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Great Lakes – weak democracies?

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Opposition parties and civil society organisations (CSOs) across the Great Lakes region are being silenced at the behest of governments clamping down on political dissent. With a lingering crisis in Burundi, an opposition crackdown and anti-government riots in Uganda and Kenya, as well as heightened pre-electoral tensions in the DRC, questions have arisen over the actions to be taken by international actors in response to simmering political instability.

The African Union (AU) and the EU have demonstrated resolve in activating policy instruments to pressure heads of state into complying with popular demands for democratic consolidation. But in order to level the playing field in favour of ordinary citizens, longer-term responses beyond the use of sanctions and cuts to budget support must be envisaged. A good starting point could be to up the funding of programmes for the strengthening of CSOs. This could help create a more organic, bottom-up concentration of political pressure to tame any undemocratic tendencies of incumbents across the region.