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Democracy Expanding In West Africa


President Barack Obama meets with, from left, Niger President Mahamadou Issoufou, Benin President Boni Yayi, Guinea President Alpha Conde, and Cote d'Ivoire President Alassane Ouattara, in the Cabinet Room of the White House in Washington, DC, July 29, 20

Elections in Africa lately have advanced democracy across the continent, with a majority of nations below the Sahara now ruled by popularly elected governments.

Elections in Africa lately have advanced democracy across the continent, with a majority of nations below the Sahara now ruled by popularly elected governments. In West Africa, several countries over the last year emerged from protracted conflicts or disputed rule with democratically-elected leaders. President Barack Obama received four of these men recently, showcasing them as models of Africa's progress.

In a White House meeting July 29, Mr. Obama said presidents Thomas Boni Yayi of Benin, Alpha Conde of Guinea, Mahamadou Issoufou of Niger and Alassane Ouattara of Cote d'Ivoire are vital to a stable and prosperous Africa, as all were elected through free and fair elections. Despite enormous challenges and risks to their personal safety, each has shown great persistence in working to promote good governance and growth in their countries. Indeed, President Conde was targeted in an attack on the presidential palace in Guinea's capital, Conakry, just last month. He was unharmed and quickly called for calm and against taking any acts of retribution.

"This is a moment of great opportunity and significance in Africa," President Obama said. "Africa does not need strong men; Africa needs strong institutions."

Toward that end, the United States is working with these and other leaders to help them build effective judiciaries, strong civil societies, legislatures that are effective and inclusive, and ensuring the protection of human rights. A stalwart partner with Africa's democracies, we are also supporting economic development through approaches that create sustainability and capacity within each country, through trade and investment and development of their greatest resource, their human capital.

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