NDI’s Chris Fomunyoh Sounds Alarm Bells on Backsliding of Democracy in Africa

By Amos Fofung 

Dr. Chris Fomunyoh fears West Africa’s Democratic backslide will emulate Central African polity noted for highest concentration of world autocrats and human rights violations

Dr Christopher Fomunyoh, Senior Associate and Regional Director for Central and West Africa at the National Democratic Institute, NDI, has told the U S House of Representatives’ subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights, and International Organizations of fears that West Africa, formally considered the harbinger of democracy in the continent might turn out just like the Central African sub-region noted for gross human rights violation, suppression of freedom of expression and the highest concentration of world autocrats.

Addressing the committee on Wednesday, September 30, 2020, Dr. Chris who has put in over twenty-five years at the NDI stated that West Africa is no longer the trailblazer it used to represent in the continent. Stating that there are now fewer democracies in Africa than was twenty years ago, Dr. Fomunyoh pointed to the fact that with Mali experiencing a military coup and the controversies of incumbent presidents in Guinea Conakry and Ivory Coast, the faith of West Africa’s democracy is swinging on a rope. 


“From 2019, the democratic trends have reversed with less democratic nations in Africa now than there was in the 90s,” he told the house session chaired by Karen Bass who did not fail to indict African governments for suppressing basic rights such as Tanzania whose government she faulted for using the coronavirus to suppress democratic principles. 

Dr. Fomunyoh, an internationally acclaimed political scientist cum civic advocate with vast knowledge on African politics and democracy stated that West Africa formerly seen as the model for democracy is now sliding towards a downwards trajectory with far devastating consequences should care not be taken. 

Applauding Nigeria’s strong hand in maintaining its position as the powerhouse of democracy in Africa for over two decades, the Cameroonian-born democracy expert who has mediated protest and election-related conflicts across Africa noted that the outbreak of coronavirus has further sunk democracy in the agile continent. 

“Covid-19 impeded election preparation and democracy, and has generated fears of incumbent president using powers to limit freedom of expression and shrink democratic space,” he said before praising the Economic Community of West African States, ECOWAS for its efforts in pushing for a civilian-led transition in Mali after the military coup that ousted President Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta. 

Answering questions from members of the committee, Dr. Fomunyoh expressed his concerns over the fact that the collapse of democratic leadership in Mali, a strong member of the G5 Sahel states that fight extremist terrorism in the Sahel might facilitate the spread of insurgency Sahel regions. 

Quizzed by the committee chair on his recommendations, Dr. Fomunyoh urged Ivorians to go into the 2020 elections and ensure that they do not make the same mistakes they did in 2010. He added that there is a need to revamp US policies and focus them on African 35 years or younger who constitution 75% of the 1.4 billion population in the continent. 

To the international community, he called for the institution of global platforms within the United Nations systems including within the UN security council to put an end to human rights violations. “Africans themselves need to build synergies, national and regional networks to consolidate best practices and enhance peer-to-peer learning and also invest in empowering women and youth as leaders to safeguard and promote better democratic performance,” he said in his recommendation to Africans. 

Another witness at the hearing, Dr. Dorina A. Bekoe of the Institute for Defense Analyses who in her talk focused on elections and political transition stated that about 65% of African elections have witness violence be it before, during, and post elections – with post-election violence being deadlier and catastrophic. To her, African states should emulate positive examples portrayed by Ghana, Senegal, Mauritius, Botswana, and South Africa in its democratic principles. 

To Jon Temin, Director of Africa Program at the Freedom House, West Africa is now of particular concern with most of its states now on a downward trajectory and citizen left to bare the groan of political backwardness.  

Joshua Meservey Senior Policy Analyst with the Heritage Foundation charged with Africa and the Middle East picked on China’s foreign policy which to him is married by illicit deeds and propagates bad governance to attack democracy in Africa.

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