The unconstitutional change of government normative Framework in AfricaDo elections matter?

Authored by: O’Brien Kaaba

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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Many African countries gained their independence in the 1960s with a promise of democracy. However, soon after independence, the ruling elite entrenched themselves in power through the one-party system, grand corruption, and elimination of opponents. As a result, it was perceived that there was no viable democratic way of changing government by the people. Thus, military coups became the only realistic method of regime change. Between 1956 and 2001, there were 108 failed coups across the continent and 80 successful ones. Political changes in the 1980s and 1990s led to the return to multiparty politics in Africa and the emergence of the Organisation of African Unity’s (OAU’s) normative framework against military interventions and other forms of unconstitutional change of government. This normative framework rejecting unconstitutional change of government is now entrenched, and the African Union (AU), successor to OAU, has consistently rejected unconstitutional changes of government since 2003. The Constitutive Charter of the AU has also enshrined the norm, hence, the effort in this chapter to explore the relevance of the African normative framework on unconstitutional change of government to the situation of disputed presidential elections in Africa.

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