The Ascertainment of Customary Law: What is Ascertainment of Customary Law and What is It For? The Experience of the Customary Law Ascertainment Project in Namibia

21 Pages Posted: 20 Jul 2012 Last revised: 29 Jan 2013

See all articles by Manfred Hinz

Manfred Hinz

University of Namibia; University of Bremen

Date Written: July 19, 2012

Abstract

Traditional communities are no longer homogeneous. Before, basically everybody knew what the law of the community was. There is a growing understanding that the legal complexity experienced in urban settlements where various customary laws apply needs attention. There is also a growing acceptance that the verdict of the chief is not necessarily the last word: dissatisfied parties may take that verdict on appeal to a state court whose judges will not necessarily know what the customary law applied by the court a quo.

The Namibian approach to ascertaining customary law has become known as the self-statement of customary law. Self-stating customary law refers to a process of ascertaining customary law by the owners of the law to be ascertained, namely the people and the traditional leaders as the custodians of customary law. The most important element in self-stating is that the end result will be a product created in the community that is required to follow and apply the law concerned.

The fact that the author of this paper - based on his experience with customary law in Namibia - had the opportunity to work for the then Ministry of Legal Affairs and Constitutional Development of the Government of Southern Sudan and the United Nations Development Programme in the development of a customary law strategy for Southern Sudan adds special value to the Namibian experience and its analysis.

Las comunidades tradicionales ya no son homogéneas. Antes todo el mundo conocía cuál era la ley de la comunidad. Sin embargo, cada vez se asume más que hay que prestar atención a la complejidad legal existente en asentamientos urbanos en los que se aplican diferentes derechos consuetudinarios. También hay una creciente aceptación de que el veredicto del jefe no es necesariamente la última palabra: las partes descontentas pueden recurrir el veredicto ante un tribunal estatal, cuyos jueces puede que no conozcan el derecho consuetudinario aplicado por el tribunal a quo.

El enfoque de Namibia para determinar el derecho consuetudinario se conoce como la auto-afirmación del derecho consuetudinario. Por auto-afirmación se entiende el proceso de establecer el derecho consuetudinario por los propietarios del derecho que se va a determinar, concretamente el pueblo y los líderes tradicionales, como conservadores del derecho consuetudinario. El elemento más importante en la auto-afirmación es que el resultado final será un producto creado dentro de la comunidad que está obligada a cumplir y aplicar la ley en cuestión.

El hecho de que el autor de este artículo –basado en su experiencia con el derecho consuetudinario en Namibia– tuviera la oportunidad de trabajar para el entonces Ministerio de Asuntos Jurídicos y Desarrollo Constitucional del Gobierno de Sudán del Sur y el Programa de las Naciones Unidas para el Desarrollo, en el desarrollo de una estrategia de derecho consuetudinario para Sudán del Sur, ofrece un valor añadido a la experiencia de Namibia y su análisis.

Note: Downloadable document is in Spanish.

Keywords: African customary law, ascertainment of customary law, codification, restatement and self-statement of customary law, Derecho consuetudinarto-afirmación del derecho consuetudinario

Suggested Citation

Hinz, Manfred, The Ascertainment of Customary Law: What is Ascertainment of Customary Law and What is It For? The Experience of the Customary Law Ascertainment Project in Namibia (July 19, 2012). Oñati Socio-Legal Series, Vol. 2, No. 7, 2012, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2100337

Manfred Hinz (Contact Author)

University of Namibia ( email )

340 Mandume Ndemufayo Ave, Pionierspark
Windhoek, KHOMAS REGION 13301
Namibia

University of Bremen

Universitaetsallee GW I
Bremen, D-28334
Germany

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