Liberia's President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf addresses the media at a news conference Tiksa Negeri/Reuters

The idea that democracy is under threat unites Masthead members. Andrew, who fears democracy is already doomed, asks, “How will we be able to move to a form of governance more in tune with our highest ideals?” One way to do that is to look elsewhere for inspiration. America’s democracy may be one of the world’s oldest, but it can still learn lessons from some of the world’s newest. Today, I’ll look at political struggles in sub-Saharan Africa that have important takeaways for the rest of the world.

1. Strong institutions aren’t enough on their own.

After a bloody election crisis in 2007-2008, Kenya enacted a new constitution. Those changes paid off in September, when a newly empowered Supreme Court annulled the reelection of President Uhuru Kenyatta the month before. Rather than looking at individual instances of fraud, the court focused on failures of electronic voting technology and the electoral commission’s refusal to explain them. Without a legitimate process, the court ruled, there could be no fair outcome. The watershed decision was the first time in Africa—and one of only a handful of cases worldwide—a court had overturned a sitting president’s victory. “Kenya plunges deeper into rule of law,” political scientist Ken Opalo joked.

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