Lunchmeeting@ABI: What Constitutes "Law" in Africa?
In this talk, we will illustrate the distinctiveness of Legal Pluralism in Africa and derive from this some three levels and ten types of African Law. Whilst there are many excellent and nuanced scholarly works on the subject, none of them is teleological enough. Thus, in the talk, we will move beyond the causes and history of Legal Pluralism and to the practical effects of the phenomenon. In this way, we hope to strip African Law of its unenviable ethos of obscurity, density, and multiplex complexities, and lay bear its fundamental constituent elements, an enterprise that is useful for anyone interesting in, working in, or working on Africa. By illustrating the co-existence and interaction of the levels and types of laws on the continent, the talk not only elucidates the multiple levels of legal pluralism that exist in Africa, but points out the ways in which Africans mediate and manage their pluralistic legal systems through the entrenchment of a reliable, even if contested, hierarchy of norms. Enforcing hierarchy involves processes for discovering the existence, content, evolution, applicability, and relative weight of various norms, including international norms; and leverages the age-old critique of how newer and foreign norms ultimately subordination preexisting norms which are the lived reality of African peoples.