Books For Africa Can Help Spread the Rule of Law There

At a time when authoritarianism is growing around the world and basic liberties and freedom of the press are under attack, it is important to continue to develop and strengthen the rule of law.

The rule of law is fundamental for the development of a healthy democracy, good governance and a prosperous economy. Building and embedding democracy can be a long and difficult process, however.

A cornerstone of the rule of law is education, from grammar schools through law school. As our dear friend, the late Kofi Annan, former U.N. secretary-general, often said: “For hundreds of millions of individuals, literacy is the bridge from misery to hope.”

An example of the importance of education and the rule of law played out recently at the International Court of Justice in The Hague, where the African nation of Gambia led the effort to stop the crackdown on Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar that began in 2017.

Isatou Touray, Gambian vice president said at the time: “We are a small country with a big voice on matters of human rights on the continent and beyond.”

Gambia’s leadership role in the case is remarkable given its relatively small size (just over 2 million people) and its recent history.

“What is extraordinary here is that Gambia, a very small country in West Africa — a half a world away from Myanmar — had only recently freed itself from the grips of a decadeslong brutal dictatorship,” said Richard Dicker, the director of the International Justice Program at Human Rights Watch, according to Voice of America News. “It is so inspiring.”

Gambia has been building its foundation for the rule of law for several years, aided in part by resources provided through a unique partnership with St. Paul-based Books For Africa (BFA), its Law & Democracy Initiative and Thomson Reuters.

Books For Africa has sent more than 800,000 books to K-12 students. In addition, its Law & Democracy Initiative has supported the development and practice of the rule of law to a greater extent in Gambia than in any country per capita in Africa. Law libraries, donated by Thomson Reuters, have been sent to The University of Gambia Faculty of Law, Female Lawyers Association, Human Rights Commission, Bar Association and Legal Aid Society.