The Bonavero Institute of Human Rights in partnership with the South African Institute for Advanced Constitutional, Public, Human Rights and International Law (SAIFAC) is delighted to host the launch of Berihun Gebeye's new book A Theory of African Constitutionalism (OUP, 2021).
SAIFAC is a centre of the University of Johannesburg and a leading research centre in South Africa producing advanced research in its focus areas. It also aims to foster collaboration and engagement between academics and members of the legal community across South Africa and internationally, and to advance constitutionalism, human rights and the rule of law in Southern Africa. To this end, it organises a seminar series and several conferences each year, makes submissions on law reform, engages actively in the public sphere and helps develop a new generation of public law academics.
A Theory of African Constitutionalism asks and seeks to answer why we need a new theoretical framework for African constitutionalism and how this could offer us better theoretical and practical tools with which to understand, improve, and assess African constitutionalism on its own terms. By locating constitutional studies in Africa within the experiences, interactions, and contestations of power and governance beginning in precolonial times, the book presents the development and transformation of African constitutional systems across time and place, along with the attendant constitutional designs and practices ranging from the nature and operation of the African state to its vertical and horizontal government structures, to its constitutional rights regime. This title offers both a theoretically and comparatively rich, historically and contextually informed, and temporally and spatially extensive account of the nature, travails, and incremental successes of African constitutionalism with detailed case studies from Nigeria, Ethiopia, and South Africa. 'A Theory of African Constitutionalism' provides scholars, policymakers, governments, and constitution builders in Africa and beyond with new insights for reimagining the purpose, substance, and scope of constitutions and constitutionalism.
is a Humboldt Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the Max Planck Institute for Comparative Public Law and International Law in Heidelberg. He teaches and researches comparative constitutional law, human rights, and international law and development in Africa using interdisciplinary approaches and materials. Previously, Berihun has been a postdoctoral research fellow at the University of Göttingen and a Visiting Scholar at the Columbia Law School, the Center for Socio-Legal Studies of the University of Oxford and the Max Planck Institute for the Study of Religious and Ethnic Diversity; a Global Teaching Fellow at the University of Yangon (Myanmar), a Lecturer at Jigjiga University Law School (Ethiopia), and a Visiting Professor at the Central European University. Berihun holds degrees in law, human rights, and comparative constitutional law and has extensively published in these fields with a focus on Africa. He received several awards and fellowships from different institutions.
DiscussantsDr Zim Nwokora
is a Senior Lecturer in Politics and Policy Studies at Deakin University, Melbourne, Australia. A comparative political scientist by background, his research concentrates on political parties, constitutions and democracy, drawing on evidence from Australia, Nigeria, the United Kingdom and the United States. His work on these topics appears (or is forthcoming) in outlets such as Party Politics, Political Studies, Parliamentary Affairs and International Journal of Constitutional Law. He studied at St Anne’s College, Oxford as an undergraduate (BA, PPE) and graduate student (MPhil, Comparative Government; DPhil, Politics), and was a (casual) tutor in politics there before moving to Australia in 2010 to take up postdoctoral fellowships, first at Griffith University (Brisbane) and then at Melbourne Law School. He currently serves on the Executive Council of the Political Organizations and Parties section of the American Political Science Association and as an Advisory Board Member of the International Society of Public Law (ICON-S), Australia/New Zealand Branch.
Sindiso Mnisi Weeks
is Associate Professor of Law and Society in the School for Global Inclusion and Social Development at the University of Massachusetts Boston, and Adjunct Associate Professor in Public Law at the University of Cape Town. Her work has combined research, advocacy and policy work on women, property, governance, dispute management, and participation under customary law and the South African Constitution. Mnisi Weeks received her DPhil from the University of Oxford’s Centre for Socio-Legal Studies, as a Rhodes Scholar, and previously clerked for then Deputy Chief Justice of the Constitutional Court of South Africa, Dikgang Moseneke. She has authored Access to Justice and Human Security: Cultural Contradictions in Rural South Africa
(Routledge, 2018) and co-authored African Customary Law in South Africa: Post-Apartheid and Living Law Perspectives
(OUPSA, 2015). Mnisi Weeks's current projects include authoring a book on Rule of Law in Context: South Africa
(Hart Publishing) with Heinz Klug and Sanele Sibanda, and a new monograph whose working title is Behind the Veil of Isidwaba: Rural South African Women Lay Down the Law
. She is also an in-coming editor of one of the American Anthropological Association’s official journals, Political and Legal Anthropology Review (PoLAR)
.Adem K Abebe
(LL.D) supports constitutional building processes, particularly in transitions to peace and democracy in politically complex and fragile contexts as part of the Constitution Building Team of the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance
(IDEA). He has convened platforms for dialogue, advised and provided technical assistance to high level constitution and decision makers at national and international levels, and advised and trained civil society stakeholders - including women, youth, the media and traditional leaders in diverse contexts. He has published op-eds in prominent international, African, and Ethiopian outlets, has regularly appeared as commentator on major radio and television broadcasters, and has published in prominent academic journals on comparative constitutional law and practice. Adem serves in the Executive Committee of the African Network of Constitutional Law
, and in the Advisory Board of the International Journal of Constitutional Law
. He has been invited as a neutral expert in prominent court cases, including by the Ethiopian Council of Constitutional Inquiry, and was cited by the Kenyan Court of Appeal.
is the inaugural Director of the Bonavero Institute of Human Rights and a former judge of the South African Constitutional Court (1994 – 2009). In the mid-1980s she practiced as a lawyer in Johannesburg in a variety of fields, but especially labour law and land law, representing many of the emerging trade unions and their members, as well as communities threatened with eviction under apartheid land laws. In 1990, she joined the Faculty of Law at UCT where she taught a range of courses including race, gender and the law, labour law, civil procedure and evidence. Since her fifteen-year term at the South African Constitutional Court ended in 2009, she has amongst other things served as an ad hoc judge of the Supreme Court of Namibia (from 2010 - 2016), Chairperson of the Khayelitsha Commission of Inquiry into allegations of police inefficiency and a breakdown in trust between the police and the community of Khayelitsha (2012 – 2014), and as a member of the boards or advisory bodies of many NGOs working in the fields of democracy, the rule of law, human rights and equality.