Much precolonial, colonial, and current sociolegal research on law in sub-Saharan Africa concerns issues of legal pluralism or of customary law.

Legal Pluralism

Profound normative pluralism characterizes the sociolegal condition of sub-Saharan Africa. Many and varied customary and religious laws have long been observed by the large number of ethnic groups inhabiting the region. European colonial powers established the machinery of government of modern states, introducing laws modeled on those of their own legal systems.

Today the laws of African states consist of the laws received from the colonial powers, bodies of indigenous laws that colonial states recognized, and local colonial and postcolonial legislation. These state laws are relatively ineffective. Much social control results from nonstate customary laws, which differ from the officially recognized customary laws. In this ...

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