Decoding Legal Pluralism in Africa
The Journal of Legal Pluralism and Unofficial Law, Vol. 49, No. 2, 2017
Posted: 31 Jul 2017 Last revised: 3 Aug 2017
Date Written: July 27, 2017
As legal pluralism has entered the lexicon of policy makers and development partners in Africa, a clear understanding of the concept is essential. For this purpose, decoding legal pluralism from a theoretical, historical and comparative perspective is highly relevant and reveals that legal pluralism is a unifying device for legal systems in Africa. On the one hand, legal pluralism in its classic sense is a device which connects and incorporates pre-colonial laws into colonial legal systems. In a similar vein, it retains and transforms colonial laws into post-colonial legal systems. Legal pluralism neither bifurcates legal systems nor presupposes the parallel existence of customary legal systems with state legal systems. Legal pluralism both in its weak and deep sense is a manifestation of the unity of legal systems and the plurality of laws in Africa. On the other hand, legal pluralism in its new sense makes regional and international laws part of state legal systems. This account of legal pluralism helps the rule of law and development programs to be aware of the potentials of classic legal pluralism and the legal systems within which it is operating and encourages a further study on why deep legal pluralism persists. Moreover, it opens a space for the incorporation of new legal pluralism with classic legal pluralism in the rule of law and development programs.
Keywords: legal pluralism, law, legal system, rule of law, development, Africa
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