Since gaining independence from colonial rulers, most African nations have moved haltingly toward democracy. While countries such as Botswana and Ghana are examples of fully-functioning democracies on the continent, they are more the exception than the rule. In its 2010 appraisal of freedom in the world, Freedom House, an independent democracy watchdog, classified only nine countries in Sub-Saharan Africa as “free,” with 23 classified as “partly free” and 16 as “not free.” However, progress is being made, with the number of military coups decreasing significantly over the past two decades and elections being held in the majority of nations.
In 2011, a total of 17 countries in Africa will hold major elections, the busiest political calendar in the past 20 years on the continent. This list includes Benin, Cameroon, Cape Verde, Chad, Comoros, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Gambia, Liberia, Madagascar, Niger, Nigeria, São Tomé & Príncipe, Seychelles, Swaziland, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe.