- The Paradox of Third-Wave Democratization in Africa: The Gambia under AFPRC-APRC Rule, 1994–2008
The comparative study of African political history, both intranationally and internationally, offers fascinating and telling information to historians and political scientists alike, given the ability to explore the span of time from the beginning of the drive for independence, in the mid-twentieth century, until today. In many African nations, the short half-century (but less for [End Page 106] many Lusophone nations) since independence has created instances whereby few regime changes have taken place, whether peacefully or by military intervention. Therefore, scholars of development, globalization, economics, and other disciplines have had the opportunity to witness, analyze, and discuss the sometimes vast changes that have resulted from the transition from regime to regime. Such a comparative analysis is found in Abdoulaye Saine’s work, The Paradox of Third-Wave Democratization in Africa.
Saine here offers well-informed historic and political analysis, detailing the reigns of deposed Gambian President Dawda Jawara and current President Yahya Jammeh, the first and second presidents of the western African microstate (The Gambia), respectively, between 1965 and 2008. The book focuses on Gambian political history and events that occurred between 1994 and 2008 (during the reign of “soldier-turned-civilian-president” Jammeh); its analysis is greatly enriched by careful comparisons drawn to similar developments in other young African nations.
Saine’s analysis is couched in a theoretical framework that intimately links relationships between the success or failure of a government (or nation) and that government’s ability to provide basic human rights, protection, and stability to its citizens. Saine explores this theoretical postulate in his consideration of three distinct periods of Gambian history: (1) the first republic, under Jawara (1965–1994); (2) the transition to civilian government, under the Armed Forces Provisional Ruling Council (AFPRC), following a successful coup d’état (1994–1996); and (3) the second republic, under Jammeh’s Alliance for Patriotic Re-Orientation and Construction (APRC) (1996–2008). Readers will note that Jammeh remains the president.
Saine remains true to the historical facts of events that unfolded in The Gambia during the reigns of both presidents, but the understandable bias he has against Jammeh and his presidency is clear. Also, he is forthcoming in explaining criticisms of the Jawara presidency, though he downplays these negativities (many being similar to those brought against Jammeh) throughout much of the discussion. An underlying discourse of quips and digs against Jammeh or likewise in favor of Jawara, while perhaps distracting readers, does not detract greatly from the analysis and overall contribution of the work. These remarks, however, are unexpected and surprisingly unabashed, given the actions reported by Saine that Jammeh has taken against those dissenting from his rule and policies.
The strengths and contributions of the book are many, as Saine provides a coherent, transparent, and critical evaluation of Gambian political history. Many scholars have concentrated their research efforts on larger, wealthier, or more wartorn nations, but Saine’s description of this microstate brings to the foreground the many struggles—political, social, economic—that individuals have encountered in the country since independence. Saine’s analysis makes great strides at getting to the heart of factors that truly matter and come into play in the successful development—or, conversely, the deterioration—of young nations. [End Page 107]
Particularly engaging chapters include chapter 6, which discusses the rampant human-rights abuses inflicted upon Gambians during Jammeh’s reign (e.g., threats of arrest for dissenters, punishments for the press, and the aftermath of a foiled 2006 coup d’état), and chapter 7, which well illustrates and discusses Jammeh’s masterful manipulation of the international community to achieve his political ends. In other chapters, Saine turns his attention to possibilities for what lies ahead for The Gambia and Gambians, given that (1) there exist no restrictions on the number of presidential terms that one can serve, (2) Jammeh was reportedly successful in undermining the free electoral process to the point of...