See the 2011 Grantee Spotlight on the National Youth Movement for Transparent Elections (Liberia).
The year 2011 was a momentous one for democracy in Africa. Milestones included the referendum for self-determination in Sudan in January, leading to the independence of South Sudan in July; resolution of the political crisis in Cote d’Ivoire in March; democratic elections in Nigeria in April; Liberian elections in October; and elections in the Democratic Republic of the Congo in November. While the repercussions of many of these are still unclear, the general trend was towards greater democratic popular engagement. NED and its partners contributed in many ways.
Through 15 years of civil war and gradual reform, Sudan and South Sudan have now entered a new era. To adjust, organizations in both countries received NED support for a strong civil society and independent press, constitutional development, national reconciliation, and the entrenchment of a culture of human rights and democracy. NED partners played leading roles in mobilizing youth to participate in Sudan’s constitution-making process; and as conflict erupted along the new border and in the South, their conflict resolution efforts gained urgency.
The elections in Cote d’Ivoire in December 2010 ended in chaos. The work of many of NED’s partners was suspended during the crisis, but with the return of stability in 2011, they threw themselves with renewed vigor into a leading role in the justice and reconciliation process, coming together in a unique consortium to document the human rights problems of the past decade. As the smoke cleared, NDI re-opened its office in Cote d’Ivoire supporting political party dialogue and party development for upcoming local elections.
Nigeria’s 2011 elections were arguably the best since independence. NED’s partners provided important support in voter education, election monitoring, and advocacy for reform. Unfortunately violence marred the process and continues to threaten Nigeria’s stability. The ongoing efforts of NED’s partners to encourage accountability, increase the democratic participation of women and youth, strengthen trade unions and business associations, and promote peaceful co-existence have helped to counter these threats.
NED mourned the murder of Chidi Nwosu, founder and director of the Human Rights Justice and Peace Foundation in Abia State, who for many years had fought corruption and advocated for human rights and democracy there with NED support. CIPE’s program to strengthen the voice of the private sector in Nigeria expanded into the north, and the Solidarity Center’s focus on service sector unions increased membership and won collective bar-gaining agreements despite the tragic accidental death of the Center’s field representative, Jason Campbell.
Liberia’s elections were peaceful and free, even though the opposition boycotted the second round due to allegations of fraud. Again, NED’s partners made important contributions to voter education efforts, and helped strengthen the independent press and promote accountability. The award of the Nobel Peace Prize to President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf and Leymah Gbowee recognized the important role women have played in bringing peace and democracy to Liberia, an effort supported by NED grants to Liberia for many years. There was high incumbency turnover in the elections, which some have attributed to the monitoring activities of NED partners.
Congo’s elections at the end of the year were a disappointment as fraud and violence left doubts about who the real winner was. Nevertheless, the impressive determination of Congolese to go to the polls to vote was testimony to the hard work of many of NED’s partners to educate and mobilize citizens to exercise their democratic rights and responsibilities. NED’s partners also monitored the elections and the human rights environment, sometimes under duress. Their appeals for a peaceful resolution to the election disputes seem to have helped prevent an explosion of violence. Partial justice was meted out by the courts for the assassins of Floribert Chebeya and Fidele Bazana of NED’s long-time partner the Voice of the Voiceless, but the fight against impunity continues. NED held a conference in Washington in partnership with the US Holocaust Memorial Museum and the Eastern Congo Initiative which provided a platform for civil society voices from the DRC and focus attention on the elections. The widow of Floribert Chebeya, Annie Chebeya, accepted NED’s Democracy Service Medal on his behalf.
Of course, democratic progress is not simply a catalog of elections, and elsewhere throughout Africa NED partners made tangible contributions to freedom and human rights. In Somalia, NED support to independent media buttressed freedom of speech and kept citizens informed. NED part-ners helped protect Somaliland’s new democratic government, increasing engagement with civil society, the legislature, youth, women, and minorities. In Uganda, support to youth organizations amplified their voice in the political debate. IRI strengthened the effectiveness and accountability of local government in Kenya. In Zimbabwe, NED partners increased the political engagement of grassroots communities, women, and youth. And NED began support to the democracy movement in Swaziland, led by the trade unions and civil society.
In Guinea, NED partners took initiatives to reform the security sector and improve prison conditions. NED’s partners in Sierra Leone promoted government accountability to its citizens. Working in tandem, NED and NDI supported the development of the West African Election Observers Network. In the context of flawed presidential elections in Cameroon, NED’s partners strengthened civil society networks and increased citizen awareness. NED’s partners in Equatorial Guinea built on their initiative to expand civil society space in one of the world’s most repressive countries. NED’s partners in Angola reached out to rural communities with civic educa¬tion, and developed capacity to monitor the Angolan government via the Internet