Monday, July 22, 2024

Democracy in Peril, Civil Liberties Under Attack: Sub-Saharan Africa Shows No Significant Improvement on 2021 Corruption Perception Index

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By: Christian Conteh

According to Afrobarometer’s latest surveys, a majority of people across the region think corruption is on the rise, while simultaneously expressing dissatisfaction with the way democracy works.

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This is not surprising, persistent corruption has gone hand-in-hand with unconstitutional changes of power in various parts of the continent.

On a continent where corruption persists, natural resources and its attendant benefits impede access to public services for millions of people rather than facilitate them, the result is decades of stagnation laid bare by the 2021 Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI). This cannot be more devastating.

With an average score of 33 out of 100, Sub-Saharan Africa shows no significant improvement on the 2021 CPI. The gains made by a handful of countries are overshadowed by backsliding or stagnation in others and the region’s poor performance overall, as 44 out of 49 countries assessed on the index still score below 50.

With the COVID-19 pandemic severely hitting the previously less-affected continent, alongside protracted armed conflicts and rising terrorist threats, 2021 was a turbulent year for Sub-Saharan Africa. These worrying trends exacerbate the serious corruption problems that exist for long before.

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To keep corruption out of the public eye, governments across the region have limited information and cracked down on independent voices calling out abuses of power.

Elsewhere, governments imposed disproportionate restrictions on civic freedoms often under the guise of containing the COVID-19 pandemic limiting people’s ability to hold power to account.

On the 2020 Democracy Index Sub-Saharan Africa recorded its worst average score since 2006, primarily owing to a drop in countries’ civil liberties scores.

Repression continued in 2021, as governments used the COVID-19 pandemic and armed conflicts as an excuse to further crackdown on rights.

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Mali’s (29) significant decline (from 35 in 2015) on the CPI has occurred concurrently with a drop in its civil liberties score. The country is facing political, institutional and security crises, having experienced three military coups since 2012. The ongoing armed conflict undermines key state functions, leading to a vicious cycle of corruption and human rights abuses

And while Ethiopia (39) registers a significant improvement (from 33) since 2012, its decline in civil liberties threatens to reverse any previous progress. The government has used the ongoing armed conflict in the Tigray region as a pretext to silence independent voices.

In 2021, authorities shut down a popular independent media outlet and arrested dozens of journalists for their coverage of the civil war.

The 2021 CPI results should serve as a wake-up call to societies across Sub-Saharan Africa. The magnitude of corruption challenges requires responses much bolder than ever before.

Sustainable progress on anti-corruption can only be achieved if societal and institutional checks on power are ensured. Governments must urgently roll back on the disproportionate restrictions on civil liberties and stop using the COVID-19 pandemic or ongoing conflicts as an excuse for stifling dissent.

And when allegations of abuse emerge, anti-corruption agencies and justice institutions must provide accountability no matter how high-level the culprit.



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