The rule of law as “the mechanism, process, institution, practice, or norm that supports the equality of all citizens before the law, secures a non-arbitrary form of government, and more generally prevents the arbitrary use of power.” Philosophers like Aristotle and Montesquieu have elaborated on the idea of the rule of law since the 4th century BCE heavily influencing political, legal, and western liberal thought.
The saying “absolute power corrupts absolutely” aptly describes the effects of leadership structures like absolutism, authoritarianism, and totalitarianism. The rule of law serves to regulate rulers by creating laws and enforcing said laws to ensure that no one is above the law.
Of course, the rule of law is profoundly nuanced and cannot be elucidated in its entirety. However, in an attempt to quantify its ideology and enforcement globally, the World Justice Project (WJP) creates the Rule of Law Index, which scores and ranks 139 countries and jurisdictions according to their level of adherence to the rule of law.
The WJP obtains data from two sources: a General Population Poll and Qualified Respondents’ Questionnaires. Multiple sub-factors contribute to the data, including the rule of law in practice and the perspective of ordinary people, which is at the core of the index. Every citizen is a stakeholder in the rule of law, so their experience of its implementation, from the grassroots level to the highest court, is considered.
Below are the ten countries in sub-Saharan Africa ranked by the WJP according to their adherence to the rule of law in 2021. Scores range from 0 to 1, with 1 indicating the strongest commitment to the rule of law:
With a score of 0.62, Rwanda’s overall score increased by less than 1% in 2021 and is ranked 1st out of 33 countries in Sub-Saharan Africa and 42nd globally.
Namibia's score of 0.62 ranks the Southern African country 2nd in Africa and 44th globally despite a 1.2% decrease in the overall score.
A score of 0.61 ranks Mauritius 45th out of the 139 countries and jurisdictions globally and a 1% decrease in the overall score places the island country 3rd in Africa.
Ranking 4th in Africa and 51st in the world, Botswana’s score of 0.59 decreased by 1,5%.
5. South Africa
A score of 0.58 places South Africa 5th regionally and 52nd globally. This country’s score decreased by 0.4% in 2021.
Senegal increased its overall score by 0.5% taking it to 0.55. This places them 6th in the region and 57th on the global rankings.
Out of the 33 African countries, Ghana clinched 7th position with a score of 0.55 due to a 2.2% decrease. This keeps them at number 58 in the world.
Malawi’s score of 0.52 places them at number 8 regionally. The 1% increase bumped them up 5 spots as they rank 67th globally.
9. Burkina Faso
Despite a 0.9% decrease, Burkina Faso currently ranks 9th in Africa and moved up 2 positions globally to rank 75th with a score of 0.50.
10. The Gambia
Last on the list is The Gambia with an overall score of 0.49. With the biggest decrease of 3.1% Gambia took the 10th position regionally and moved down 8 spots on the global rankings occupying the 89th position.