Integrating the Traditional with the Contemporary in Dispute Resolution in Africa – pg.154.
Traditional justice systems remain and thrive in various forms on the African continent, serving large populations located mainly in rural communities. Customary law is not static and, consequently, changes in traditional perceptions of substantive and procedural justice have over time informed the articulation of concepts, such as, the restatement of customary law and the ascertainment of living customary law. Having restated or ascertained customary law, there remains the task of integrating traditional and contemporary dispute resolution methods on the continent, to promote better access to justice for litigants. This article revisits earlier studies on traditional justice processes in Africa, following a trajectory that starts off with an overview of the colonial influence on the development of legal systems in Africa, which resulted in dual, and sometimes multiple, normative orders existing side by side. It moves on to show how the plural legal landscape is configured, using examples from a number of communities in Africa. The discourse highlights key features of this dualism, including the superior position accorded to the received legal system as well as the difficulty and expense of accessing the formal justice system. Similarities and differences between proceedings in traditional justice systems and formal courts are identified as a starting point for any process of integration.