Africa, a space created and labeled by colonialist cartographers as the “Dark Continent”, now seems to be the unexpected filament in the whole geopolitical galaxy that is suddenly reshaping global democracy. But how so?
First it was Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. In 2005, Ellen became the first woman to be elected President of an African nation. This is a woman who took power through the ballot box in a country ruled by men for more than 158 years at the time. To follow suit, the mother lode of all modern democracies, the great United States of America, tried to steal a page from Ellen’s Cinderella storybook. It was all well until Hillary Clinton, America first female presidential hopeful, lost dismally to Donald Trump few weeks ago in a landmark election that saw bookmakers scrambling all over the place to correct their mistakes. And just as America is struggling to recover from the lethargic shock brought about by a complete political neophyte like the Donald jerking the rug from beneath a seasoned politico as Hillary, another scenario has erupted in yet another West African state that completely defies conventional political logic. Yahya Jammeh, the mad dictator of The Gambia who claimed at one time that he could cure HIV-AIDs through incantations and talismanic juju; Yahya Jammeh, the despotic ruler who once told Gambian and foreign journalists to obey his government or go to “hell”; Yahya Jammeh, the man who ruled The Gambia with iron palm for 22 unbroken years; yes, Yahya Jammeh was dethroned last week by a complete political neophyte in the person of businessman Adama Barrow. Interestingly, both men are age-mates, born 1965. Noteworthy also is the fact that they are devout Muslims. But that’s as far as the similarities go. The post-election concession telephone conversation initiated by incumbent Jammeh to president-elect Barrow, though revealing of an outgoing despot fighting to maintain relevance, truly projects an image of a “Dark Continent” that is supposed to be coming of age – against the stark, negative colonialist connotation of a people cursed by tribal, ethnic and social divisions. So what are the lessons from The Gambia that we here in Liberia can learn? What can Liberian opposition politicians copy from The Gambian story book? In the coming weeks and months, however the script from The Gambia storybook plays out, we must realize that the great wave of change which has been blowing across the African continent since 2005 will continue unquenched. In any case, it remains our ardent hope and prayer that those of our citizenry who will be opportune to make that monumental decision in 2017 will have the fortitude to bring about that lasting sea change for posterity.