In 2003, African states formed the African Peer Review Mechanism to voluntarily self-monitor governance. Seventeen countries have undergone comprehensive reviews since then. When cross-checking these results with “free,” “partly free,” and “not free” designations by Freedom House three insights emerge. First, countries with constitutional protections sometimes do not robustly implement them. An independent media and vibrant civil society can mitigate this, however. Second, even in democratic countries, executive dominance can combine with “securitization” to allow leaders to justify abridging citizens’ rights. Finally, administrative dysfunction can seriously undermine the state’s ability to provide constitutional protections and lawful, civic freedom, even if it does not stem from active authoritarianism.