Strauss Center Distinguished Scholar and CCAPS researcher Alan Kuperman's new book, Constitutions and Conflict Management in Africa: Preventing Civil War Through Institutional Design, was recently reviewed by Yonatan Fessha, Senior Lecturer at the University of the Western Cape, in The Journal of Modern African Studies. Fessha praises the book, writing that “This important contribution breathes life into an aspect of conflict management that is largely neglected in the literature: constitutional design.”
Fessha writes that Kuperman’s new volume investigates the role of constitutional design in reducing domestic conflict through the prism of “shocks.” A shock is described in the book as “a relatively sudden – or more gradual but especially large – change that affects the distribution of resources and power in a country, whether arising from economic, political, demographic or environmental dynamics.” Seven country case studies are used to explore how constitutional design interacts with “shocks” to increase or reduce the likelihood of a violent outcome: Burundi, Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, Senegal, Sudan, and Zimbabwe. Fessha also recommends that additional case studies using this methodology should be conducted for Ethiopia and South Africa to explore how their constitutions deal with communal divisions.
Overall, Fessha finds that the book fills an important gap in literature that rarely focuses on the capacity of existing constitutional design to absorb and respond to the many challenges that African countries face. Fessha concludes by asserting that the new book ought to generate further interest in the capacity and limitation of African constitutions to deal with the challenges of ethnicity that characterize many African countries. As he writes, “It will be useful for students of African constitutions and the divided societies the constitutions seek to regulate.”
The full review is available here.