African democracy: Lessons from Ghana and The Gambia

The Gambia and Ghana show how politically diverse African nations can be.

We are so used to not having peaceful transitions ofpower that when it does happen, we're (happily) surprised.

Ghana is a great example of democracy and economic development. So much so that a Ugandan newspaper made a cartoon depicting a teacher asking her students: “What is democracy?” and they all answered: “Ghana”.

Gambia, on the other hand, is the stereotypical African state ruled by a dictator that only leaves power when death comes to visit. Yahya Jammeh has been ruling the tiny state for 22 years. We were all baffled when he called president-elect Adama Barrow to congratulate him on his victory.

A week later, Jammeh went back on his word. It was too good to be true.

For now, we are all holding our breath. Nobody knows what will happen? Will Jammeh accept his defeat and listen to the people's will? Or will he stay in power forcing neighbouring Senegal (and probably Western nations) to intervene?

Democracy seems not to work in Africa, or I shall say Western democracy. This system of government was borne out of certain sets of values, of cultures and circumstances that were primarily Europeans. One cannot expect this system to work exactly the same when implemented in a completely different context.

First of all, some of the champions of democracy in the West should look at whether or not their system works in their own nations. In the U.S., for example, the popular vote doesn't count because of the Electoral College. They have no moral right to lecture anyone on democracy when they themselves fail to practice it.

Secondly, original African institutions have been destroyed during colonialism. It makes it very hard for a state to have a solid foundation where democracy can prosper.

The West as a habit of meddling itself in foreign affairs. It does nothing more than perpetuate imperialism.

African states need to learn to take care of their own business and solve their own problems. We cannot afford to constantly depend on external actors to help us out.

If we are really the sovereign states we claim to be, it shouldn't happen.

Democracy is the key but in order to work it has to belong to the people. Gambia needs a Gambian democracy, Ghana needs a Ghanaian democracy. Our governments, laws and institutions have to reflect the people they serve. Not the people of their former coloniser.