After 50 Years, Freedom of Association is Firmly Established , Though far from Absolute, in Africa

"Fifty years ago today, the United Nations (UN) General Assembly enshrined a freedom that we had probably treasured ever since our evolution into social animals – the right to assemble and associate freely. All African countries except South Sudan are signatories or state parties to the ICCPR, committing them to “take positive measures to establish and maintain an enabling environment” for associations – which can be anything from a prayer group to an online discussion group, a demonstration, a labor union, a political party or – yes, as long as it’s peaceful – a birthday party. No participant in an association should have to fear harassment, a travel ban, or a smear campaign, much less violence or detention. Most Africans feel at least “somewhat free” to join any political group they want. But only 21 of 36 countries have majorities who feel “completely free,” and some countries have seen sharp declines in perceived freedom. Freedom of association clearly goes hand in hand with other freedoms and democracy: In places where citizens feel free to associate, they also tend to feel free to speak and vote their minds, and they perceive their countries as functioning democracies."