If it is the case that the US and Europe are finally converging on democracy support, some had better tell the French, at least if Francophone African democracy advocates are to be believed.
“As democracy slips in country after country in the region, France often quietly sides, once again, with the once-and-future autocrats,” according to a report in today’s New York Times.
“We find ourselves in a paradox: The champion of the rights of man practices a politics absolutely contrary to its principles,” says Mamadou Diouf, director of Columbia University’s Institute of African Studies.
The story also quotes Achille Mbembe, a political scientist at South Africa’s University of Witwatersrand: “People don’t like France because France isn’t helping Africans freely choose their leaders. And the democratic process is blocked, practically everywhere.”
Democracy advocates and analysts have been calling for a smart power approach to Africa on the part of the new Obama administration. It would require investment in “institutions of countervailing power”, including legislatures, civil society and media, and a shift from the “uncritical embrace of autocrats,” according to a new report from the Center for Strategic and International Studies.