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Humans

Why Cape Verde is a model for democracy in Africa

June 07th, 2017
in:Humans
by:Bob Koigi
tags:Cape Verde, democracy, European Union Special Partnership, US-Africa summit

At a time when majority of West African states have had to contend with orgies of violence, with dictators clinging to power while paying lip service to the will of the people, one archipelago has stood out as a model of democracy.

Cape Verde, an insular nation with a population of 532,847, has captured global attention for the smooth transition of power it demonstrates since it attained independence some 40 years ago. So entrenched is the respect for democratic values in the country, opposing political camps have always handed over power smoothly among themselves, with former high officials preferring not to extend their terms in office beyond what is spelt out in the constitution; a far cry from most regimes in Africa.

Cape Verde is a clean sheet, having never experienced any military coups, war or any aspect of conflict at a time when most of African democracies are blighted by election related bloodshed. Since the country started conducting multiparty elections, there have been no cases of voter rigging.

In 2001 presidential elections, Pedro Verona Rodrigues Pires who had been the country’s prime minister from 1975 to 1991 when he was defeated in the multiparty parliamentary elections, managed to win in the second round from the man who had trounced him a decade earlier, Carlos Alberto Wahnon de Carvalho Veiga of the Movimento para a Democracia MpD, "Movement for Democracy.” Interestingly Pires had defeated him with only 12 votes. However, even with the advantage of being in power and enjoying state machinery, Carlos respected the electoral process and agreed to hand over power to Pires in one of the most celebrated moments world over.

Pires was also the 2011 Laureate of the prestigious Mo Ibrahim Prize for his role in transforming Cape Verde into a model of democracy, stability and increased prosperity. He is among the only four African leaders who have ever won the prize since it was set up in 2006.

“What has necessitated such a smooth democratic process in Cape Verde is the unique two party democracy which operates under a semi- presidential system that is heavily borrowed from its colonial masters the Portuguese. The nation doesn’t affiliate itself with any religious or ethnic groups which is a common phenomenon in majority of its African peers. It means then that electoral agenda gravitates around key national interests,” said Dr. Mohammed Fayo a regional policy and governance analyst based in Nairobi Kenya.

Such a stellar democratic record has caught the attention of the community of nations and world leaders who have feted and heaped praises onto the tiny West African nation, while calling on her continental peers to emulate it.  Freedom in the World 2017 index by Freedom House, a global body working towards championing for a democratic and just world through tracking nations’ performances on parameters such as rights and freedoms, has given the country a 90 per cent aggregate score for its track record in political rights and civil liberties leading its African peers.

The United States has always expressed its admiration for Cape Verde’s solid democratic foundation and used it as a case study while advocating for respect of rule of law to the rest of the world.

“The US applaud the people of Cabo Verde for their enthusiastic and peaceful participation in the recent presidential election. These successful elections reaffirm Cabo Verde’s standing as a model of democratic values and processes in Africa,” read a statement from the US state department following the successful elections last year.

In 2014 during the US- Africa Summit which had a huge delegation of African heads of state, the then US President Barack Obama showered praises on the government of President Jorge Carlos Fonseca for embracing respect to institutions, good governance and smooth transition of power while giving Fonseca a chance to address the summit on the benefits of upholding human rights, freedom and democracy.

The European Union has equally warmed up to these ideals and has been working with Cape Verde through the European Union Special Partnership, an arrangement that allows the two nations to collaborate in areas of good governance, safety and development against poverty.

For a developing country that relies on tourism, fisheries and trade for economic growth, its good governance record has been pivotal in attracting investors and foreign funding.

The payoffs have been transformative. The European Union in 2007 granted Carpe Verde a special partnership status in the bloc, since it is not possible to elevate it to full membership. The special status has opened doors for an array of partnership between the two nations in economic and security fronts while promoting Carpe Verde’s integration into the Macaronesia region putting it in the same league with Canaries, Azores and Madeira, which form the bulk of the EU ultra-peripheral zone.

“With sustained calls by the international community to especially developing nations to observe the highest form of democracy and rule of law and with majority of cooperation and aid now pegged on such parameters, Cape Verde is poised to be a force to reckon with in the near future not just in West Africa but in the entire continent and in global politics. It has the upper advantage of being the only country in the continent with no political blemish, and that matters a lot to the international community,” said Dr. Fayo.

Article written by:
Bob Koigi
Author, Contributing Editor
Cape Verde has captured global attention for the smooth transition of power it demonstrates since it attained independence some 40 years ago.
Cape Verde is a clean sheet, having never experienced any military coups, war or any aspect of conflict at a time when most of African democracies are blighted by election related bloodshed.
Such a stellar democratic record has caught the attention of the community of nations and world leaders who have feted and heaped praises onto the tiny West African nation, while calling on her continental peers to emulate it.

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