Backlash Against Democracy: The Regulation of Civil Society in Africa

Among the many forces2 which contributed to the political liberalization of African nations, civil society formations played a pivotal role in dismantling authoritarian one-party rule and opening public space for wider political participation.3 However, democratic gains achieved during the 1990s have slowly begun to erode as conflict has resurfaced across the continent and many hybrid4 democratic regimes have adopted repressive tactics to maintain political power. The increasing regulation of the civil society sector indicates a return to autocratic practices and a backlash against democratization. Yet, despite this trend several countries have also adopted enabling frameworks for civil society, recognizing the contribution of this sector to national development. The existence of these simultaneous trends invites a re-examination of the current state of African civil society and its relationship to democratic consolidation.

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Jeanne Elone

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