Joshua Keating, writing for the new Foreign Policy Passport blog, recently highlighted the downward trend in political rights and civil liberties worldwide as represented in Freedom House’s 2009 Freedom in the World survey. According to the organization, over 2 billion people — 34% of the world’s population — live in countries, “where basic political rights are absent, and basic civil liberties are widely and systematically denied,” and only South Asia has registered improvements in the “state of democracy” in the past year.
In his analysis of the survey’s results, Freedom House researcher director Arch Puddington underlined Africa’s particularly worrisome year:
Twelve countries in sub-Saharan Africa, one-fourth of the regional total, experienced setbacks. These included status changes for Mauritania, which moved from Partly Free to Not Free, and Senegal, which moved from Free to Partly Free, as well as notable declines in Nigeria and Zimbabwe…Deterioration was registered in Burundi, Cameroon, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Gambia, Guinea, Somaliland, and Zimbabwe.
Zambia, Comoros and Cote d’Ivoire bucked the trend and bettered their scores from last year, but the continent’s overall marked downward turn is cause for concern. Especially troubling is Puddington’s point that Africa’s declines “stemmed in part from military coups, ethnic conflict, and violent attempts to suppress civil society.”
Freedom House produced a useful map, which color codes countries based upon their level of freedom – countries in green are termed free, yellow partly free, and purple not free.