Constitutional design: vital but insufficient for managing conflict


Institutionalized accountability is vital if constitutions are to be meaningful in preventing and mitigating conflict in Africa, says a leading analyst.

African constitutions have increasingly relied on accommodative approaches (i.e. guarantees to identity groups based on ethnicity) versus integrative models (i.e. identity-neutral applications of citizen rights) to mitigate inter-communal conflict, writes Joseph Siegle, Ph.D., Director of Research at the National Defense University’s Africa Center for Strategic Studies:

While the relative merits of these approaches are hotly debated and context specific, domestic institutional mechanisms of accountability are more directly relevant for managing conflict. In short, constitutions are not self-enforcing. Rather they rely on features such as an independent judiciary, a free press, an unbiased electoral commission, a professional security sector, and a resilient civil society.  Similarly, constitutional reform efforts in Africa should be mindful of the conflict mitigating potential of inclusive referendum processes.  Participatory processes help create greater popular ownership and legitimation of the resulting constitutional framework – fostering greater stability. 


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