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Constitutionalism

  • Good Governance: The way Forward by Francis M. Ssekandi

    Ssekandi's article addresses an important subject, which is at the very core of the turbulence, which has bedeviled Africa. The article discusses the issue of good governance as generally understood and provides a more workable definition beyond a matter of process and institutions for exercise of power. Good Governance is, instead, defined as "the legitimate use of political authority in the exercise of control over a society and management of its resources for social and economic development of its people." The article goes on to list the essential elements of good governance that ought to be the center of the reform agenda in Africa in order to institute and ensure a measure of democratic governance. These are summarized under the following headings: accountability and responsibility; checks and balances, (capacity building of the core power centres: the legislature, executive and judiciary); devolution of powers/ decentralization (to include local administrations and civil society in policy formulation and implementation) and sustainable development. The article cautions that in designing programs, it is essential to bear in mind that, reforms in the area of Good Governance touch upon the core political institutions of a State, such as the legislature, the judiciary and civil service. For these reforms to be successful, they must win the acceptance of, not only the Government but also the people at large, and therefore require the widest possible consultation before being implemented. There must be a sense of ownership of the reform programs by the country as a whole.

    A major contribution of the article is the discussion on the rule of law and electoral reforms. On this subject the article states: "The constitution is a 'social compact' between the people and their Government and among themselves. It is regarded as the basic law by which Government exercises its functions for the benefit of the People. In recent past, donors have supported many countries in the drafting of their Constitutional documents and funded elections as a means to establishing democratic rule. However, Constitutions and elections are no panacea and are definitely no guarantors for the Rule of Law. Constitutional reforms need to be supported by strong institutions, such as: a free press - to ensure free speech; multi-party democracy - to ensure freedom of association and an independent judiciary -to guarantee the administration of justice under law."

    On electoral reforms, the article asserts that winner take all has failed to work in Africa and the various Western models of Government, the Westminster model or United States/French presidential models have been tried and failed to take root in Africa, largely because for lack of time limits or where provided the ease with which they are eliminated, once a party is entrenched in power, it often uses all the state's machinery to maintain itself perpetually in power. The article proposes, instead to adopt a system of proportional representation in the conduct of elections, using the party roll to avoid election malpractices and selection of the Head of State by the majority party for the time being. The Head of State should be mandated to form a Government of national unity, which the paper refers to as "proportionate governance", but allocating ministerial positions, from sitting Members of Parliament, according the numbers participating parties in Parliament earned in the election.

    The article concludes by appealing to governments and international partners to double resources in education, with special emphasis on technical education. The article states that there is a need for technical assistance and resources to invest in foreign experts in schools, colleges and universities and to create cottage industries. Observing that modern computer and Internet technology have ushered in opportunities that never existed before, and many foreign companies are constantly seeking partners to build factories to produce modern equipment with relatively inexpensive labor, Africa can tap into this opportunity by encouraging talented pupils who specialize in subjects like mathematics, biology and chemistry to work with foreign internet and biotechnology companies, with a view to relocating industries and services in Africa, to promote urgently needed skills, provide employment and eventually usher in an industrial revolution.


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