Call for Papers–Symposium on Constitutional Change and Transformation in Africa



Event Date: 

06/9/16 to 06/10/16

Location name: 

Nakuru, Kenya


Kabarak University School of Law Centre for Jurisprudence & Constitutional Studies in collaboration with Boston College Law School

Kabarak University School of Law, Boston College Law School and the International Society of Public Law invite submissions for a two-day Symposium on Constitutional Change and Transformation in Africa, to be held on the campus of Kabarak University in Nakuru on Thursday and Friday, June 9-10, 2016.

The keynote speaker for this event will be Dr. Willy Mutunga, Chief Justice and the President of the Supreme Court of the Republic of Kenya.

This Symposium is convened by Duncan Okubasu (Kabarak) and Richard Albert (Boston College).

About the Symposium

Nearly every country in Africa has amended, revised or replaced its constitution over the last forty years. Yet constitutional change on the continent remains largely underexplored, save for a few prominent exceptions.

Constitutional change in Africa raises fascinating questions in constitutional design and and its connection to political culture. Political actors in Africa have often resorted to extra-constitutional strategies to make changes to their constitution, undermining or indeed altogether bypassing the formal procedures for amendment, revision or replacement. They have relied on all manner of means to achieve their objectives, from political entrenchment through law, to strictly legalistic but substantively unconstitutional processes, and to military coups. The common refrain has consequently become that African states have “constitutions without constitutionalism.”

But there are signs of change. Although recent events in Burundi, Egypt, Madagascar, Mali and Tunisia show that progress is fragile, the prospects for constitutionalism in Africa are brighter today than before.

In 2007, the African Union adopted the African Charter of Governance, Elections and Democracy to address its concern “about the unconstitutional changes of governments that are one of the essential causes of insecurity, instability and violent conflict in Africa.” One of the purposes of the Charter is to “entrench in the Continent a political culture of change of power based on the holding of regular, free, fair and transparent elections conducted by competent, independent and impartial national electoral bodies,” and to “promote and strengthen good governance through the institutionalization of transparency, accountability and participatory democracy.” The Constitution of Kenya, adopted three years after the Charter, remains stable to this day. And the transformative Constitution of South Africa will soon mark its twentieth anniversary in 2016.

This Symposium on Constitutional Change and Transformation in Africa will be an occasion to discuss and diagnose specific episodes and larger trends in constitutional change in Africa, and to look ahead to the future of constitutionalism on the continent.

Papers are welcomed on any subject of constitutional change from comparative, doctrinal, historical, philosophical, sociological and theoretical perspectives. A non-exhaustive list of possible subjects include:

  1. Constitutional endurance in Africa;
  2. The (in)significance of formal rules of constitutional change;
  3. The place of informal rules of constitutional change;
  4. The role of the people and political institutions in constitutional change and transformation;
  5. The social, political, and economic dimensions of constitutional change;
  6. The influence of transnational constitutional norms on constitutional change.


Submissions are invited from scholars of all ranks, including doctoral students.


The Convenors intend to publish the papers in an edited book or in a special issue of a law journal. An invitation to participate in this Symposium will be issued to a participant on the following conditions: (1) the participant agrees to submit an original, unpublished paper ranging between 9,000 and 12,000 words consistent with the submission guidelines issued by the Symposium Convenors; (2) the participant agrees to submit a pre-Symposium draft by Monday, April 4, 2016; and (3) the participant agrees to submit a full post-Symposium final draft by Monday, August 15, 2016.

Submission Instructions

Interested scholars should email biographical information and an abstract by Monday, November 2, 2015 to on the understanding that the abstract will form the basis of the pre-Symposium draft to be submitted by Monday, April 4, 2016. Scholars should identify their submission with the following subject line: “Kabarak University—Abstract Submission—Change and Transformation.”


Successful applicants will be notified no later than Friday, December 4, 2015.


Kabarak University has generously offered to cover the cost of accommodations and meals on the days of the Symposium. Successful applicants are responsible for securing their own funding for travel.