Friday, September 29, 2023

Training of journalists and democracy: two statements by the communications officer of the Senegalese presidency examined

An information sheet available on the Larousse dictionary website explains that Black Africa is all the African countries located south of the Sahara Desert. This area, still called by many sub-Saharan Africa, refers to all African countries, with the exception of the five predominantly Arab states of North Africa (Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, Egypt) and Sudan, located in northeastern Africa. the continent. The term “Sub-Saharan Africa” is used by the media and UN agencies to designate black African countries. But some thinkers, such as the Nigerian historian and intellectual Herbert Ekwe-Ekwe, speak against this conception. For Ekwe-Ekwe, who died in October 2019 and was the author of 17 books and 63 publications, sub-Saharan Africa is “a crazy fashionable term that, at times, can even constitute a racist geopolitical concept.”

To verify Yoro Dia’s claim that Senegal occupies the first place in black Africa in terms of democracy, Africa Check consulted the opinion of researcher Issaka K. Souaré, author of works on politics and governance in Africa. Souaré responded that he was unaware of the existence of a ranking that designates Senegal as the first in terms of democracy in black Africa. He recommended consulting with organizations such as the Afrobarometer Research Center or the Mo Ibrahim Foundation.

Afrobarometer is a pan-African research network that conducts surveys on public perceptions of democracy, governance, the economy and society. Questioned by Africa Check, the organization clarified that it does not establish a ranking of “democracies” as such.

“We have several indicators that describe citizens’ perceptions and assessments of their democracy, including: support for democracy, evaluation of the degree of democracy, level of satisfaction with the functioning of democracy in each country, support for term limits presidential, etc. “.

Saymon Nascimento is the head of communications at the Mo Ibrahim Foundation, which is particularly interested in “the crucial importance of governance and leadership in Africa.” According to him, since 2007, the Foundation has produced the Ibrahim Index of African Governance every two years, which evaluates the performance of governance in 54 African countries over the last ten years.

The Foundation also has a specific indicator called “Democratic Elections,” which evaluates the extent to which elections are free and fair, verifying the existence of independent monitoring bodies, Nascimento added. Senegal ranks eighth in Africa in this specific indicator. However, the Foundation “does not have an indicator or subcategory that specifically refers to democracy,” he said.

Political analyst Gilles Yabi, founder and executive director of the think tank Wathi, does not know of any ranking in which Senegal is at the top in terms of democracy in black Africa. “There are still countries like Botswana, Seychelles, Mauritius or South Africa, which are still quite far ahead,” said Yabi, contacted by Africa Check. Even when it comes to West Africa, “Cape Verde (which has used Cape Verde as its official name since 2013) is still ranked better than all other countries, and much better than Senegal as well,” the political analyst added. .

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Expert opinions confirmed by rankings on democracy in black Africa

The Global Democracy Index is an annual report published by The Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU), a unit of the research and analysis division of The Economist Group media group, including the British newspaper The Economist. Media such as VOA Africa, the French-speaking site for Africa of the American public broadcaster La Voix de l’Amérique, and research centers such as the Pew Research Center, an American organization recognized for its statistics and its work, especially in the political sphere . , demographics or their opinion surveys, have published the results of the latest edition of this study corresponding to the year 2022.

This annual report, presented in 2006, is based on sixty indicators grouped into five different categories, which measure pluralism, civil liberties and political culture. In addition to this classification, the study places each country in one of the following four types of regimes: complete democracies, imperfect democracies, hybrid regimes and authoritarian regimes.

The 2022 edition, which dedicates a section (table 11, page 55) to sub-Saharan Africa, indicates that many countries in this region continue to be concentrated at the bottom of the democracy index ranking and that the African continent has only one “complete” country ”. democracy”: Mauritius. As for Senegal, it ranks seventy-ninth worldwide and tenth in sub-Saharan Africa.

The top ten democracies in sub-Saharan Africa are ranked as follows in this report: Mauritius (1st), Botswana (2nd), Cape Verde (3rd), South Africa (4th), Namibia (5th). º), Ghana (6th), Lesotho. (7th), Malawi (8th), Zambia (9th) and Senegal (10th).

Karim Manuel, an analyst in the Africa and Middle East team of the research and analysis division of The Economist group, commented on the report’s conclusions to Africa Check: “Senegal has never ranked first in our democracy index.” This is due to “an executive branch that gives the president significant power over Parliament, a recurring politicization of the judicial system, which tends to benefit the sitting president and which often leads to attempts to marginalize rival leaders or groups of opposition (…)”, explained Manuel. “However, Senegal remains one of Africa’s leading democracies, with a dynamic and diverse political scene and strong popular support for democratic processes,” he said.

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Another classification recommended by political analyst Gilles Yabi is that of the V-Dem organization (for the Varieties of Democracy Project, in French: Projet Variantes de lademocratie). This initiative is based at the Department of Political Science at the University of Gothenburg, Sweden. According to those responsible, more than 30 regional directors, more than 130 coordinators and nearly 4,000 local researchers and experts participate in it.

In its 2023 report, V-Dem is proud to have produced the largest source of data on global democracy, with more than 31 million data points for 202 countries. This data covers the period from 1789 to 2022. The project also promises to offer new ways to study the nature, causes and consequences of democracy taking into account its multiple meanings. V-Dem distinguishes five principles or levels of this system of government: electoral, liberal, participatory, deliberative and egalitarian democracy.

For each of these principles or levels of democracy, a global ranking of countries is established in the 2023 report. However, the liberal democracy index is the core indicator, most commonly used by V-Dem to measure democracy. This is because, in its composition, the liberal democracy index is more comprehensive, because it affects all other indices, which can therefore be considered its subcomponents, V-Dem told Africa Check.

Thus, Senegal ranks 57th worldwide in the liberal democracy index. There is no specific ranking for sub-Saharan Africa in the report, but we note that several countries in this region, such as Seychelles (35th globally), Cape Verde (41st globally), South Africa (51st globally world), Ghana (53rd in the world), and Malawi (56th in the world), are ranked higher than Senegal. Which V-Dem confirmed to Africa Check, adding that, according to their data, “African countries like South Africa and Ghana have been above Senegal since the mid-1990s (although ‘they all have fairly similar scores in 2022).’

Furthermore, the institute insisted that at no recent time, and in none of its democracy reports published since 2016, was Senegal ranked among the top countries in sub-Saharan Africa according to the liberal democracy index.

Supporters of the Movement for the Defense of Democracy (M2D) during a demonstration in Dakar, June 23, 2021, to mark the 10th anniversary of the 2011 protests that called for the end of former President Abdoulaye Wade’s possible third term. © JOHN WESELS/AFP

On the evaluation of democracy

Maurice Soudieck Dione is a professor-researcher in political science at the Gaston Berger University (UGB), in Saint-Louis, northern Senegal. According to him, before agreeing on the quality of a democracy ranking, it is necessary to know its value, its reliability, the basis of the methodology and the criteria used. Additionally, he said, the chosen criteria must be examined to determine whether they are relevant or not.

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“If it is said that freedom of expression has regressed in a country because two journalists were arrested for insulting magistrates, or because television channels were closed for showing violent images that incited protesters to destroy public property, is this a fact? enough to say that freedom of expression in the press is threatened and evaluate the level of democracy in this country? », continued Maurice Soudieck Dione. However, according to him, if a classification respects the conditions mentioned above, we can naturally trust its results because, in general, a rigorous work of questioning the methodological foundations is done, as well as a careful analysis of the scientific foundations, the criteria and the facts that support them. .

Classifications on democracy are not unanimous among experts, summarized Mamadou Seck, Senegalese political analyst and electoral expert. He is the former executive director of Forum Civil, the Senegalese branch of the NGO Transparency International committed against government corruption, and since 2019 he has directed the consulting firm Synapsus that works in the electoral field.

The level of relevance of democracy rankings is an issue on which specialists do not fully agree, Seck told Africa Check, giving as an example the annual report on the structure of The Economist group. These types of rankings constitute above all “information”, he stressed, “they are not useless, because at least they allow us to check each year a certain evolution when addressing the realities on the ground.” However, he warned, the difficulty lies in the fact that “this type of discipline addresses qualitative issues, not quantitative ones.”

According to him, “these are mostly Western-centric theses (West-centric, editor’s note), developed according to the sensibilities of a person living in a Western democracy.” On this basis, Mamadou Seck explained, these rankings “understand the realities of the African world, which has particularities compared to the West.”

Afin d’avoir des classes plus complets, l’ancien directeur exécutif du Forum Civil a suggéré de ne pas se limiter aux élections, à la liberté d’expression et de participation, ou aux droits humains, qui ne sont « que des pans de democracy”. According to him, it is necessary to integrate issues related to governance, evaluating transparency, accountability and citizen control, aspects that are not always taken into account in African countries.

Text edited by Valdez Onanina and Coumba Sylla

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