Africa often brings policy surprises. Two of the most significant political moments in Africa—the street demonstrations that toppled Compaoré in Burkina Faso, and the surprisingly free and fair elections in The Gambia that ended Jammeh’s rule—were wholly unanticipated. Smart and capable diplomats on the ground made all the difference in preventing either situation from barreling into a full-blown crisis. The right support and resources from Washington helped U.S. diplomats reinforce these unexpected democratic opportunities and facilitate peaceful transitions. U.S. efforts have made a crucial difference in Africa during both the George W. Bush and Barack Obama administrations. They saved lives, prevented mass atrocities, brokered peaceful solutions, and helped create the conditions for more prosperous futures. The new administration should continue this engagement.
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