The politics of constitutional reform in Zambia: From executive dominance to public participation?

A Constitution defines the norms, standards and mechanisms by which holders of public power are held accountable. A Constitution produced by a process which is dominated by the ruling elite is unlikely to contain high standards and strong levels of accountability. Contrariwise, a Constitution which is developed in a consultative process in which the public is allowed to participate is more likely to entrench strong accountability norms and mechanisms. However, the experience in Africa demonstrates not only that constitution-making or constitutional reform processes have almost always been dominated by those in power to the exclusion of the general populace but also that Constitutions have failed to effectively regulate the exercise of public power (Okoth-Ogendo 1991; Mbao 2007a). Essentially, constitutional reform initiatives have not sufficiently limited executive powers, or reduced the scope for personal rule and centralised decision-making. Furthermore, the principles of limited government, the separation of powers and respect for the rule of law, which are the hallmarks of a liberal constitutional regime, have been observed more in theory than in practice. In 1991, commenting on the post-colonial constitutional practice, Okoth-Ogendo (1991: 4) observed that most African countries had ‘Constitutions without constitutionalism’. By 2001, this picture had not changed much (Tumwine-Mukubwa 2001: 303) and, as this chapter will demonstrate, constitutionalism remains a challenge in Zambia.

Related Subject(s): Democracy and Governance
Countries: Zambia
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