Africa's example: How democracy begets democracy

Last December, when a United States and a rest of a universe were distracted, interesting a startle of an astonishing presidential win by Donald J. Trump, something utterly conspicuous was maturation in West Africa.

A inherent crisis, triggered by an obligatory boss reluctant to accept electoral defeat, finished peacefully. Civil dispute was averted. Democracy restored. It was an outcome driven by a population’s willingness to risk-it-all to make their votes count, and shielded by informal tact and general law.

While it was a West Africans themselves, who took a lead in averting crisis, long-standing bipartisan U.S. policies in support of peace, security, approved institution-building, good governance and tellurian rights in a segment had discernible impact. This takeaway is timely, as a Trump administration and a U.S. Congress negotiate a final bill for Fiscal Year 2018, balancing allocations for tough and soothing power.


Here’s what happened.

On Dec. 1, 2016, antithesis personality Adama Barrow degraded long-time Gambian ruler, Yahyah Jammeh, who had come to energy in 1994 by a infantry coup. Jammeh had managed, until that day, to manipulate a State’s institutions for 23 years to say his grip. The Gambia is a little splinter of a republic on a western swell of a continent roughly swallowed wholly by Senegal, with a difference of 80 kilometer seashore on a Atlantic Ocean.

Initially, Jammeh supposed his defeat, in what a UN called a “peaceful, giveaway and satisfactory election.” And, initially, Gambians took to a streets to jubilate.

But days later, for reasons usually famous to him, a Gambian boss altered his mind. There were critical and unsuitable abnormalities in a election, he claimed. And with those words, he changed to Plan B, ludicrous to a courts to overturn a statute of a electoral commission.

Jammeh contingency have reputed that his devise B would play out like Zimbabwe in 2013, when 92 year-old President Robert Mugabe, in energy for  three decades, withstood vigour to step aside after a doubtful election, with a blessing of a Southern African Development Community (SADC). Or like Burundi, in 2015, when a sitting president, Pierre Nkurunziza, ran for a third-term despite, inherent boundary on a presidency. When a antithesis boycotted a vote, he won. Civil disharmony unfolded, though a East African Community (EAC) gave Nkurunziza a pass.

But a 14 member-State Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), led by President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, a boss of a Republic of Liberia, a initial lady democratically inaugurated to lead an African nation, wasn’t carrying it. And conjunction were a other 12 democratically inaugurated heads of states of ECOWAS, many of whom degraded confirmed incumbents in their possess countries. Jammeh would not be afforded a domestic space to reason on to power.

The box underneath general law was made. On Dec. 12, with ECOWAS in a lead, followed by a Africa Union (AU), and a United Nations, a one general village called on a supervision of The Gambia to reside by a inherent responsibilities and general obligations, perfectionist it was “fundamental that a outcome of a ballots should be respected.”

Then on Dec 21 a UN upheld Resolution 2337, that certified an African assent operation, a Economic Community of West African States in Gambia (ECOMIG), done adult of infantry from Ghana, Nigeria and Senegal.

The ECOWAS heads of state shuttled behind and onward to The Gambia’s capital, Banjul, pressuring their co-worker to leave peacefully. The organisation enclosed Ghanaian President John Mahama, who only days progressing had mislaid his re-election bid to antithesis claimant Nana Afufo-Addo. His tiny participation in a organisation signaling to a besieged Gambian president, this is what we do in a democracy when we lose. We accept a will of a people.

But it would take a relentless rebuttal of a people of The Gambia, and diplomacy, corroborated by fatal force, to chase Jammeh.

ECOMIG mobilized on The Gambia’s eastern limit and Jammeh was given an final to leave. On Jan 21, he sealed a domestic agreement environment out a terms of his departure. Jammeh jetted off to exile. Adama Barrow took his legitimate place as boss of The Gambia. And a Gambian people returned to their jubilation.

Many are now study The Gambia example, looking during a factors that enabled a pacific fortitude so shortly after a peep point. Some, like associate Professor of International Affairs during George Washington University Daniel Williams, who examines a authorised basement for a ECOMIG intervention, concludes that a Gambia conflict-resolution success was an “anomaly,” a tiny size, singular geography, zodiacally hated personality could offer no genuine insurgency to a one informal response.

But for me, The Gambia is no anomaly, though demonstrative of an rising Africa. Here are a takeaways.

First, democracy begets democracy. The ECOWAS heads of state were all democratically elected. Several of a ECOWAS nations, Liberia, Guinea, Cote d’ Ivoire, Sierra Leone, are still recuperating from cross-border dispute and polite wars, and are lifting their initial era of children in peacetime. West Africa has paid a high cost for their immature inherent democracies. Jammeh staying in energy would have been some-more than a hazard to informal stability, it would have signified a profanation by any of these presidents to their possess constituents.

Second, The Gambia reaffirms a value of a investment in soothing energy that a U.S., and other shared and multilateral donors have done in Africa. The U.S. did not pierce dispute ships offshore in The Gambia, nor dispatch special operation units to strengthen or leave U.S. adults and unfamiliar nationals from a republic bursting in polite conflict. These are actions a U.S. was forced to take in a region, repeatedly, hardly a decade progressing and during extensive cost to a infantry and U.S. taxpayers.

The predicament was managed by Africans themselves, in part, given we had invested in a long-game — building ability and strengthening approved institutions.  

In a new past, opposite Republican and Democratic administrations, a U.S. has supposing assistance to support inhabitant electoral commissions, strengthen preparation and medical systems, build polite multitude institutions, sight inquisitive journalists, waken informal organizations, insist on performance-based unfamiliar assistance,  streamline supervision buying processes, stand-up anti-corruption commissions, and inspire people-to-people exchanges. And a Ghanaian, Nigerian and Senegalese army contributing to ECOMIG perceived some turn of US assistance over a years in a form of logistics expertise, training, engineering support, and by corner exercises with a United States Africa Command (AFRICOM).

Third, The Gambia reaffirms that a biggest trade of a United States to a universe is still a foundational values of leisure and democracy.

And fourth, and finally, The Gambia instance reveals a lust for participatory democracy in Africa, and a coming-of-age of a race prepared to reason their leaders accountable.

Today, former boss Jammeh is vital in outcast in Equatorial Guinea, where President Theodoro Obiang, another confirmed leader, has been in energy given 1979, prolonged past his death date. But his time will come too. History is marching on.  

K. Riva Levinson is President and CEO of KRL International LLC a D.C.-based consultancy that works in a world’s rising markets, and author of “Choosing a Hero: My Improbable Journey and a Rise of Africa’s First Woman President” (Kiwai Media, Jun 2016), Silver Medal leader Independent Book Publishers Award, Finalist, Forward Reviews INDIES ‘Book of a Year’ Awards.

The views voiced by contributors are their possess and are not a views of The Hill.

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