Conservative commentators are looking for all possible evidence that US involvement in Iraq is leading to waves of democratization around the world, reaching for examples as unrelated to Middle East policy as the orange revolution in Ukraine. It’s too bad that people aren’t paying more attention to democratic elections in Africa.
CAR’s (Central African Republic) elections are being cautiously reported as free and fair. This, and the fact that the elections were largely smooth, despite the fact that one of the candidates standing took power in a military coup, and that several candidates had been banned and then restored, is certainly good news. As CAR has had 11 attempted coups in the past ten years, any smoothly operating political process is a sign of progress. (As he so often does, Head Heeb has great coverage of the situation.)
There are several elections in Africa this year, most of which will likely receive little coverage in the US media. Ghana’s free, fair and peaceful election in December was barely whispered about in US mainstream media. Howard French, in his wonderful “A Continent for the Taking”, bemoaned how hard it was to get the New York Times to cover any African stories… but especially stories about good news. His chapter on Mali’s move to democracy and the US’s failure to notice or support Mali is a fantastic and painful read.
It’s too early to declare CAR’s election a success – we’ll know much more when results are announced. And whoever wins has a tough task ahead of himself – despite incredible natural wealth, CAR has had a surreal and difficult post-independence history. But if CAR should succeed in holding a truly democratic election, it’s important that all supporters of Africa recognize this for the achievement it is.