WHEN Barack Obama visited Africa last month he chose a country with reasonably democratic credentials. Ghana has had its ups and downs since independence in 1957 but, with the probable exception of South Africa, it is now the nearest thing that Africa has got to a stable democracy. By contrast, Hillary Clinton's just completed eleven-day tour of seven countries in Africa has included a very mixed bag of countries in terms of democratic achievement. Ironically, the least democratic of them all goes under the name of the Democratic Republic of Congo where she bravely insisted on visiting the victims of rape by ill-disciplined troops which she denounced as “evil in its basest form”.

In Kenya she made it clear that the United States was disappointed with the lack of progress made in charging those responsible for provoking last year's racial conflicts. Perhaps, as her tour continued, Mrs Clinton heard of complaints from those countries she had already visited about her criticisms because in Nigeria on Wednesday she said something rather remarkable: “Our democracy in America is still evolving. We have had all kinds of problems in some of our past elections. In 2000 it came down to one state where the brother of the man running for president was Governor of the State. So we have our problems, too.” Yes indeed. The question the West has to answer when criticising faulty democratic development elsewhere is whether these new countries should be given as long as America has had in the evolution of its own democracy.