Africans see their individual freedoms diminishing, and many are willing to give up at least some liberties in the name of security, a new survey by research body Afrobarometer, has revealed.
Based on recent public-opinion surveys in 34 countries, the report shows that African citizens’ assessments of how free they are, and of how cautious they must be in exercising their rights, have worsened considerably over the past decade.
Careful how they vote
Afrobarometer found that 68% of Africans feel that they “have to be careful about how they vote” and skepticism is surprisingly high in relatively established democracies, such as Senegal (89 percent), Kenya (80 percent), and South Africa (68 percent).
Popular demand for freedom of association has also weakened, and most Africans express a widespread willingness to trade some freedoms for increased security.
For example, the reports cites that freedom of expression in general, and political speech in particular “ two-thirds majority (68%) say that people must “often” or “always” be careful of what they say about politics; across 20 countries… similar proportions say that people must be careful about which organisations they join (63%) and about how they vote (68%). “
The new report, also traces continental trends toward both greater government constraints on freedom and greater public tolerance for such constraints, perhaps fueled in part by fears of insecurity, instability, and/or extremist violence.
Supply of freedom on decrease
“Consistent with the alarms sounded by Freedom House and others, citizens generally recognize that civic and political space is indeed closing as governments’ supply of freedom to citizens decreases,” say the reports authors, Carolyn Logan and Peter Penar.
“But the results also reveal a decline in popular demand for freedom, in particular the right to associate freely. Moreover, we find considerable willingness among citizens to accept government imposition of restrictions on individual freedoms in the name of protecting public security.
Fear of insecurity, instability, and/or violence may be leading citizens of at least some African countries to conclude that freedoms come with costs as well as benefits, and that there may be such a thing as too much freedom,” they conclude.