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Constitutional Design: Vital but Insufficient for Conflict Management

By the Africa Center for Strategic Studies

February 26, 2016

Constitutional Design: Vital but Insufficient for Conflict ManagementAfrican 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.  While the relative merits of these approaches are hotly debated and context specific, the Africa Center’s Director of Research, Joseph Siegle, contends that domestic institutional mechanisms of accountability are more directly relevant for managing conflict. In short, neither accommodative or integrative constitutions are self-enforcing but 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 legitimacy of the resulting constitutional framework—fostering greater stability.

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