The nonpartisan human rights organisation Freedom House judges countries according to a range of criteria based on civil liberties and political rights. Each country is assigned a total score, then placed in one of three categories: “free”, “partly free” and “not free”. Their 2018 report shows that a remarkable 49 countries, including Turkey, Russia, China, Thailand, Vietnam, Egypt, Belarus and Cuba, fall in the “not free” category.

“Democracy faced its most serious crisis in decades in 2017 as its basic tenets – including guarantees of free and fair elections, the rights of minorities, freedom of the press, and the rule of law – came under attack around the world,” the report says. “Seventy-one countries suffered net declines in political rights and civil liberties, with only 35 registering gains. This marked the 12th consecutive year of decline in global freedom.

“The United States retreated from its traditional role as both a champion and an exemplar of democracy amid an accelerating decline in American political rights and civil liberties.”

The number of countries designated as “free” stands at 88, representing 39 percent of the global population. Countries qualifying as “partly free” stands at 58, which is 24 percent of the world’s total number of countries, and a total of 49 countries are deemed “not free”.

Based on past lists, The Gambia and Uganda rose from “not free” to “partly free”, while Zimbabwe fell from “partly free” to “not free”.

Read: South Africa’s freedom journey shows 1994 was merely a starting point

Ethiopia was ranked among the “Not Free” countries, in the same category as Congo, Libya Burundi, Sudan among others. South Sudan, Eritrea and were ranked among the “Worst of the worst”. While Ethiopia did not rank particularly well for freedom, it is interesting to note that its recent strides towards a progressive, conflict-free future, earned the country a spot in the countries “Surging forward”. These countries, including Angola saw large gains.

Describing the positive changes in Ethiopia, Freedom House wrote: “In Ethiopia, the monopolistic ruling party began to loosen its grip in response to three years of protests, installing a reform-minded prime minister who oversaw the lifting of a state of emergency, the release of political prisoners, and the creation of space for more public discussion of political issues”.

Acknowledging the strides made in Angola, the report noted: “In Angola, new president João Lourenço took notable actions against corruption and impunity, reducing the outsized influence of his long-ruling predecessor’s family and granting the courts greater independence”.

“Partly Free” African Countries

  • Lesotho – Freedom score 64/100
  • Liberia – Freedom score 62/100
  • Malawi – Freedom score 63/100
  • Madagascar – Freedom score 56/100
  • Zambia – Freedom score 55/100
  • Mozambique – Freedom score 52/100
  • Tanzania – Freedom score 52/100
  • Nigeria – Freedom score 50/100
  • Niger – Freedom score 49/100
  • Togo- Freedom score 47/100
  • Mali – Freedom score 44/100
  • Somaliland* – Freedom score 44/100
  • Morocco – Freedom score 39/100
  • Uganda – Freedom score 37/100

“Not Free” African Countries

  • Burundi – Freedom score 18/100
  • Congo – Freedom score 17/100
  • Ethiopia – Freedom score: 12/100 (It is interesting to note that despite its recent strides towards a progressive, conflict-free future, Ethiopia still did not rank particularly well for freedom.)
  • Libya – Freedom score: 9/100
  • Central African Republic – Freedom score: 9/100
  • Sudan – Freedom score: 8/100
  • Somalia – Freedom score: 7/100
  • Equatorial Guinea – Freedom score: 7/100
  • Eritrea – Freedom score: 3/100
  • South Sudan – Freedom score: 2/100

Countries that received a score below 10/100 are described in the report as “the worst of the worst”.