The African Network of Constitutional Lawyers (ANCL) in collaboration with the Department of law at the University of Botswana and partners, are organising the next ANCL Biennial Conference in Gaborone – Botswana in 2018 on the theme “Courts, Power and Constitutional Law in Africa”.




11 – 14 OCTOBER 2018





The African Network of Constitutional Lawyers (ANCL) in collaboration with the Department of law at the University of Botswana and partners, are organising the next ANCL Biennial Conference in Gaborone – Botswana in 2018 on the theme “Courts, Power and Constitutional Law in Africa”.

The progressive introduction and establishment of constitutional courts or special tribunals with explicit constitutional law and fundamental rights protection mandates across the continent has no doubt reached its highest point since the beginning of the 21st century. The most recent of which is the Constitutional Court of Zambia[1] has given rise to a variety of jurisdictional problems, risen the hope of a validated interpretation of the scope and context of fundamental rights protection and separation of powers in the governance of a state.

The rising powers and role of courts in general is perhaps one of the most substantial developments in African constitutionalism over the last two centuries. Today, Courts in Africa continue to play an increasingly central role in not only defining the relationship between state organs, including non-state actors and individual citizens, but also in determining directives, measures and scope of governance especially in the protection of vulnerable people within a state and ensuring that their constitutional and fundamental rights are protected at all times.  The veracity of this assertion is based on the practical view that naturally, it is within the scope and duty of courts to continuously interpret and enforce constitutional provisions guaranteeing the separation of powers and fundamental rights.

Beyond their mandate to protect constitutional and fundamental rights, several courts also play a role in safeguarding democratic governance or another form of governance a state might select. By so doing, many courts are also progressive and crucial in contributing to regional bodies such as the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights, The African Committee of Experts on the Rights and Welfare of the Child and the African Court on Human and People’s Rights through interpreting regional legal norms at domestic level in an attempt to domesticate such provisions.  

In understanding the underlying fundamentals of the role of courts, separation of powers and constitutional law development in Africa, this conference seeks to answer the following key questions:

  1. To what extent do courts succeed in fulfilling their mandate, and under what conditions?
  2. In the midst of concerns about national and regional security, the continuous raise of rebel groups, statelessness, HIV/AIDS, health concerns, maternal mortality, poverty and abuse of power, how should courts respond to such concerns without compromising the ideals of constitutional democracy?
  3. What are we to make of the continuous and non-democratic abuse of power on the continent and the role of courts, the executive and the legislature in the management and mismanagement of national and regional peace, and how it has affected the trust in democratic governance in Africa?
  4. To what extent does the social, economic and political power enjoyed by political elites, citizens or social movements contribute to the creation or success of judicial review at the national level? Is it time for Africa to rethink the conventional or craft its own understanding of separation of powers between the arms of government in the furtherance of good governance in Africa?
  5. What factors affect the design of courts and how does their design in turn affect their performance?
  6. What role in and influence of courts on constitution reform and amendment processes?
  7. What are the effects and implications of the expansive role of regional and sub-regional tribunals on the design, powers, and practice of domestic constitutional courts?


The organisers are inviting both experience and upcoming African constitutionalist or individuals interested in constitutionalism in Africa to submit papers responding to these questions or to any other question related to the general theme of the conference. In responding to these questions, attention should be paid to the social, economic and political context of judicial review at State levels in Africa. Also, prospective participants should pay attention to questions of public power: how, and under what conditions, do courts, the executive and legislature enjoy the power, legitimacy and independence necessary to serve as a balanced and meaningful check on national actors in the general foresight of advancing progressive democratic governance in Africa. We invite potential participants to reason closely within the framework of the theme of this conference and the questions it intends to answer when choosing a topic or approach for their papers or panels.  

Specifically, the organisers are calling on participants interested in presenting papers to pay attention on the following issues in answering the questions above:

  1. Constitutional courts as judicial bodies of principle pragmatism or precedent
  2. Public opinion and constitutional courts
  3. Constitutional courts as political actors
  4. Remedies fashioned by constitutional courts in Africa
  5. Direct access to Africa’s constitutional courts
  6. Reference procedures of African sub-regional courts
  7. Comparative constitutional methodologies adopted by African constitutional courts or use of foreign law by African constitutional courts
  8. Transformative constitutionalism and African constitutional courts. 


Also, addressing these questions is a key focus for much of the leading scholarship in Africa on comparative constitutional law jurisprudence, comparative politics, comparative administrative law, comparative jurisprudence on the adjudication of socio-economic and cultural rights, international law and good governance across the continent.

The conference will feature keynote addresses from both prominent and upcoming constitutionalist as well as plenary sessions focusing on the general theme of the conference. However, central to the structure of the Conference, they shall be two days dedicated to the papers and panels selected through this Call. The organisers welcome proposals for fully-formed panels[2] to respond to a particular or any aspect related to the central theme of the conference.

The conference will adopt a multidisciplinary approach.[3] As a result, papers and panel proposals need not be limited to legal measures, and may focus on any comparative, empirical, jurisprudential, philosophical or practical, policy-oriented perspective, related to the conference theme that would enhance constitutionalism in Africa, with an interest in the study of courts, power, and constitutional law in Africa.

We welcome submissions from both experienced and upcoming scholars, jurist and researchers as well as interested practitioners.

Abstracts should be limited to maximum 500 words. Participants are allowed to extend to all courts with constitutional review powers. The organisers are interested in papers that adopt an Inter-african comparative approach.

We plan to select maximum 25 papers that meet the modalities stated above – these papers will be peer reviewed and published.

All submissions must be made through the conference website - alternatively, through by November 30, 2017 latest.

Successful applicants will be notified by January 30, 2018.

All participants will be responsible for their own travel and accommodation expenses. However, the organisers are currently sourcing funds to support some deserving participants’ resident within the continent.



[1] See generally, Chapter VII of the 2015 Constitution of Zambia.

[2] Panel proposals should include at least three papers by scholars who have agreed in advance to participate.

[3] We particularly welcome paper or panel proposals that offer genuinely multi-disciplinary perspectives from various areas of law as well as from scholars in the humanities and the social sciences.