The paper examined the historical underpinnings of the under-development ofrepresentative institutions in Africa. The author noted that notwithstanding its worldwideprevalence, the legislature had been involved in struggles for political power and relevance across political systems. Specifically, he viewed the African parliaments as products of specific historical experiences, notably of colonialism and militarism, that not only stultified their growth and development but also left legacies that continued to constrain their capacity to serve as effective checks on the ever-growing powers of the executive arms of post-independence governments. Accordingly, the legislatures of Africa had not been placed in vantage positions akin to those of their counterparts in the advanced democracies, and their capacities as effective agents of limited government were seriously constrained. In the circumstances, the workings and challenges of representative institutions in Africa had to be understood within the context of the historical forces that shaped and continued to shape their emergence and contemporary relevance. It identifiedpeople-centred constitutional re-engineering, more proactive posture on the part of legislators themselves and capacity-building supports as the irreducible minimum for strengthening the legislatures and creating responsive and citizens-friendly environments for sustainable democracy and good governance in Africa.
Key words: Legislature, colonialism, military rule, African politics.
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