Kenya, Uganda, Burundi score poorly on governance, democratic reforms

Saturday February 17 2024

Police officers arrest a man at Kenya National Achives in Nairobi, Kenya on May 1,2021. PHOTO | EVANS HABIL | NMG


Kenya, Burundi and Uganda, whose regimes are classified as hybrid, authoritarian and hybrid respectively, have failed to improve on governance and democratic values for the past three years, resulting in the erosion of trust in the political elites, according to the latest global democracy index by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) that covers 165 independent states.

The index released on Thursday shows that the three East African Community partners have either remained static or retrogressed in their governance and democratic ideals.

The report titled Democracy Index 2023; Age of Conflict shows that Kenya and Burundi’s democracy indices have remained unchanged at 5.05 and 2.13 respectively in 2023, 2022 and 2021, while that of Uganda rose to 4.49 from 4.48.

Read: Africa democracy put to test as states head to polls

The Index, (on a scale of 0 to 10), measures the state of democracy in independent states based on five categories; electoral process and pluralism, civil liberties, the functioning of government, political participation and political culture.

Based on its scores each country is also classified as either a full democracy, flawed democracy, hybrid regime or authoritarian regime.
According to the report Tanzania, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) have made significant progress in their governance and democracy, which are key ingredients for a conducive environment for business and investments.


Tanzania’s democracy index increased to 5.35 in 2023 from 5.1 in 2021 while that of Rwanda increased to 3.3 from 3.1. DRC’s rose to 1.68 from 1.4.

The report notes that the East Africa region lacks full democratic regimes, with Burundi, DRC and Rwanda classified as authoritarian, and Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda as hybrid regimes.

Hybrid regimes, according to the report, run elections that have substantial irregularities, which often prevent them from being both free and fair while government pressure on opposition parties and candidates may be common.

“Serious weaknesses are more prevalent than in flawed democracies—in political culture, functioning of government and political participation,” the report says.

“Corruption tends to be widespread and the rule of law is weak. Civil society is weak. Typically, there is harassment of and pressure on journalists, and the judiciary is not independent.”

Read: The problem with Ruto attacks on Judiciary

According to the index, as an authoritarian regime has scores less than or equal to four while a hybrid regime has scores greater than four or equal to six.

The EIU Democracy Index provides a snapshot of the state of democracy in 165 independent states and two territories covering almost the entire population of the world and the vast majority of the world’s states.

Hybrid and authoritarian regimes, which constitute 93 of the 167 countries and territories covered by the index, are concentrated in sub-Saharan Africa, Middle East and North Africa. They comprise 37 countries in sub-Saharan Africa (84 percent).

The aggregate index score for sub-Saharan Africa declined to a historic low of 4.04 in 2023, from 4.14 in 2022, with the democratic regression in the region largely reflecting the increase in the number military regimes.

Twenty five of the 54 states in Africa have experienced one or more coups or coup attempts over the past two decades.

A military coup in Niger in July last year completed the military takeover of governments stretching across the Sahel -- from Guinea in the West to Sudan in the east.

“The rise in military rule has in part been facilitated by growing public dissatisfaction with political systems and widespread poverty,” the report says.

Read: Africa witnesses seven coups in three years

“The failure of political incumbents to uphold democratic values and deliver good governance and economic progress has discredited electoral democracy for increasing numbers of Africans.”

The growing approval of military rule in several African countries, as was the case in Gabon and Niger, signifies the erosion of trust in the purported democratic political elites in these countries.

“Popular trust in democratic institutions has been in decline for many years. Corruption, insufficient transparency and a lack of accountability have undermined confidence in government and political parties. In many countries, powerful interest groups exert significant influence,” the report says.

“In turn, citizens increasingly feel that they do not have control over their governments or their lives. This trend is noticeable in both developed and developing economies, as institutional dysfunction, corruption and unrepresentative political parties have led to a crisis of trust that is undermining belief in democracy.”