Legal pluralism in Africa

Three levels and seven types of law

Authored by: Raymond A. Atuguba

The Routledge Handbook of African Law

Print publication date:  November  2021
Online publication date:  November  2021

Print ISBN: 9780815350682
eBook ISBN: 9781351142366
Adobe ISBN:


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A distinctive mark of African law is legal pluralism. When an existing legal system is made to receive another into itself, many things, including legal pluralism, happen. This chapter examines the concept, theory, history, reality, practice, evolution, and prospects of legal pluralism in Africa in order to draw attention to the sublime character of some ten matters that are often ignored, taken for granted, or considered mundane. These include: the ways in which Africans managed their already pluralistic legal systems before the entry of various European systems of law; the multiple levels of legal pluralism that exist in Africa; the hierarchy of norms in plural legal systems; the automatic subordination of preexisting norms, which are the lived reality of African peoples; the processes for discovering the existence, content, evolution, applicability, and relative weight of various rules of law in plural legal systems; and the domestication and application of international law in plural legal system.

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