Durban – While most Africans believe they have the right to freedom of association, a third believe that governments should be allowed to ban organizations that oppose government policies.
This is according to the findings of a survey of 54 000 people in 36 African countries conducted over 2014 and 2015 by Afrobarometer and released on Friday.
Most Africans feel at least “somewhat free” to join any political group they want. But only 21 of 36 countries have majorities who feel “completely free,” and some countries have seen sharp declines in perceived freedom.
The survey’s findings were released on the 50th anniversary of the United Nations General Assembly adopting the right to assemble and freely associate.
The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which was adopted along with the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), formalizes the right to peaceful assembly (Article 21) and freedom of association (Article 22), among other fundamental human rights.
They were adopted on December 16, 1966. All African countries, with the exception of South Sudan, which did not exist at the time, are signitories to the ICCPR. Swaziland, Zimbabwe, Gabon and Mozambique topped the list of countries surveyed where people believed they had the least rights to join any political party of their choice.
Those surveyed, were asked: “In this country, how free are you to join any political organisation you want?” In Swaziland a whopping 73 percent of those surveyed said they were “not at all free or not very free” to join any political organization they wanted to. In Zimbabwe it was 41 percent, while in Gabon and Mozambique it was 36 percent.
On the other side of the scale Senegal and Malawi led the pack with 85 percent of those surveyed believing that there was no impediment to them joining the political party of their choice.
They were followed closely by Ghana on 84 percent, Botswana on 83 percent and Namibia on 80 percent. In the three powerhouse economies of Africa, 74 percent of South Africans believed they were free to join any political party of their choice, while in Kenya it dropped to 63 percent and in Nigeria a mere 45 percent believed that they could join a party of their choice.
When it came to the right of whether a government should be allowed to ban political organizations opposed to the government, those in Gabon were most indignant that this should not be the case, with 90 percent of those surveyed opposed to any such ban. In two of the continent’s most war ravaged countries in recent times – Sierra Leone and Liberia – respondents were the most agreeable to government banning political organizations with 62 percent of Liberians in favour and 60 percent of those surveyed in Sierra Leone being in agreement. Swaziland was not far behind with 58 percent being in favour of bannings.
In South Africa it was 23 percent of those surveyed while in Zimbabwe some 31 percent were agreeable to the government banning organizations that opposed government policies.
Countries such as Angola, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Ethiopia were not among those surveyed. The full report that was released can be found online at: http://afrobarometer.org/sites/default/files/press-release/round-6-releases/ab_r6_pr16_freedom_of_association_in_africa_ENG.pdf