Strengthening Constitutional Order and Upholding the Rule of Law in Central Africa: Reversing the Descent towards Symbolic Constitutionalism

Some of the challenges were examined in this article that have arisen as part of attempts during the past two decades to entrench a culture of constitutionalism and respect for law in Central Africa. It shows how, from a background of constitutions that did not promote any constitutionalism, the countries in this region generally adopted constitutions which contained most of the core elements of constitutionalism and the rule of law. It is shown that in the last few years there has been a steady slide towards what can be referred to as tokenistic and symbolic constitutionalism in the region. The objective of the article is to see how this decline could be arrested to ensure a return to substantive and effective constitutionalism. The approach adopted is essentially comparative. The contribution commences with an overview of the state of constitutionalism and the rule of law in the 11 countries located in the region. This is preceded by a brief explanation of the three critical concepts: constitution, constitutionalism and the rule of law. It then uses a number of key indicators of good governance and the rule of law to assess the governance situation in the region. This is followed by an overarching analysis of the constitutions of these countries to identify trends and tendencies and to show the nature and extent of the widening gap between the constitutional texts and actual practice. A number of measures are suggested which, it is argued, need to be taken to make constitutionalism in the region meaningful and effective.