Wednesday, 15 November 2017
Over a few months in 2012, a question came up among Christian Aid’s staff in Africa reflecting on the impact of the ‘Arab Springs’: Will a summer or a winter follow the spring? ‘Summer’ means democratisation spreading and deepening; ‘winter’, on the other hand, means repression retaliating with a vengeance, leading to severe constrictions of democratic space. While the democratic spring was reason to celebrate, the political weather forecast was bleak. Between January 2012 and October 2013, Civicus documented 413 threats and attacks on civil society in 87 countries. Ethiopia imposed new curbs on free speech, and froze the assets of human rights NGOs. Bills imposing further restrictions on civil society groups were filed in Zimbabwe, Malawi and South Africa, and many more. These legal restrictions underlay a context of increasing violence and physical attacks. It certainly seemed that winter was following the spring.