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Key findings
  • Nine out of 10 Cabo Verdeans (90%) said they feel “somewhat” or “completely” free to say what they think, an increase from 84% in 2011 and 2014
  • Compared to “a few years ago,” majorities reported “somewhat” or “much” greater freedom for citizens to speak their minds about politics (70%) and to join political organizations (66%) as well as for the media (59%), the opposition (64%), and independent groups (61%) to function.
  • Even if faced with threats to public safety, a majority of Cabo Verdeans said they would oppose a government right to limit people’s movement through curfews and roadblocks (52%), monitor private communications (70%), or regulate what is said in places of worship (59%).
  • Despite majority perceptions of political freedoms, a growing number of Cabo Verdeans described their country as “not a democracy” or “a democracy with major problems,” and three out of four (76%) said they were “not at all” or “not very” satisfied with the way democracy is working in Cabo Verde – a dramatic change for the worse from previous surveys.
  • A statistical analysis suggests that high levels of dissatisfaction with democracy are more strongly correlated with negative views on the economic situation of the country and government performance in service delivery than with perceptions of political freedoms.

Cabo Verde stands out on the African continent as a paradigm of tolerance and respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. The country has ratified all major international human-rights conventions; its laws guarantee democratic freedoms; and its government is generally considered effective in respecting and protecting these rights (European Commission, 2018; U.S. Department of State, 2016).

Yet when Afrobarometer asked Cabo Verdeans how they see their democracy, responses suggested a curious mix of appreciation and dissatisfaction. Most citizens said that they feel free to express their views and that political freedoms have been improving in recent years. Yet growing numbers of Cabo Verdeans expressed dissatisfaction with their democracy – a view that may have more to do with the government’s economic management than its record on political rights.

Thomas Isbell

Thomas Isbell is a postdoctoral research fellow at the Institute of Democracy, Citizenship and Public Policy in Africa, University of Cape Town.

Sadhiska Bhoojedhur

Sadhiska Bhoojedhur is a senior data analyst for Island Living, Mauritius.