Conference Notice: The Making, Unmaking and Remaking of Africa’s Independence and Post-Independence Constitutions



The Making, Unmaking and Remaking of Africa’s Independence and Post-Independence Constitutions


Dr. H.P. Dlamini,
Post-doctoral Fellow
International Studies Group
University of the Free State
Republic of South Africa


Professor N.F. Awasom
Visiting Professor
University of Ghana,

Scholars are invited to critically explore the making and evolution of Africa’s independence constitutions through the different phases of their evolution. The continental coverage is justified by Africa’s rich diversity reflected in its multiple colonial background-viz: English, French, Dutch, Portuguese and Spanish. To this diversity can be added the Kingdom of Morocco that developed a constitutional monarchy based on Islamic law and French and Spanish civil law systems soon after receiving independence (Bali & Lerner 2019, Qerimi 2019), and the kingdom of Eswatini which has retained most of its traditional governance structure in its constitutions (Dlamini 2019a & b). Selected papers from the conference would reflect the continent’s historical diversity and would ultimately be published as a book volume.
Since independence, Africa’s inherited constitutions have undergone a succession of constitution-making processes, triggered by either the domestic or international environment or both (see Uldanov, Jakubiak, & El Caid 2019; Rose & Shin 2001; Le Vine 1997; Samuel 1991). These processes constitute autonomous epochal ‘waves’ of constitution-making which need to be unpacked, historicised and dichotomised. The rich history of constitution-making in African has not been explored in a systematic manner and on a continental basis. Much has been written on the making of African constitutions on the eve and aftermath of independence resulting in African-presidential versus parliamentary systems, unicameralism versus bicameralism, and the coronation of unbridled disguised dictatorship in most cases (Blondel 2016; Croissant & Merkel 2001; Le Vine 1997).

But the economic component of constitution-making in the Marxian tradition cannot be ignored and, may spice this history from different perspectives. The constitutions bequeathed to African nation-states at independence were not neutral legal instruments. They were designed to benefit and sustain, in some cases, white minority interests and metropolitan interests. African independence constitutions therefore encapsulated the economic base of the post-colonial state. What is the relationship between economics and constitution-making in Africa?

The successive constitutional waves that have occurred in Africa since independence have not been clearly delineated and analysed. The early independence constitutions, considered as the first generation of the African constitution-making revolution, were generally imitations of metropolitan models, which were virtually imposed by the departing colonial powers and perceived as alien, not only by the ordinary citizens but also the new leaders, who had little knowledge or experience of constitutional governance (Fombad 2016, 2014, 2011, 2007; Le vine 1997; Reyntjens 1991). The second constitution-making revolution started soon after independence as African leaders under the ploy of nation-building and development amended, revised and repealed the liberal principles in the inherited constitutions thereby emptying them of their essence and rendering them as mere carcasses. African constitutions could hardly be taken seriously; in the words of Okoth-Ogendo (1998), they were “constitutions without constitutionalism”. To what extent does this observation hold true of Africans independence constitutions?

The third democratic wave blowing over Africa in the 1990s (Møller & Skaaning 2013; Rose & Shin 2001; Le Vine 1997, Samuel 1991), ushered a new era of democratic governance and constitutionalism. The third constitution-making revolution started with bold attempts to correct the errors of the past by designing constitutions that promoted constitutionalism and good governance. It was expected that the post-1990 constitutions would provide better prospects for constitutionalism than almost all the pre-1990 constitutions which favoured the consolidation of power and totalitarianism. Did the 1990 constitutional reforms meet the objective of a new democratic governance order? Did they confront the perennial problems of political instability, dictatorship, repression, human rights violations, corruption and mismanagement of state property, and poverty, all of which have stymied progress on the continent since independence? Scholars are invited to critically ponder on this problematic and discuss it in their papers.

There is an urgent need to critically dilate on the processes of constitution-making, in its full generality, as a distinctive object of positive analysis. Papers exploring the constitutional developments in Africa should be based on country case studies or a comparative study of the constitution of two or more countries. Papers should examine how the underlining principles of constitution-making address both (i) how the process was conducted in terms of its being participatory and consultative (see Menski, 2019) and (ii) the content of the constitution that was produced and (iii) the reaction of the public to it. Papers should reflect key aspects of the historical contexts in which the particular process took place, and also the broader international norms, standards, and precedents that informed these processes.

Papers should critically historicise and contextualise the phenomenon of constitution making in terms of waves for each selected country case study because each African country has its own specific historical trajectory. These waves refer to political, social and economic crises within a particular country that trigger constitution-making. Each constitution that is drafted and promulgated has its own context. The idea of constitutional waves’ is underscored by the fact that constitutions are almost always written in the wake of a transition (colonialism to independence), or a crisis or exceptional circumstance (coup d’état, civil war, liberation war, political contestation and instability). By following the methodology of waves, scholars would be able to identify the principal constitutional watershed of Africa’s independence constitutions. Nigeria, for instance, has experienced four waves since independence: the 1960, 1963, 1979, and 1999 constitutions (Ali, Abubakar, & Ali 2019; Saka & Bakare 2019; Ukachikara & Asoka 2018; Ekpo 2017). Each of these constitutions was born out of a major incident which represents a constitutional wave. With reference to Eswatini, two waves can be identified: 1968 and 2005 (Dlamini 2019 a & b). Cameroon has undergone five waves: 1960, 1961, 1972 and 1996 (Awasom 2019, 2002 a & b),

Conference Coordination: University of the Free State
Call for Paper Deadline: Extended to 30 April 2021

Expected outcome of conference: Selected papers would be published in a book
Please send a 300-500-word abstract of your work and a 150-word bio in an MS Word document. In the email, please include name, contact information, and institutional affiliation (if it applies). We accept abstracts in English.

Notification of accepted proposals will occur by 13 May 2021. Final manuscripts should be due on 15 June 2021.

If you have any questions, please feel free to email the convenors.

Please send your submissions to:
Email address:
Email address:

Tentative Online Conference Dates: June 23-26, 2021


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Awasom, N.F. (2019), Gaullist Cameroon, Constitution-Making and the Ossification of Anglophone Quest to secede. Occasional Papers, Ms.

Awasom, N. F. (2002) (a). Politics and constitution-making in Francophone Cameroon, 1959-1960. Africa Today, 3-30.

Awasom, N. F. (2002)(b). Negotiating federalism: how ready were Cameroonian leaders before the February 1961 United Nations plebiscites?. Canadian Journal of African Studies/La Revue canadienne des études africaines, 36(3), 425-459.

Bali, A. U., & Lerner, H. (2019). Religion and Constitution Making in Comparative Perspective. Chapter written for: Handbook on Comparative Constitution Making, Edited by David Landau and Hanna Lerner, Edward Elgar (2019 Forthcoming).

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Ukachikara, U., & Asoka, G. (2018). Nigeria‟ s Development Tragedy: The Role of the State, Federalism and Politics of Budget Process. International Journal of Research and Innovation in Social Science, 2(12), 82-93.

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