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Defend democratic values to prevent further decline - Prof. Gyimah-Boadi urges CSOs

BY: Vincent Amenuveve & Abigail Sedinam Kortiah
Prof. E. Gyimah Boadi, Board Chairman, Afrobarometer
Prof. E. Gyimah Boadi, Board Chairman, Afrobarometer

The Co-Founder and Board Chairman of Afrobarometer, a pan-African research project, Professor Emmanuel Gyimah-Boadi, has called on the citizenry and civil society organisations to defend and protect democratic values from further decline on the African continent, particularly the sub region.

He expressed regret that “We are seeing multiple signs of retrogression and backsliding across the continent —even in countries hitherto deemed to be on track of democratic consolidation, such as Benin, Ghana, Senegal, and South Africa”.

Prof. Gyimah-Boadi explained that the retrogression in democratic values was as a result of the capture of the state and its democratic institutions and processes by the political class, a decline in the overall quality of elections due to voter intimidation and electoral violence, retention of power by incumbents through vote-buying and other manipulative activities.

The engagement

Prof. Gyimah-Boadi made the call at the opening ceremony of a five-day Stakeholders Engagement on Governance, Democracy and Human Rights in Africa in Accra yesterday.

It was aimed at, among other objectives, enhancing the capacity of pan-African civil society organisations in the use of data to guide their advocacy and policy engagement activities.

It was organised by the Data for Governance Alliance, a consortium of governance data producers and funded by the European Union.

Democratic journey

The Afrobarometer board chair indicated that on the whole, Africa’s two-decade journey towards democracy and accountable governance had run into terrifying headwinds.

He observed that “State and democracy capture is key reason for the persistence of poverty, inequality and joblessness; and wide gaps in the delivery of education, health care, infrastructure, and security”.

That, he said, was irrespective of macro-economic growth, external aid, domestic revenue mobilisation, investments in public services and infrastructure.

“Elite democracy capture also enables political leaders to get away with gross corruption, impunity, low levels of trust and unresponsive governance. All of this is causing loss of faith in the status quo multi-party democratic order”, he further noted.

Prof. Gyimah-Boadi said in the absence of credible regulation of party and candidate financing, together with zero enforcement of the few regulations that might exist, parties and candidates enjoy practically “unfettered access to funding from a range of illicit financiers who expect payback”.

The board chairman added that “the quality of elections, in particular, and democratic governance in general is being severely compromised just about everywhere on the continent”.
Prof. Gyimah-Boadi stated that findings from Afrobarometer surveys spanning over two decades and covering close to 40 countries and 80 per cent of the continent’s adult population had affirmed that the average adult African prefered a government that was democratic and accountable.

The Director of Programmes and Advocacy, Centre for Democratic Development (CDD-Ghana), Dr Kojo Asante, said the engagement would further create the platform for CSOs to meet with representatives from five African Union organs and interact with them on their core mandates and how CSOs could contribute to popularise their work to African citizens.

Among the challenges to governance in Africa are lack of citizen access to information and data which is, however, hindered by declining coverage, quality and frequency of publicly available data for key data categories in Africa.