Project Information

Project Information


Project outline

African countries are clamping down on democracy, adopting legal restrictions on key civil and political rights that form the basis of democratic rule, including freedoms of association, speech, and information; the ability to choose political leaders; rule of law with recourse to independent courts; and rights and freedoms related to reproduction and family life, gender equality, sexual orientation and gender identity.

Domestically, the restrictions privilege some social groups at the expense of other groups, increasing social and economic inequalities and contributing to social unrest and outward migration.

Internationally, the African democratic backlash challenges global actors who have pressured developing countries to politically liberalize in the post-Cold War period. Yet, we have insufficient understanding of why this democratic backlash is happening, what the implications are, and which responses are effective under different conditions.

Project approach

The point of departure of the project is that the backlash is not uniform in terms of what elements of democracy is under pressure, where it is under pressure, how it is under pressure and when this pressure matters. We therefore adopt a disaggregated approach to democracy and a multi method approach.

·       We investigate the development of democracy along four different clusters of rights: contestation, association, rule of law and gender.

·       We track the developments of the different clusters of rights across the African continent from the end of the Cold War using a variety of data sources to map the different dimensions across time.

·       Using historical sources, we delve deeper into seven different country cases from Anglophone Africa (Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia, Zimbabwe) to identify critical junctures and similarities and differences in actors involved in the different dimensions.

·       To provide a deeper understanding of the current processes involved we carry out primary data collection through elite interviews and surveys in several of the country cases.

·       Smaller, issue-specific projects is carried focus on specific aspects within each of the four dimensions such as political finance (contestation rights), freedom of information (association rights), judicial appointments (rule of law) and gendered electoral violence (gender).