The American researcher, Miriam Frost, stressed that although the African continent has witnessed democratic progress over the past decades, it can be considered a “wonderful success story”; However, there are indications that the countries of the continent have recently begun to know a worrying regression from the path and democratic gains.
Frost stated – in an article for the American news site “The Hill” – that this “democratic retreat” is not characterized by excessive fraud and manipulation, which it witnessed years ago; But with limited and steady reversals of democratic norms and institutions.
Fortunately, the slow erosion of democracy – the researcher adds – at the same time allows it to be fed again through a similar strategy.
Decline of freedoms
The Freedom in the World Report 2020, issued annually by Freedom House, stated that the margin of freedoms decreased in 22 African countries. The “African Governance Index”, prepared by the “Mohamed Ibrahim Foundation” specialized in leadership and governance affairs in the continent, revealed the first ever decline in the average governance in the countries of the continent since the establishment of the institution in 2006.
But despite these indications, the warning signs of the decline of democracy on the continent are often less clear, according to the researcher, as past constitutional coups have given way to more intelligent forms of manipulation of the law, and many presidents in particular have begun to ignore the limits of presidential terms by claiming that constitutional changes , enacted during their rule, returned the number of permitted states to zero.
Guinean Presidents Alpha Condé and Ivorian President Alassane Ouattara used this justification last year before their successful bid for a third presidential term. The growing popularity of this technology has also raised concerns about the intentions of other African presidents who led the constitutional amendments process while in office, such as Senegalese President Macky Sall and Benin President Patrice Talon.
Benin is a particularly disturbing example of this democratic decline, as this West African country was once considered a “beacon of democracy”; Unfortunately, a series of opaque legal and governance changes have started to erode the foundations of his democracy.
The American researcher believes that this wave of democratic decline in the brown continent is slowly expanding, and may threaten in the foreseeable future other model democracies, such as Senegal.
This fact may cause very serious problems, as a quick look at the countries of the continent, which do not have a limit on the number of presidential terms, or where this limit has been evaded, enables us to notice that these countries are more likely than others to enter into the cycle of armed conflicts and instability .
Moreover, the heads of these countries are more likely than others to engage in corrupt practices and electoral fraud the longer they remain in power; Which means more repercussions on the regime.
All of these matters – concludes the researcher – are potential sources of problems, not only for the continent; but also to American interests, but Washington can fortunately play an important role in reversing the picture by employing foreign support, diplomatic means and national security tools to respond to any urgent authoritarian threat, and supporting fragile democracies – such as Benin – where small but regular efforts can contribute in rebuilding democratic institutions.