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.
Outspoken artist, activist and legislator Robert Kyagulanyi (AKA Bobi Wine) has been detained after police shut down a recent concert of his and has since surrounded his home.
The thirty-eight undersigned human rights and civil liberties organizations are gravely concerned by the continued arbitrary detention of Mr. Amade Abubacar, a community radio journalist at the state-owned Rádio e Televisão Comunitária Nacedje de Macomia, in Cabo Delgado province.
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.
Vanguard Africa, a nonprofit consultancy, built a client base by working for the opposition for free in Gambia, where one of the region’s most brutal and longest-serving presidents was ousted in 2016.
Founding Director of Vanguard Africa, Jeffrey Smith, criticized the deal, saying it is a manifestation of everything that is wrong in Washington DC.
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.
“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.
Gnassingbe’s critics have been dismissive of these gestures. In a piece this week for Vanguard Africa, Wolali K. Ahlijah, a co-founder of the Faure Must Go campaign, suggested that Tsegan’s election was a cynical attempt by the government to get plaudits for “empowering women.” The released prisoners, meanwhile, should never have been detained in the first place, he said, and were “held hostage and used as a bargaining tool by the regime.”
Elections “will be a true litmus test of the power of the country’s youth and a testament to their collective aspirations for a better, more prosperous country,” said Jeffrey Smith, Washington-based executive director of the Vanguard Africa Foundation, which advocates for inclusive democracies.