Convergence or divergence in text and context? Reflections on constitutional preambles in the constitution-making exercises of post-independence Cameroon and post-apartheid South Africa

08 Aug 2019

In this article, I attempt to establish the need for the convergence of the spirit of the law—the Preamble—and the letter of the law—the provisions of the Constitution of Cameroon contained in its articles. First, I adduce prototypes or archetypes of ‘Jacobin constitutionalism’ and Anglo-Saxon-style constitutionalism as benchmarks through which I evaluate the extent to which the spirit and letter of the law of the Constitution of Cameroon have been converged. Having established the incongruence of the Preamble with these prototypes, I have referred to the Constitution of post-apartheid South Africa as a fitting paradigm that entrenches modern constitutionalism against which the Preamble to the Cameroon Constitution can be compared, revisited and revised. South Africa has been selected based on the view that, as another African country, it would serve as a more appropriate benchmark for reviewing the Preamble to the Cameroon Constitution than those of the United States, France or other Western nations, which might result instead in a skewed logic. Also, both countries have similar legal systems and historical experiences. A juxtaposition of the two constitutional preambles vividly exposes the lapses in the Cameroon example. As a result, I have suggested that the Cameroon Constitution be amended for the purposes of reviewing its Preamble to bring it into line with the conventional requirements of democratic preambles and to transform the formal demands of the Preamble as tangible demands placed on a government through entrenched provisions. Reasons have been advanced in support of the necessity for including preambulatory clauses in a constitution without which the intent of the constitution per se would be deferred.