The Fingerprints of Empire on Constitutionalism in Postcolonial West Africa.

Maame A.S. Mensa-Bonsu (LSE)

Within a decade of becoming independent, the former British colonies in West Africa all abandoned the Westminster systems of their independence constitutions in favour of the presidential system epitomised by the United States. Despite this, their parliaments seem unwilling, or, perhaps, more accurately, unable to sustain the contentious relationship with the executive required for parliament to be an effective check on presidential power. What lies at the heart of this weakness in West African Parliaments? How is it affecting these countries’ constitutionalism efforts? In this paper, I study the current and historical constitutions of the countries formerly collectively known as British West Africa (Ghana, Nigeria, Sierra Leone and The Gambia) and in the light of selected contemporary events, identify and assess the fingerprints of empire on the separation of powers challenges in West African constitutions.