Beyond formalism: problems and prospects of aspirational principles in African federal constitutionalism. Nigeria, Ethiopia and South Africa in comparative perspective

Constitutions are often sources of shared values, as they may contain aspirational principles that guide public and private behaviors and to which citizens aspire. Along with common principles such as democracy or justice, there are other values that are more specific to the history and social context of a country. Some scholar contends that even federalism can be added to the aspirational features of a constitution, perhaps because of its ideal way of sharing powers. This presentation looks at three established African federations and offers a comparative account of the following aspirational values: federal character (Nigeria), solidarity between different communities and cooperative government (South Africa), ethnicity (Ethiopia). Once entrenched in a constitution, these principles become aspirational because they may direct policies to foster equality, eliminate obstacles or require the various tiers of government to collaborate harmoniously in the performance of their functions.