Judicial contributions to democratization: cases from post-war Africa

This paper considers post-Cold War African cases relevant to the issue of democratization. Institutional weakness continues to cripple some African courts, but others repay richer study. The Constitutional Court of Benin, stand-out of West Africa, has played a regular role in electoral disputes. The Kenyan Supreme Court has adopted a bolder, if sometimes precarious, stance under the new 2010 Constitution, including invalidating a presidential election in 2017. Both the Botswanan and South African courts have become noticeably bolder, relative to their respective baselines, as checks on their dominant parties. Such examples merit attention to promote discussion of the under-acknowledged role courts can play in the AU’s aspirational efforts to promote African democratization; to facilitate intra-African comparison; and to challenge perceptions that African courts are too inaccessible, poorly studied or depressingly dysfunctional to merit repay serious comparative attention.