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West Africa bloc to negotiate with Niger junta on return to democracy

West Africa bloc to negotiate with Niger junta on return to democracy

WEST Africa's regional bloc ECOWAS set up a committee of three leaders to negotiate with Niger's military junta on a transition to democratic rule and to consider easing sanctions, a communique said after an annual summit. Niger in July became the latest Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) member to undergo a coup when soldiers from the presidential guard detained President Mohamed Bazoum and set up what they called a transitional government, one of a series of government overthrows in West Africa's Sahel region. At Sunday's summit in the Nigerian capital Abuja, ECOWAS decided to set up a committee of leaders…
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Senegal’s internet shutdowns are another sign of a democracy in peril

Senegal’s internet shutdowns are another sign of a democracy in peril

SENEGAL’S government began blocking several digital platforms – including Facebook, WhatsApp, Instagram, Telegram and YouTube – in certain areas on 1 June. Days later, it extended the disruptions to all mobile internet and several television stations. The social networks were shut down for two days. This was followed by a four-day mobile internet shutdown. Author JEFF CONROY-KRUTZ, Associate Professor of Political Science, Michigan State University Given that nearly all Senegalese internet users access it through their mobile phones, these moves constituted a near-total block on digital communications and information. Internet penetration in Senegal has exploded in recent years. A decade…
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Media freedom and democracy: Africans in four countries weigh up thorny questions about state control

Media freedom and democracy: Africans in four countries weigh up thorny questions about state control

IN July 2022, BBC Africa Eye released a documentary on gang activity in northwestern Nigeria. The programme, The Bandit Warlords of Zamfara, examined the raids on villages, abductions and murders that have plagued swaths of the country. Notably, it included interviews with so-called bandits, who described their violent actions and laid out their grievances. Author JEFFREY CONROY-KRUTZ, Associate Professor of Political Science, Michigan State University The Nigerian government responded furiously to the documentary’s airing. The minister of information, Lai Mohamed, called it “a naked glorification of terrorism and banditry”. The National Broadcasting Commission, which regulates broadcasting, said it “undermines national…
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South Africans are fed up with their prospects, and their democracy, according to latest social attitudes survey

South Africans are fed up with their prospects, and their democracy, according to latest social attitudes survey

THE mood among South Africans has soured. The latest findings from the representative survey that’s done every year by the country’s Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC) show some disturbing new trends. The most marked are: a decline in levels of life satisfaction as a whole a downturn in people’s views about what lies ahead in their lives a growing sense of despondency, and a declining satisfaction with democracy. Authors JOLEEN STEYN KOTZE, Chief Research Specialist in Democracy and Citizenship at the Human Science Research Council and a Research Fellow Centre for African Studies, University of the Free State BENJAMIN ROBERTS,…
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Does democracy fuel corruption? Most Ghanaians don’t think so

Does democracy fuel corruption? Most Ghanaians don’t think so

DOES democracy breed corruption – particularly in developing countries? There are strong advocates of the theory. And strong detractors. Some studies conclude that democracy aggravates corruption. For instance, the noted scholar of public policy Jong-Sung You’s work explores the relationships between democracy, inequality and corruption. He shows in a study of three East Asian countries that democracy can worsen corruption when a country has high levels of inequality. This, in turn, increases clientelism and patronage politics and state capture. Author JOSEPH YAW ASOMAH, Assistant Professor, University of Manitoba Other studies show that democracy can help combat corruption. One study by…
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Election observers are important for democracy – but few voters know what they do

Election observers are important for democracy – but few voters know what they do

ELECTION observers keep watch over polls throughout the world. Their job is to support efforts to improve electoral quality and to provide transparency. In African countries, both local citizens and international observers have been deployed regularly since the 1990s. During several recent elections across the continent, however, questions have arisen about the competence and impartiality of observation missions. This has led to concerns about the future of observation, both in Africa and elsewhere. Authors THOMAS MOLONY, Senior Lecturer in African Studies, The University of Edinburgh ROBERT MACDONALD, Research Fellow in African Studies, The University of Edinburgh In 2023, more than…
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Invisible Trillions review: global capitalism operates beyond the rule of law and threatens democracy

Invisible Trillions review: global capitalism operates beyond the rule of law and threatens democracy

SECRECY has become as important for corporations as transparent and taxable profits used to be, according to Raymond W. Baker in his new book Invisible Trillions. Global capitalism, he argues, operates beyond the rule of law. This contributes to extreme inequality that threatens liberal democracy. Author JOHN J STREMLAU, Honorary Professor of International Relations, University of the Witwatersrand Deals in the financial secrecy system account for half of global economic operations. This is far beyond illicit transfers of funds through corporate under-pricing and overpricing of exports and imports, or the drug and other criminal networks 50 years ago. Tax havens,…
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Benin holds election set to test democracy

Benin holds election set to test democracy

PULCHERIE ADJOHA VOTERS in Benin went to the polls for a parliamentary election seen as a test of democracy as opposition parties are back on the ballot after boycotting or being excluded from the most recent presidential and legislative votes. Benin's image as a bastion of democracy and stability in West Africa has been dented under President Patrice Talon, who went back on a pledge not to run for another term and oversaw an opposition crackdown since coming to power in 2016. Seven parties are competing for 109 parliamentary seats in Sunday's vote, including the Democrates party linked to Talon's predecessor and…
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Dear Comrade President: book highlights ANC leader Oliver Tambo’s role in preparing South Africa for democracy

Dear Comrade President: book highlights ANC leader Oliver Tambo’s role in preparing South Africa for democracy

MORE than three decades have passed since the apartheid government in South Africa unbanned the African National Congress (ANC), the country’s leading liberation movement, and released its leader, Nelson Mandela, from prison. This launched four fraught years of negotiations and violence that led to South Africa’s first-ever democratic elections. The book Dear Comrade President: Oliver Tambo and the Foundations of South Africa’s Constitution, by South African historian Andre Odendaal, focuses on a dimension ignored in previous histories and memoirs of this period: the ANC’s constitution-framing process, which would help to shape the future democratic South Africa. Author GAVIN EVANS, Lecturer,…
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Nigeria ticks some boxes as a democracy. Why this hasn’t translated into a better life for most

Nigeria ticks some boxes as a democracy. Why this hasn’t translated into a better life for most

SINCE gaining independence on 1 October 1960, Nigeria has struggled to maintain a democratic government. The election of 1999 offered renewed hope after a series of military coups and periods of generals in uniform running the country. More elections followed over the years. Holding elections is a commonly accepted feature of democracy, along with having an informed electorate and protecting basic human rights. Author ABIODUN FATAI, PHD, Senior Lecturer, Lagos State University My doctoral study explored Nigeria’s (and Senegal’s) progress with consolidating democracy between 1999 and 2012. As a researcher on elections and democratisation, a key question that’s emerged for…
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