Nature of the State
Governments are the systems and structures through which countries are governed and policies are set. Some countries are authoritarian; some are democratic. Some are monarchies; others are republics. Some are religious theocracies, while others are secular democracies. Different forms of government reflect the character, or personality, of that country, and determine the behaviour and practices of the State in relation to its citizens.
Secular State vs. Religious State / Theocracy
Although many countries may have a religion that is observed by a majority of its citizens, constitutionally secular states protect the freedom of religion and the separation of Church and State. Religion, religious beliefs, and values do not determine public policy and law. The State does not determine what citizens believe and practice or how faith is exercised; and religious institutions do not determine how society functions under the Constitution. Only a small number of countries in the world are officially theocracies – or religious systems of government – where public policy and law are based in the precepts of a dominant religion.
Constitutional democracies are a form of government where leaders gain their right and authority to govern from the consent of the citizens who elect them to positions of public trust. Although a popular majority may be in power, the rights of minorities are protected under a Constitution that limits the power of government under law, and defines structures, procedures, and institutions for the administration of government, for the passage of law, for public participation and accountability. Typically, powers of government are separated between three co-equal branches necessary for the effective functioning of a constitutional democracy: The Executive branch (where policy is set and executed); the Legislative branch (where laws are set) and the Judicial branch (the court system where laws are interpreted and applied).
Constitutional vs. Parliamentary Supremacy
In most countries, The Constitution is the Supreme Law. No laws, people or structures exceed the authority of the Constitution. Laws, actions, and powers cannot be valid if they contradict or are inconsistent with the provisions of The Constitution. In some countries, however, the Constitution is not the supreme legal instrument. That authority, instead, rests with the elected Parliament, granting law-makers tremendous powers to pass laws that may, in fact, be in contradiction to a less authoritative Constitution.
Growth of Constitutional Democracy
As African States progressively gained independence from colonial rule, they established themselves as Constitutional Democracies, guided by the rule of law as outlined in a Constitution that confirms and protects the rights of all citizens, through whom the representative government of each country is elected.