A major cause of political and constitutional instability in post-independence Africa was the ease with which political leaders subverted constitutionalism by arbitrarily changing constitutions to suit their political agendas. During the constitutional reforms of the 1990s many provisions were introduced in most African constitutions aimed at limiting the ability of governments to abusively change constitutions. Because of the critical importance of controlling the process of constitutional change to entrenching constitutionalism, this paper attempts to critically examine and analyze some of the different control devices that have been introduced. The objective is to see to what extent they may help not only to promote constitutionalism but also enhance constitutional durability and stability.
The first part considers why it is important for constitutional designers to include special procedures to regulate and control the constitutional amendment process. The second part examines the different amendment patterns in a number of selected African countries. The third part considers the practical implications of the various control devices in terms of their actual and potential impact on the nurturing and growth of constitutionalism on the continent. The paper concludes that although there has been some progress, more changes still need to be introduced to check the problem of arbitrary constitutional change in Africa.