order a blackout. The (new) government has shown zero political will to protect rights,” said Jeffrey Smith a founding director of Vanguard Africa, a foundation advocating for open democracy, with a special interest on Zimbabwe.