On the Divide between Constitutional Legislation and Constitutional Reality in the Democratization Process in Benin

Nord-Sued aktuell, Vol. 1, pp. 73-84, 1996

19 Pages Posted: 27 Oct 2007

See all articles by Dirk Kohnert

Dirk Kohnert

GIGA - Hamburg, Institute of African Affairs


The process of democratization in Benin has been praised as a model for the whole of francophone Africa. Initiated by an independent National-Conference the process of democratic renewal started with a bloodless coup of representatives of different groups of the civil society. Declared aims of this conference were, to guarantee basic human rights, to substitute the Marxist Kerekou-Regime by a democratic elected government, and to draft a new liberal-democratic constitution. Officially, each of these aims had been reached within one year. The new constitution was adopted through a referendum by a large majority of the population in December 1990. In the following four years the formal constitutional political structures, meant to guarantee the balance of power were implanted. However, the political elite which dominated the democratization process pursued a hidden agenda. Moreover, the liberalization of society and economy, propagated by the international donor community, had ambiguous effects. The growth of the market economy had it repercussions not just within the realm of the economy, e.g. privatisation, separation of factors of production, land, labour, and capital, creation of business- and professional organizations. The transformation from subsistence into a market-economy was equally important concerning restructuring the political landscape. The adoption of democratic concepts by the population, based on neo-liberal concepts of exchange of equivalents via the market, the notion of equal legal status of all citizens, equal competition of politicians and political parties, and achievement-orientation, led to high flying expectations, but at the same time to a commercialization of social and political relations, including venality. Besides, democratization in Benin, the cradle of vodun, was neatly interwoven with the realm of occult belief systems. Both within the economy and politics, the established traditional rules of the informal sector dominated the political agenda of the neo-patrimonial state. Gender- and class specific interests of decision makers exerted a decisive influence on the democratisation process.

Note: Downloadable document is in German.

Keywords: democratization, transition, constitutional development, human rights, justice, Benin

JEL Classification: D63, P37, P48, Z13

Suggested Citation

Kohnert, Dirk, On the Divide between Constitutional Legislation and Constitutional Reality in the Democratization Process in Benin. Nord-Sued aktuell, Vol. 1, pp. 73-84, 1996, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1024706

Dirk Kohnert (Contact Author)

GIGA - Hamburg, Institute of African Affairs ( email )

German Inst. of Global and Area Studies (GIGA)
Neuer Jungfernstieg 21
D-20354 Hamburg

HOME PAGE: http://dirk2011.jimdo.com/

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