Tragic as this week’s death of President John Atta Mills (left) was, it nevertheless demonstrates that “democracy and the rule of law in Ghana has worked,” writes John Campbell, Ralph Bunche Senior Fellow for Africa Policy Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations.
“There has been no succession crisis, and the constitutional provisions have been scrupulously followed. The episode is a salutary reminder that democracy is alive and well in Africa, even if it is not as widespread as its friends would hope,” he notes.
Campbell cites an article from the current Journal of Democracy by Kennedy Ochieng’ Opalo which posits four types of African political systems: ‘electoral democracies’ (of which there are 8), ‘emerging democracies’ (5), ‘consolidating/consolidated autocracies’ (21) and ‘ambiguous’ (12):
In the electoral democracies, he places Benin, Botswana, Cape Verde, Ghana, Lesotho, Mali, Mauritius and South Africa. Mali, obviously, no longer fits. But the rest do. It is striking that all of them are small in population, with the exception of South Africa (about 50 million) and Ghana (with 25 million.) Of Africa’s largest countries by population, he rates Nigeria as ‘ambiguous’, Ethiopia and Congo as ‘consolidating/consolidated autocracies.’
“There is always room to quibble about in what category a country should be placed it,” says Campbell. “But such typologies are helpful for thinking about governance.”
The Journal of Democracy is published by the National Endowment for Democracy, the Washington-based democracy assistance group.