Research Journal #9

Putting together a rough draft of my research definitely caused me to spend more time looking for the information I was still missing, and re-read some of my older pieces in order to locate any information I had previously been missing.  As my original research was based on the question of whether or not Gambia had been affected by the contagion effect in the most recent elections, I took a second look at Abdoulaye Saine’s “The Gambia’s ‘Elected Autocrat Poverty, Peripherality, and Political Instability,’ 1994-2006,” in which Saine argues that Jammeh’s initial support after his bloodless coup was partially due to the contagion effect, though that of the Strasser-led coup in Sierra Leone (455).  It is therefore interesting to note that the contagion effect did originally occur in Gambia, though not in the form of a Senegalese effect.  Furthermore, the fact that the Gambia did in fact experience the contagion effect, though much earlier in its history, allows me to conclude that my original hypothesis was incorrect, and turn to other contributing factors to explain the reason for the intervention of outside forces in upholding the recent election results.

Additionally, I was able to locate a new book,  edited by S. F. Jagne, Nation-States and the Challenges of Integration in West Africa, which provides a detailed exploration of the relationship between Senegal and Gambia (finally!!).  The various authors of the book do underscore the similarities in the countries’ two cultures, as well as various issues of contention, which I had previously found mentioned in a number of Gambian newspapers.  The book clarified the Casamance crisis, a low-level conflict between Senegal and the Jola ethnic group, who wish to obtain independence from Senegal, partially due to their differences in religion (the majority of Senegalese are Muslim, whereas the Jola tend to identify as Christian or animist).  As Jammeh had previously allowed the Jola people to come vote in Gambian elections, this no doubt contributed to some of the uneasiness between the two countries.  Additionally, there is the question of a bridge which would connect the two nations (this is another topic that came up multiple times in the Gambian/Senegalese newspapers I had read).  Gambia refuses to build a bridge between the two countries, arguing that in doing so, it would lose its sovereignty; meanwhile, in Senegal, this provides a huge handicap for workers, and they have often protested against the need to take ferries across.  This additionally hurts the Gambian economy (and partially explains why it did so poorly), as Gambia is dependent on Senegal’s economy, not having the possibility of accessing other trade or economic partners nearby.  Finally, there is the question of Senegal’s intervention in the botched 1981 elections, in which Senegal had originally interfered to get Jawara out of office, only to change its mind at the last moment and help Jawara retain his position as President.

The third important piece of evidence I was able to uncover was the reason for ECOWAS’s intervention in the 2016 election.  According to Frederick Cowell (2011), in “The Impact of the ECOWAS Protocol on Good Governance and Democracy,” the body adopted the protocol in 2001, which specifically listed a “trigger mechanism” in which participating states would be suspended in the case of unconstitutional government changes, allowing ECOWAS to intervene (331).  This protocol provides the reason for the body’s enforcement of the 2016 elections, and underscores the importance of international bodies in enforcing democracy.

As my original hypothesis concerning the diffusion theory is proven incorrect, the second half of my paper will discuss the reflection of other democratic theories in the case of the Gambia.  In particular, I hope to call attention to the fact that the downfall of one “hybrid” regime (in my continued reading I can conclude whether this applies to Jawara’s Presidency or not) doesn’t necessarily lead to its replacement by a democratic one, and the road between the two is time-consuming and difficult.  As I had previously mentioned, this additionally provides me with the opportunity of re-stating the importance of international bodies in pressuring countries to maintain certain levels of democracy, or at least democratic components.  The case of the Gambia ultimately provides a perfect case study reinforcing many of the current theories regarding the democratization process within a country.

Electoral Fraud

Campbell and Gist both discuss various ways in which electoral fraud has occurred within the United States.  Campbell provides an in-depth exploration of the 1905 Louisville voter fraud cases, in which John Wallen successfully manipulated and bribed both city officials and local residents to vote in his favor.  Gist examines the case of Adams county, Ohio, in the early 1900’s, in which votes were bought from poor, rural citizens.  Through various practices, including strong-arm tactics enforced through bribed police officers or simply pay-outs, encouraging voters to turn up to the polls, voter fraud prevailed in these communities.  In the case of John Wallen, the stolen election was decried, leading to the reversal of the primary and the replacement of all of the initial winners booted from office.  However, Wallen was able to simply switch strategies, appealing to white supremacy in order to obtain votes.

From reading these two case studies, my initial observations indicate that suppressing an opponent’s total seem the more damaging route, indicating to the voter that his vote does not in fact matter, whereas adding to a candidate’s total simply rigs the election.  Additionally, reading about Wallen’s attempt to pin electoral fraud on the Fusion party reminded me of this most recent election.  As Trump voters decried the supposed attempts at multiple votes undertaken by Clinton voters, it was in fact Trump voters who most often resorted to these actions.  By directing the attention to the opposition and citing their actions as damaging to democracy, a party in turn is able to encourage voters to use these same tactics to combat the initial perceived wrong.  Additionally, suppressing the total number of opposition votes makes the other party seem stronger in comparison, as it wins by a larger margin, possibly discouraging future voters of the opposition party.

Research Journal 8

As our rough drafts are due next week, I spent some time today coming up with an initial outline before I begin writing.  As of the moment, I wish to continue focusing on the relationship between Gambia and Senegal, and as Dr. Kendhammer reminded me, it’s ok if my hypothesis regarding the affect of the contagion theory turns out to be incorrect.  Additionally, I plan to once again search for (newer) scholarly articles and first-person news sources which will provide me with the exact information needed to trace the relationship between Senegal and Gambia under both Presidents Jawara and Jammeh.  I hope to provide a comparative analysis of the two presidents’ differering relationships with Gambia, as well as examining potential factors which could have caused the contagion effect occur or fail to do so.  As of the moment, here is my current outline.

I. Introduction

  • Recent election upheaval in Gambia
  • Country appears to be moving in a democratic direction once again.  Importance in understanding the factors that affect the movement from authoritarian to democratic regimes and vice-versa

II. A brief overview of the historical relationship between the countries of Gambia and Senegal

III. Jawara vs. Jammeh

A. Historical parallels/differences in presidential performance and acceptance by Gambia people

B. Historical parallels/differences in presidential performance and relationship to Senegal’s government

IV. Hypothesis: Contagion Theory may have caused democracy to uproot Jammeh

A. Brief analysis of contagion theory

B. Comparison of Senegalese and Gambian cultures

  • Effects of political Islam in both countries
  • Additional cultural similarities and differences, with a focus on any overlapping ethnic similarities

V. Rejection or Acceptance of hypothesis

VI. Conclusion

  • Other potential factors in causing Senegal to enforce Gambia’s election
  • As Gambia has a history of relatively bloodless political/military coups, could it happen again?

I may reorganize this paper as I begin to write it, and any suggestions on sources or contributing factors to more thoroughly investigate would be much appreciated.

The Dictator’s Handbook

Bruce Bueno de Mesquita and Alastair Smith begin their book by listing a number of key rules regarding politics as a whole.  Based on the case study of Bell, California, the authors underscore that politics is first and foremost about getting and keeping power, and survival once in office is “best assured by depending on few people to attain and maintain office” (Mesquita & Smith xviii).  Additionally, the competition to be in the winning coalition- to be one of the “essentials,” as nicknamed by the authors – provides fiscal freedom for the current ruler, as “essentials” will continue to back him or her to maintain their position in the coalition.  Finally, the ability to rely on taxation from the nominal selectorate, those deemed “interchangeables,” often results in rulers raising tax rates, as he can continue to safely do so with the support of the “essentials,” the “interchangeables” serving only to fill the state coffers with a small, if any, political voice.  Here, the authors draw one of the most important parallels: what benefits the “essentials” winds up hurting the “interchangeables.”

Between the “interchangeables” and the “essentials” lie the “influential,” or real selectorate.  Mesquita and Smith seem to focus largely on the top and bottom classes, but their examination of the system does reflect the reality of democratic nations allowing for the growth of a real selectorate.  It was a bit unclear to me whether we should consider the real electorate the equivalent of the middle class, as, for the most part, democracies tend to allow and foster the growth of the middle class more than any other democratic system.  This incorporation of the real selectorate into a society means that government must now provide public goods more evenly between the three groups, ensuring even the nominal selectorate have access to basic infrastructure and medical care.

As to the question of making authoritarian regimes more democratic, the easy answer is to attempt to equalize the percentages of people in each of the three selectorates.  As we’ve previously discussed in class, antebellum America’s democracy was able to thrive due to the push and pull for power between the land-owners and the upper classes: as each struggled to gain different rights and powers, one could argue that the system ultimately balanced itself out, resulting in a more stable democracy.  Mesquita and Smith seem to continually return to the ease with which a dictator is able to control a country when only a small portion of the population matters politically: in fact, they list a number of ways in which one can do this.  In order for such a one-sided system to change, a larger portion of the population must matter politically, balancing out the top.  This sounds great in theory, but governments must want to change in order for this to occur.  In the meantime, the international community can encourage authoritarian states to encourage a higher level of education and care for its nominal selectorate, so that they may have the opportunity to make it to the real selectorate and begin to challenge (or at least balance) the winning coalition.

Also, did anyone else feel like becoming a dictator, while occasionally a balancing act, was made to sound an easy act?  In my opinion, the book seemed to suggest that authoritarianism might be an “easier” form of government for the ruler than a democracy, especially as democracies are constantly changing politicians, who have spent years getting elected: dictators, on the other hand, simply have to state their claim and enforce it through coercion and violence. Any thoughts?

Research Journal #7

This week I spent some time reading through “Political Islam in West Africa: State-Society Relations Transformed,” edited by William F.S. Miles, in particular the two chapters on Gambia and Senegal, in an attempt to understand the cultural aspects which caused former President Jammeh to so alienate both neighboring Senegal and organizations such as the AU.  I was additionally curious as to whether Islam had played a role in Senegal’s intervention in Gambia: had Senegal struggled with radical Islam, and seeing similar actions undertaken by Jammeh, decided to enforce the most recent election results due to extremist-based fears?  Momodou N. Darboe’s chapter on Gambia makes it clear that Jammeh turned to Islam as a way of achieving popular support after his military coup in 1994, whereas Senegal has a long history of Islamist branches being involved in politics.  Additionally, the two states seem to favor different branches and interpretations of Islam.  However, I was able to piece together a few leading ideas which should provide me with plenty of investigate over spring break.

Darboe notes that Jammeh initially turned to Libya for both financial assistance and mentorship from Mu’ammar Qaddafi: this largely explains his initial push to re-brand himself an avid Muslim.  Additionally, as former President Jawara had also additionally shared close ties with Libya, it was Jawara’s refusal to comply with certain requests based on shari’a, such as choosing not to build an alcoholic beer factory, that may have largely severed those ties.  It seems that Jammeh choose to once again court the Middle Eastern governments in a bid for financial assistance, as he refused to rebuke the terrorists responsible for the 9/11 attacks, effectively ending any potential financial assistance from the United States or its allies.  Additionally, as a result of the Gambia’s disqualification from the Millenium Challenge Account in 2006 due to its human rights abuses and undemocratic government (146), Jammed turned to the Iranian and Venezuelan presidents, inviting them to the African Union Annual Summit that same year.  This no doubt further alienated Jammeh not only from the West, but from the AU as well.  Ultimately, Jammeh succeeded in alienating even his Wahhabis followers while the country experienced strained relationships with both Senegal and Guinea Bissau. (Again, the elusive conclusion that Senegal and Gambia were experiencing a strained relationship without much elaboration on exactly what caused that strain.)

As for Senegal, the citizenry seems to favor Sufi Islam, and Islamism in general has long played an active role in politics.  However, Senegal appears to operate under a more open religious system, so that while there have been tremors of potential violence, the reality seems to offer incidents few and far between.  Additionally, after my reading, it seems a fair conclusion that Jammeh’s extreme and wavering acceptance of Islam caused Senegal to become involved in enforcing election results, though the book did provide a basic level of understanding regarding Jammeh’s alienation from the AU.

Over spring break, I plan to continue my search to discover exactly what happened to cause the breakdown between Senegal and Gambia, though at this point, it seems safe to say that Jammeh made a series of reckless decisions which harmed the relationship between the two countries, regardless of religious similarities or differences.


Research Journal #6

At this point, I believe I’m ready to begin writing, at least an original tracing of the history of Gambia.  I’ve found a few new sources on the relationship between Gambia and Senegal, including  a book by William F.S. Miles titled “Political Islam in West Africa,” as well as an article in the International Journal of Africa Historical Studies titled “Islam and Decolonization in Africa: The Political Engagement of a West African Muslim Community” by Zachary Valentine Wright. Additionally, from the English Historical Review, I’ve found ‘Till these Experiments be Made’: Senegambia and British Imperial Policy in the Eighteenth Century” by Matthew P. Dziennik.  I hope these newer articles will provide an slightly more historical perspective on understanding the commonalities between Senegal and Gambia, as well as helping me understand the cultural similarities by which democracy (and its fervor) might spread from Senegal to Gambia.  I also hope to trace a number of common interests held by Senegal in the Gambia, as a few Gambian newspaper have outlined these interests while lacking the academic integrity and backing I need for this paper. I hope to have an introductory paragraph to copy and paste here by the end of next week.

Race and Democracy

Olson and Behrens, Uggen, & Manza all underscore the fact that democracy is closely tied to issues of race.  While Olson offers a historical examination of how the two came to be interrelated, Behrens, Uggen, & Manza reflect on the current reality that many of these laws continue to affect minorities, particularly African-Americans.

Olson begins by explaining that the foundation of the American race system, which he argues is dependent on hatred of Native Americans and indentured servitude.  As the anti-bellum American came to experience rebellions, as poor working class white men were tired of their treatment as indentured servants and day laborers, they initially allied themselves with African-American slaves. As the Virginian elite wished to avoid repetitions of these rebellions, they decided to pit the two groups against each other: allowing white men the right to citizenship, while still remaining lower on the economic hierarchy, solved the problem of servile insurrection.  The Jacksonian era further saw the relationship between whiteness and citizenship solidified, as the working class was pacified through the inclusion as citizens, a class above African-American slaves and “savage” Native Americans.  Women were additionally factored in: classified as citizens if white, but with fewer rights to their name (including miscegenation laws and coverture), their rights ultimately came to be pitted against those of the former African-American slaves who had been granted the right to vote.

Behrens, Uggen, and Manza examine the relationship between race and felon disenfranchisement.  Their research underscores the fact that the United States continues to disenfranchise not only felons, but ex-felons, restricting their right to vote.  Many of these state laws were passed in the time immediately following the Civil War up through the 1870’s, reflecting an attempt to restrict the political voice of African Americans, who face incarceration at a percentage much higher than Caucasian citizens.  Even as some of the states began to relax their rules in the 1960’s and 1970’s, they persist even as a majority of voters believe these laws should be annulled.

Ultimately, it’s clear that America’s democracy is largely based on race.  Setting up a racial hierarchy has taken the focus away from the economic hierarchy, and allowed poor white Americans to feel that they are still higher in the hierarchy than minorities, providing a level of satisfaction and prompting complacency.  Furthermore, as democratization has evolved over time, the rights of minority citizens have been left by the wayside, as their political presence is negated through felony laws: this is return has caused enormous levels of dissatisfaction among African-Americans in particular, as they have borne the brunt of these effects.

Examining the American democracy’s relationship with race, it’s clear that things need to change.  One of the most important aspects of a democracy is the representation of minorities: ignoring their voices causes dissent and political dissatisfaction, which can cause a democracy to be destabilized.  As other countries move toward democracy, they would do well to learn their lesson from the United States, and ensure that their ethnic and religious minorities are thoroughly represented, otherwise violence (both directed to and coming from minorities) is assured, consequently reducing the strength of a democracy.

The Economic Situation in Anti-Bellum America

Having just emerged victorious after the Revolutionary War, the new United State of America faced a number of economic issues.  Having defeated Great Britain meant America’s previously largest trade partner would no longer allow it to continue business with British colonies, causing a huge decrease in the nation’s income.  Soldiers had destroyed massive amounts of property, and many wealthy investors lost out on the financial benefits of runaway slaves.  Additionally, there was a lack of investment capital for young people, which meant that the purchasing of land which was considered necessary for one’s establishment was increasingly difficult to accomplish.  In order to pay back war loans, therefore, local governments raised state taxes, hurting the working classes, who faced the brunt of this burden.

As money and income decreased, the economic elite wished the government to enforce the collection of earlier debts from the smallholders, who often couldn’t pay.  This resulted in their massive loss of property, and the many actions taken to push-back against these hurtful policies, as mentioned by Bouton.  The smallholders wished for the circulation of paper money, which would increase with inflation and allow them to pay their debts back, while the elite investors were concerned that this would decrease the value of their investments.  Ultimately, this conflict resulted in the need for a stronger federal government to come in and monitor taxes and economic policies, a role that had previously been left up to local and state governments, to ensure that that both smallholders and economic elite could survive and even thrive in this new freed nation.

Research Journal #5

This past week I spent some time reading the articles I listed in last week’s research post.  Fossati’s article in particular underscored a number of affecting variables that were responsible for enforcing the democratization of the late-coming European countries to the EU.  Along with the contagion effect, he mentions that the imposition of democracy, often by military forces, as well as internal consensus, were the three main methods by which a significant number of European countries achieved democracy.   Additionally, when certain countries, such as Georgia and Ukraine, wished to join the EU, a list of requirements was enforced before they were allowed in.  There were therefore positive and negative reinforcements to becoming a democratic nation, and additional measures were undertaken when certain states were seen as not living up to certain EU requirements after having been accepted into the organization.

Though this article focused on the EU, I believe several factors from this case study apply to that of Gambia.  Gambia’s leave of the Commonwealth, as well as the AU, no doubt involved its own list of international coercive actions, a topic on which I need to continue investigating.  Additionally, as both the EU as a whole and certain individual European countries took their own actions to reinforce EU requirements, I believe the same may have occurred between Senegal and Gambia.  The topic of military coercion from neighboring states to effect democracy additionally requires more research on my part: I will turn to the examination of any potential previous military action undertaken by Senegal against/for Gambia.

Islam and Democracy

Is Islam compatible with democracy?  Taheri argues that it isn’t, while Dr. Kendhammer’s work seems to offer the possibility that it is, albeit with some caveats.  Both works offer a number of points I wish to consider below.

Taheri bases his argument on the fact that the words democracy and politics don’t exist in any original sense within the Arab world.  The idea that democracy, or a government by the people, should be allowed to exist, counters Islam’s decree that only Allah’s rules should govern humans.  Additionally, there is a long history of divine laws being interpreted by religious experts, who have the training and knowledge needed to govern according to those laws.  These views, while based off a more fundamentalist understanding of Islam, reflect many of the original arguments made about the lack of democracy in Latin America, a continent strongly influenced by traditional ideas of Catholicism.  Even within the United States, there were a number of fears similarly articulated about former President John F. Kennedy, the only Catholic American president ever elected: could he serve the nation properly, while his religion dictated that he obey the Pope’s edicts?

Dr. Kendhammer’s work provides an opposing viewpoint: many Muslims do want democracy, albeit a more simplified version, wherein social justice and economic equality are given priority.  These views actually reflect a number of similar beliefs about democracy found in neighboring African countries wherein democratic ideals aren’t widely understood (a less educated perspective of democracy).  The interviews in Nigeria reflect a lack of a traditional democratic “civic culture,” though I would argue that, as Tocqueville did, many of the more traditional American democratic ideals originated from Christian beliefs: why should Islam therefore not provide a base on which to found a somewhat democratic society?  “Muslims Talking Politics” additionally underscores that most Muslim prefer the “spirit” of sharia to the strict interpretation of it, allowing for the opportunity to at least re-examine the possibility of democracy within the Arab world.

It is important to note that separation of church and state is what has allowed most Western nations to continue their democratic paths for so long.  Although originally based on many Christian ideals, it was ultimately decided that this separation was required within the United States, along with checks and balances, to keep the government accountable.  In this case, it seems to me that if Muslim communities were able to back the idea of focusing on the “spirit” of the law, there would at least be the possibility of a “hybrid” democracy, wherein government is accountable and free elections are held (even if there are religious leaders up for election).  If these countries were to at least begin the path to democracy, they may realize that a more moderate Islam can serve as a basis for civic culture without compromising their religious ideals.