How (Not) to Write an African Constitution: Reflections on Ghana’s Current Constitutional Review

June 08, 2011
03:00 pm - 04:30 pm

How (Not) to Write an African Constitution: Reflections on Ghana’s Current Constitutional Review from National Endowment for Democracy on Vimeo.


H. Kwasi Prempeh
Reagan-Fascell Democracy Fellow

With comments by

Larry Diamond (watch remarks)
Stanford University

Moderated by

Marc F. Plattner
International Forum for Democratic Studies

Ghana has long been hailed as a democratic success story—a model for other African countries seeking to curtail executive power and install rule of law. After nearly two decades of successful multi-party democracy, Ghana is in the midst of a constitutional review process that aims to further strengthen its political institutions. However, presidential dominance remains a problem, and the country’s current review process lacks both the urgency and the consensus seen recently in Kenya. Many Ghanaians indeed question the need to reform a constitution that has seemingly served Ghana so well. Others who are critical of excess executive power argue that the constitution’s current defects are the result of flawed design, not implementation. In his presentation, H. Kwasi Prempeh assessed these viewpoints and explained how conventional approaches to constitution-writing in Africa have left in place some of the most problematic features of its authoritarian past. Larry Diamond provided comments.


H. Kwasi Prempeh is a professor at Seton Hall University School of Law, where he teaches courses in constitutional law and comparative constitutionalism. A staunch proponent of liberal policy and legal reform in Ghana, he previously served as director of legal policy and governance at the Ghana Center for Democratic Development, the country’s leading liberal-democratic think tank, based in Accra. Professor Prempeh is now a member of the Center’s board of directors and coedits its quarterly Democracy Watch. A noted expert on democratization and constitutionalism in Africa, he has authored numerous articles for peer-reviewed journals and law reviews, including the Journal of Democracy, the International Journal of Constitutional Law, and the Tulane Law Review. During his fellowship, Professor Prempeh plans to undertake a comprehensive review of Ghana’s constitutional system and legal traditions in order to identify ways in which contemporary constitutional design and the existing regime of laws have been complicit in the entrenchment of the country’s imperial presidency.

Larry Diamond is director of Stanford University’s Center on Democracy, Development, and the Rule of Law, where he is also a senior fellow at the Freeman Spogli Institute and the Hoover Institution and a professor of political science and sociology.


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