Skip to main content
    • Aa
    • Aa

‘Hands off my constitution’: Constitutional reform and the workings of democracy in Mali*

  • Susanna D. Wing (a1)

Constitutions in Africa are often considered fragile. Mali is an example of both constitutional crisis and constitutional durability. While Mali was upheld as a democratic model, the 2012 military coup might lead one to argue that Mali's recent history reflects constitutional weakness. However, the swift reinstatement of the constitution, popular commitment to its preservation, and attempts to pursue the post-coup transition in a constitutional manner all illustrate the domestic and international legitimacy of Mali's 1992 constitution. This article analyses the process of the proposed Malian constitutional referendum that, though constitutional in itself, contributed to the March 2012 overthrow of President Touré. It argues that the history of participatory constitutionalism in Mali contributed to the movement against the referendum. Constitutional reform is a necessity for an enduring constitution and this article sheds light on constitutional reform in states with weak legislatures, and illustrates the process of reform and the political divide that surrounded it in Mali. It provides a unique analysis of the crisis in Mali while at the same time making a contribution to our understanding of constitutionalism and constitutional reform in Africa.

Corresponding author
Hide All

The author would like to thank the participants and organisers of the workshop ‘The Gap from Parchment to Practice: Ambivalent Effects of Constitutions in Democratizing Countries’ held at American University 28–29 May 2013 for their insights into this paper. The author would also like to thank anonymous reviewers for their helpful comments. Any errors are my own.

Linked references
Hide All

This list contains references from the content that can be linked to their source. For a full set of references and notes please see the PDF or HTML where available.

V. Baudais & G. Chauzal . 2006. ‘Les partis politiques et ‘l'indépendance partisane’ d'Amadou Toumani Touré’, Politique africaine, 104: 6180.

S. Chambers 2001. ‘Constitutional referendums and democratic deliberation’, in M. Mendelsohn & A. Parkin , eds. Referendum Democracy: citizens, elites and deliberation in referendum campaigns. New York, NY: Palgrave, 231–55.

J. Hatchard , M. Ndulo & P. Slinn . 2004. Comparative Constitutionalism and Good Governance in the Commonwealth: an Eastern and Southern African perspective. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

S. Tierney 2012. Constitutional Referendums: the theory and practice of republican deliberation. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

The Journal of Modern African Studies
  • ISSN: 0022-278X
  • EISSN: 1469-7777
  • URL: /core/journals/journal-of-modern-african-studies
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *


Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 7
Total number of PDF views: 73 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 223 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between September 2016 - 28th June 2017. This data will be updated every 24 hours.