Constitution Building in Africa: Separation of Powers and Constitutionalism in Africa – Comparative Perspectives

The focus of the study for this year, under the broad theme of constitution-building in Africa will be the issue of separation of powers. The excessive concentration of powers is arguably one of the greatest impediments to the promotion of constitutionalism, good governance, democracy and the rule of law in Africa. This is manifested in numerous ways and cuts across many facets of constitutional governance. At the heart of it, is the issue of separation of powers. The effective division of powers between the three branches of government is critical to repelling the different threats to liberty.

The allocation of powers between the three branches of government viz, the executive, the judiciary and the legislature, the extent to which they should be separated from each other and the different degrees of reciprocal checks and balances has been one of the fundamental preoccupations of constitutionalism over the centuries. Finding the balance that will prevent the twin dangers of tyranny and anarchy has remained a challenge. Although African constitution-designers in the new or revised post-1990 constitutions introduced provisions providing for separation of powers, the constant friction in the relationship between the three branches and the resurgent threats of authoritarianism clearly suggest that there remain serious problems in both constitutional design and implementation. The purpose of this year’s study will be to try to critically examine, and understand some of the issues that have arisen

Project leader(s):
  • Charles Fombad (Pretoria)

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