Start Submission Become a Reviewer

Reading: Legal Pluralism and the Rule of Law in Sub-Saharan Africa


A- A+
Alt. Display


Legal Pluralism and the Rule of Law in Sub-Saharan Africa


Chloe Fung


Since the 1950s, many Sub-Saharan African countries have adopted constitutional governments after gaining independence. However, many of their institutions are plagued by corruption, meaning that attempts to enforce the rule of law have often failed. This has led to a justice system with a lack of substantive rule of law values and weak social justice. This article suggests that rather than relying on ineffective state legal systems to uphold the rule of law, a more promising solution would be to encourage legal pluralism. Since these jurisdictions have prevalent non-legal social orderings, such as indigenous laws and family structures, state law is often less influential in informing popular behaviour and normative values. The law should recognise where indigenous practices complement human rights better than state adjudication and give precedence to aspects of non-legal social systems which protect rule of law values. Since popular behaviour is heavily influenced by tradition and custom, instilling the rule of law into domestic cultures in socio-historical terms makes it more likely that these values will be adopted on a grass-roots level. Promoting the rule of law also has positive implications for the future economic development of these countries, since it would ensure checks on governments and uphold individual rights to property and security, encouraging business activity. This essay will compare the systems of South Africa and Ethiopia, assessing the success of each country in integrating indigenous law with international law and impacts on human rights and economic growth. 

How to Cite: Fung, C., 2022. Legal Pluralism and the Rule of Law in Sub-Saharan Africa. Rule of Law Journal, 3.
Published on 05 Jul 2022.
Peer Reviewed


  • PDF (EN)