Common African Political Governance Issues: Lessons from Six Early APRM Reports
With the exception of South Africa, it is clear that the biggest overall political and governance problem in the countries reviewed is the lack of constitutionalism. In most cases, provisions in the constitution are disregarded in practice. The APRM CRRs emphasise the need to conform to African and international standards. However, as this study reveals, while constitutional commitments may be a key preliminary step, they do not guarantee implementation. Questions remain as to how the APRM can ensure that its members abide by the principles of constitutionalism and how informal power structures can be eradicated in African governance. The APRM has shown its ability to act as an early warning mechanism, as it identifi ed the potential for violent ethnic clashes in Kenya and xenophobic violence in South Africa. However, the governments of both countries failed to act on the recommendations made in the reports, and violence broke out in both states. It is therefore valid to question the role that the APRM plays in African governance if its recommendations are disregarded by its member states. Solutions to the problems identified in this study require the exercise of significant political will by the governments involved.
Participation in the APRM process indicates a willingness by individual states to change their governance rules and structures if need be; however, we are yet to see the necessary will to commit efforts and resources to eradicating the problems identified throughout this paper. Thus, in order for the APRM to become a catalyst for positive governance change in Africa, joining the mechanism should remain voluntary, but following up on the recommendations should become mandatory.
Many of the governance issues identified in this paper are not exclusive to the APRM pioneer states or the African continent in general. Corruption and executive dominance are problems that occur worldwide – including in the most advanced democratic states. However, in Africa, these issues are more pronounced than elsewhere, because constitutionalism is weakly implemented and the rule of law and accountability are not entrenched in political systems. Adherence to constitutionalism and the rule of law would solve many of Africa's other governance problems. However, given African states' record of political systems where formal and informal rules exist side by side, this is no easy task. Should the APRM recommendations become mandatory, its member states would be forced to implement them, most likely under supervision from their ‘peers’ or an overarching APRM body, thus ensuring compliance. Such a scenario would be politically unprecedented, but may be the only way to strengthen good governance in Africa. Joining the APRM shows political will on behalf of a state's leaders to open themselves up to review, identify governance issues and discuss the way forward with their peers. Now these leaders need to show that they also have the necessary political will to produce positive change in their countries-with the help of the APRM.