chapter  3
Ethnicity, Constitutionalism, and Governance in Africa
ByAfrica John Mukum Mbaku
Pages 42

In the last several years, ethnic conflict has become endemic in Africa. In many parts of the continent, inter-ethnic conflict has deteriorated into wars that have claimed the lives of hundreds of thousands of people-recent examples include Sudan, Nigeria, Burundi, Rwanda, South Africa, Ethio­ pia, Mozambique, Somalia, and Angola. Much has been written about such destructive ethnic conflict (see, e.g., Young, 1976; Horowitz, 1985). In this chapter, we argue that most of the destructive ethnic conflict that has pervaded most of post-independence Africa has been due primarily to the adoption at independence, of institutional arrangements that (1) failed to adequately constrain the power of government; (2) did not guarantee economic freedoms; and (3) failed to provide procedures for the peaceful resolution of the conflicting interests of the various ethnic groups within each country. In fact, in many instances, the laws and institutions adopted, allowed some ethnic groups to dominate governance and use governmental structures to enrich themselves at the expense of the rest of society. Unable to become part of the ruling coalition, and thus excluded from effective and full participation in economic and political markets, many of the excluded

ethnic groups turned to violence as a way to minimize further marginaliza­ tion. We then advance reconstruction of the post-colonial state through proper constitution making as the most effective way to deal with the ‘ethnic problem’ in Africa.