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Abstract from

Constitutionalism, Democracy and Africa: Constitutionalism Upside Down

Martin Chanock is Emeritus Professor of Law at La Trobe University. He qualified as a lawyer in South Africa, before going to Cambridge in 1965 to do a PhD in History. He has taught in universities in East and West Africa, the UK, the USA, Australia, and South Africa.

This paper summarises a work in progress which gives an historical account of attempts to establish democratic constitutionalism in Anglophone Africa since the mid-1950s. It contextualises the constitutional law with the circumstances of decolonisation, the Cold War, the ideology and methods of ‘development’, and the neo-liberal world order. In searching for answers for the lack of success and the predominance of violence in Africa’s weak states, it suggests that constitutional and human rights lawyers have approached problems from the wrong end. What appears now to be necessary is a re-establishment of a rule of law among African communities, which can only be based on a thorough decolonisation of the common law which must reflect African lives, cultures, languages and processes. Until this is achieved, top down institutional structures will have nothing on which to rest.

(2010) 28 No 2 Law in Context 126

   
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