Global Book Series - A Theory of African Constitutionalism

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A Theory of African Constitutionalism by Berihun Gebeye 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.

Berihun Gebeye will be joined in conversation by Professor James Fowkes (Westfälische Wilhelms-Universität, Münster) and Associate Professor Murray Wesson (University of Western Australia). This event will be chaired by Professor Rosalind Dixon (UNSW).


Berihun Gebeye 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.

James Fowkes is Professor für Ausländisches und Internationales Recht at the Westfälische Wilhelms-Universität, Münster. He holds law degrees from Wits and Yale Law School, where he completed his doctorate. In 2008, James was law clerk at the South African Constitutional Court. He is the author of Building the Constitution: The Practice of Constitutional Interpretation in post-Apartheid South Africa (CUP, 2016) and, with Susan Rose-Ackerman and Stefanie Egidy, Due Process of Lawmaking: The United States, South Africa, Germany, and the European Union (CUP, 2015); he was also lead author of the International Commission of Jurists’ report, Access to Justice: Human Rights Abuses Involving Corporations: South Africa (2010).

Murray Wesson is an Associate Professor in the Law School, University of Western Australia. He completed his LLB at the University of KwaZulu-Natal in Durban, South Africa. Thereafter he studied at the University of Oxford on the KwaZulu-Natal Rhodes Scholarship, where he completed a Bachelor of Civil Law, MPhil and DPhil degrees. He has taught at the Universities of KwaZulu-Natal, Oxford and Leeds, and been a visiting lecturer at the Central European University in Budapest and the Law Institute in Jersey. Murray researches in the areas of constitutional law, human rights law, and legal theory.

Rosalind Dixon is a Professor of Law and Director of the Gilbert + Tobin Centre of Public Law at UNSW. She previously held an appointment at the University of Chicago Law School and is a leading comparative constitutional law expert and the immediate past president of the International Society of Public Law.