Democratic transitions in Africa

The issue of civil resistance and unconstitutional change of government

Authored by: Lydia A. Nkansah

The Routledge Handbook of African Law

Print publication date:  November  2021
Online publication date:  November  2021

Print ISBN: 9780815350682
eBook ISBN: 9781351142366
Adobe ISBN:


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The African Union adopted the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance, (AU Charter on Democracy) in 2007. Pursuant to this Charter, the AU committed itself to promote the universal principles of democracy. Succession is implicit in democracy, because public officeholders have fixed terms, which they must assume or renew through periodic elections. Also, the Protocol on Democracy and Good Governance adopted by the Economic Community of West African States in 2001 stated that, “every accession to power must be made through free, fair and transparent elections.” Thus, African countries, through their respective constitutions and the AU frameworks, have sought to protect themselves against unconstitutional change of government—hence, the provision for collective sanctions in art. 23 of the AU Charter on Democracy for any form of unconstitutional change in government. This chapter evaluates the commitment to democracy and its prohibition of unconstitutional change in governments in the light of the emerging trends of change or reconstitution of governments outside elections through civil resistance, power-sharing arrangements, and coups. It maintains that these phenomena appear to deviate from the core democratic process of changing government, as mandated by the AU Charter on Democracy and constitutions.

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