Constitution-Building in Africa

The Never-Ending Story of the Making, Unmaking and Remaking of Constitutions

In: African and Asian Studies
Charles Manga Fombad Institute for International and Comparative Law in Africa, Faculty of Law, University of Pretoria South Africa

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Constitution-building is a delicate and intricate process which requires ample reflection and careful choices. African constitution-builders and politicians have since the beginning of the 1990s embarked on a process of constitutional reforms. A careful examination of the developments of the last two decades shows that the process has almost provoked never-ending contagion of making, unmaking and remaking of constitutions. This paper attempts to provide an over-view of the changes that have been taking place. Some of the issues relating to the durability of national constitutions and theoretical foundations for constitutional change are discussed. The paper also considers some of the possible implications of the endless processes of making, unmaking and remaking constitutions. The critical question it tries to grapple with is how this unending process of constitution-building in Africa can be controlled in a manner that will ensure peace, political stability and provide a legitimate foundation for entrenching a firm culture of constitutionalism. In advocating for an entrenched permanent constitutional review commission to check against frequent and arbitrary constitutional changes, the paper argues that this is the best way for constitutional legitimacy to be sustained throughout the life of a constitution.

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