According to Mathias Hounkpe, a political governance specialist at the Open Society Initiative West Africa, it has become more difficult in recent years to manipulate election day results by stuffing ballot boxes or changing the number of votes. As a result, politicians are changing their tactics, he said.
“Little by little, those in power are realizing that it is becoming more and more difficult to cheat,” said Hounkpe in an online debate. “They use the means to keep the political space in check.”
In French-speaking West Africa, civil space is shrinking, leaving citizens trying to hold their governments accountable to face repressive laws, arrests, and sometimes death, according to a report released by the global nonprofit Civicus.
Case in point: the recent fatal clashes in Guinea over the new constitution pushed forward by the country’s first democratically elected president, Alpha Condé.
His success in maneuvering to stay in power is due in part to Western negligence, said Cellou Dalein Diallo, Guinea’s opposition leader.
“The Europeans are less attentive, and with the arrival of Trump the Americans are less demanding when it comes to democracy and human rights,” Diallo said recently on a campaign trip to Dakar, Senegal, where a large Guinean diaspora lives.
US Secretary of State Michael Pompeo issued a two-paragraph statement last week on “upcoming elections in Africa” warning that “there is no place in democracies for repression and intimidation”. However, many Africans said on social media that such a brief, blanket statement about the continent and not about specific countries was evidence that the administration of President Trump, who vilified the African countries with a memorable epithet in 2018, was doing little I am interested.