I am writing from Zambia ,a Country in Southern Africa.In my country there is currently an impasse on the amendment of the National Constitution.We got independent from British Rule in 1964 and since then we have had three attempts at reviewing and amending the costitution so that it is people-driven and people- centred.In all the three reviews our politicians (Particularly presidents) have manipulated the final product in order to suit their needs.In short the constitutions have not been people-centred
The most recent review commission (2003) proposed adoption through a Constituent Assembly (which is a popular method).However,there is a lot of resistance and reluctance from the ruling party.This has led to conflicts between government,Civil society,the church and student bodies.
I wish to find out from forum members:
1)The processes and challenges of adoption through a Constituent Assembly;
2)Other popular methods used successfully elsewhere.

Am following the debate locally and any information given would be very useful.

Mike.

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I am not an expert on constitutional change, however I think there could be some valuable lessons from the role of non-violence in political change. See the work of the International Center for Non-violence, www.icnl.org, United States Institute of Peace, www.usip.org, Freedom House, www.freedomhouse.org (there are many other centers).
That is a such a difficult issue. Serbia has passed trough similar situation for few times last 15 years. Last time, hopefully not least, was a year ago: the same confrontation of politicians, church, civil society and many professional groups in the country. Our problem was lack of public discussion, which have been withhold for few years, even was known Constitution is in preparation. Then, of cores, Government popped up with emergency call for national unification "front of danger of Kosovo loss" (preamble of Constitution is referring to Kosovo as inalienable Serbian territory). Following was - enormous number of voters FOR Constitution.
I think two thinks can be useful, watching from our case (and maybe other cases too, I don't know):
- public discussion is essential - I would always put huge pressure to government to provide proper presentation and opportunity for professional groups to give comments. Try not to give up on that, no matter what. Good think is you have students on your side. I would play on pressure, if needed, even on streets.
- flexible model of Constitution - I would say, that is the only (theoreticaly) good think about compromises made over our Constitution among political opponents. They predict opportunity for much easier changes of Constitutional articles then was the case before. In fact, it can be changed quite easily. Of cores, we have problem that our politics is not interested in general improvement, but that is an other story.

I hope I was clear enough with my clumsy English expressions. Here I am if you need anything. hope this is helpful.
Cross fingers for you, Jelena
Prof. Marcia,
Thanks for your insight.In relation to this subject I wish to add the following information.
It has been our long held desire as Citizens of Zambia to have a people- driven constitution.By this I mean people's PARTICIPATION.To a certain extent,this has been there because each time there is a proposed amendment,there is a review commision that goes to our provinces of our country gathering the views of people.The most disappointing thing is that even if people are consulted in such a manner,most of their views do not find their way into the fial document.The politician,like I said earlier,will remove any proposal that they feel are a threat to their personal and partisan ambitions.Thats why I said the constitutin in NOT PEOPLE-CENTRED.It is centred on the selfish motives of a few political leaders.
I wish to further list some contentious or controversial elements or contents of our current constititution.
1.There is a parentage clause which requires one to have been born of Zambian parents for them to contest Presidential Elections.This is highly discriminatory and was included by our former president to stop a potential threat from contesting the elections .(Mind you,our first National President was "suspected" to have been born of foreign parents but here in Zambia; and it is widely believed that this was targeted at him);
2. The constitution does not allow any one person to rule for more than 2 ten-year terms;No too long ago,our immediate past president tried to seek an amendment to allow a third term;this again was against the wishes of the people and we dont want anyone to manipulate the constitution just to suit their needs.We want a Constutution that can stand the test of time! and not one that can be amended and manipulated at will!
3.The current constitution is very weak in terms of its content on Economic,Social and Cultural rights of the people of Zambia.We cannot hold governement accountable for any of its misdeeds.No wonder they have accumulated enormous debts (with IMF and World Bank) at the expense of the people.Money meant for development goes to debt servicing.And we have now submitted that parliamentary approval be sought before debt contracts.
4.In the current setting,the announcement of Presidential elections date remains the prerogative of the sitting president who can do it at a time when his/her opponents may not be ready.This is an ambush.We have therefore submitted that a standard elections date be set and included in the constitution.All this is not welcome by the reigning government;
5.Currently anyone can rule our country through a simple majority of votes.Even where one got 20% of votes and the rest are split among other political parties,they will rule provided 20% is higher than the other indivudual vote splits.We as citizens have proposed at least 51% votes for one to rule.Again the politicians view this as a threat!
6.Then there is the issue of presidential immunity for crimes committed by presidents.We dont want this!

I can go on listing the problematic contents of our constitution.But in summary what I can say is that the people of Zambia have recommended that the Politicians should not be allowed to adopt the constitution,Approve it as well as Enact it.
We want the adoption to be done by a people-representative group (which we are calling the Constituent Assembly); The people to approve the final document through a REFERANDUM and parliament to finally Enact into the fundamental law of the land.
Politicias are scared of all this and they want to hijack the process.
There is a Coalition of the Church,Civil Society,Students and general citizenry known as THE OASIS FORUM.It is a pressure group as well as watch dog to ensure we are not manipulated yet again.It is clear from recent government pronouncements that they want to sideline the OASIS FORUM in the constitutional process.But the resistance continues!!
I hope I made myself more clearer.I need information because
Hi Marcia and Mike
There is a lot of interesting work and literature these days on conflict and corruption, as well as corporate governance. See the work of www.international-alert.org , www.ashoka.org and also transparency international.
It is clear that there is no easy answer for how to promote accountability, transparency and citizen involvement in any given country. It takes a lot of cooperation among civil society actors, international partners, business and many other sectors.
Dear Prof. Benda:

I would like to comment on your posting and cite the example of my country because Zambia and the Philippines have similarities. I am not saying though that my country's experience is better because as we have learned in Sociology while there are culture universals, no culture can claim superiority over the other. In the end it is your political culture or standards that you will have to use in evaluating your politics. However, perhaps, we can learn from each other. That might be one of the unwritten raison d'tre for this website.

I had a former classmate from Zambia in a peace and conflict research course in Uppsala, Sweden whose name is Edgar Bwalia. He eventually took post gradute studies in U.K. but I lost contact with him. He must be an expert or especialist now on peace research or conflict management. If you happen to meet him or communicate with him, please extend my warm regards.

1.There is a parentage clause which requires one to have been born of Zambian parents for them to contest Presidential Elections.This is highly discriminatory and was included by our former president to stop a potential threat from contesting the elections .(Mind you,our first National President was "suspected" to have been born of foreign parents but here in Zambia; and it is widely believed that this was targeted at him);

COMMENT:

I know of two principles in determing citizenship by birth. One, is jus sanguinis, which is based on blood relations. Meaning that a child is a citizen and even a natural born citizen for as long as one of the parents has a similar blood. The other one is jus soli, or place of birth. Meaning, a person is citizen of that country from where he is born. The U.S. I think follows this principle.In the case of the former, jus sanguinis, the place of birth is not material for as long as the child has the blood of one of the parents. In the Philippines, we follow the jus sanguinis principle and the natural born-citizen requirement for very important positions in government such as the Presidency and the Vice Presiedency, Senators and the Justices of the Supreme Court.

2. The constitution does not allow any one person to rule for more than 2 ten-year terms;No too long ago,our immediate past president tried to seek an amendment to allow a third term;this again was against the wishes of the people and we dont want anyone to manipulate the constitution just to suit their needs.We want a Constutution that can stand the test of time! and not one that can be amended and manipulated at will!

COMMENT:

In the Philippines under our amended 1935 Constitution, we used to have a 4-year term for the Presidency with one immediate reelection. After 8 years as President, he cannot run again immediately, although he can run again at some other time.Today, under the 1986 Consittution, the President is entitled only to one 6-year term without any reelection at any other time. I think that your 2 ten-year term for the Zambian President is very long. One of the hallmarks of democracy is frequency of elections and the regular changing of leaders.

3.The current constitution is very weak in terms of its content on Economic,Social and Cultural rights of the people of Zambia.We cannot hold governement accountable for any of its misdeeds.No wonder they have accumulated enormous debts (with IMF and World Bank) at the expense of the people.Money meant for development goes to debt servicing.And we have now submitted that parliamentary approval be sought before debt contracts.

4.In the current setting,the announcement of Presidential elections date remains the prerogative of the sitting president who can do it at a time when his/her opponents may not be ready.This is an ambush.We have therefore submitted that a standard elections date be set and included in the constitution.All this is not welcome by the reigning government;

COMMENT:

You are correct. The date of election must

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