n South African Journal on Human Rights - Constitutional accommodation of ethno-cultural diversity in the post-colonial African state

Volume 24, Issue 3
  • ISSN : 0258-7203



The issue of minorities or the question of the accommodation of ethnic diversity is a longstanding dilemmas that has continued to trouble the post-colonial African state. Despite more than four decades of nation-building, most African states lack national cohesion and suffer from problems of ethnic conflicts. This article submits that this is largely attributable to the nature of Africa's post-colonial nation-building process. The first and main aim of this article is accordingly to investigate the nature of post-colonial nation-building. To this end, the paper interrogates the nature of constitutional and policy approaches of the post-colonial African state to this dilemma and explicates why and how these approaches have failed. As the investigation reveals, one of the characteristics of the post-colonial nation-building and constitutional discourse and practice in Africa was the refusal to take due account of Africa's ethno-cultural diversity and develop relevant institutions and policies for the accommodation of the interests and identity of the different communities that together constitute the modern African state. Second, against the premise of the imperative of the politics of recognition, using materials from liberal multiculturalism and international human rights, the article argues for and sketches out an alternative constitutional framework that facilitates the accommodation of the interests and identity of members of various groups in the process of national integration. This anaysis reveals that South Africa represents a good example of a country with such a constitutional framework, from which other African countries can identify important insights for building a democratic constitutional order that adequately accommodates their diversity.

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