Raymond Atuguba

Senior Lecturer in Law, Faculty of Law, University of Ghana


Fall 2011: Sheila Biddle Ford Foundation Fellow

Three Ways of Looking at Law in Africa

Project Description

Three Ways of Looking at Law in Africa

In the last two years, I have been on sabbatical from the Law Faculty of the University of Ghana, working as the Executive Secretary and Principal Researcher at the Constitution Review Commission, a Presidential Commission set up in Ghana to review the operation of that country’s two-decade old, longest-lasting Constitution.

The consultative phase, utilizing traditional and innovative hi-tech mechanisms, produced 85,000 submissions from all over the country and from Ghanaians in the Diaspora on governance in Ghana, and is very revealing about what Ghanaians want their Constitution to be for them and their aspirations for a future polity.

The research phase, utilizing a historical institutionalist approach and a problem-solving methodology, evoked the many challenges of dealing with the issues that confront governance in democracies all over the world, whilst testing the resilience of the many theories that are applied to building these democracies.

The review exercise oftentimes disturbed the thin veneer of constitutional and statutory cover over the maze of Customary Law issues that implicate critical national concerns. The conceptual complexities that are created by the inclusion of Customary Law in the maze of governance issues further sullied the capacities of the existing democratic models and solutions.

Finally, the entire process of policymaking, to end with the expression of those policies as legislation, would affect the lives of all Ghanaians, and implicates several decision points. The decision points, which constitute policy spaces are traditionally constructed to be conducive to lawyers and are often hijacked by them. Swimming fast and with strong strokes, the legal profession has contaminated virtually all other legitimate policy sources it cannot control and exterminated those that are weak. This project sought to avoid this, since the legal profession has often waded deep into policy arenas it may not be able to understand, contain and manage. The extent to which it was able to do this and the changes it encountered are instructive on how critical players in a polity influence its destiny.

My project is to deeply reflect on all of these during my stay in Harvard and construct a project to work on in the next couple of years.

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