326 MIZAN LAW REVIEW, Vol. 12, No.2 December 2018
In actual life, no society is immune from conflict due to differences in interests,
goals, values and aims among people.1 Conflicts occur within families, clans,
villages or other small units.2 Most African communities have their own
traditional conflict resolution processes that enable them to prevent, manage and
resolve conflict. Most African States are moving towards incorporating
traditional conflict resolution mechanisms in their policies, laws and
constitutions. Even in countries where there is no formal state recognition, it has
remained resilient and continues to exist outside the areas of state influence.3
Thus, traditional conflict resolution mechanisms are crucial institutions for
conflict resolution in Africa.
Many African states (South Africa and Ethiopia included) are grappling with
conflict resolution. However, the institutions in African states are not able to
cope with the huge demands unleashed by everyday conflict. It is within this
context that the complementarity between traditional institutions and the modern
state becomes not only apparent but also imperative. The continuing role and
influence of traditional leadership in modern Africa is hard to miss.4
Even though the relationship between the state (formal) and traditional
(informal) institutions is a contested terrain loaded with complexities, the unique
features of traditional institutions, due to their endogeneity and use of local
actors, enable them to either resist or even sometimes challenge the state.
Traditional institutions continue to demonstrate their relevance in post-conflict
states. This is especially true in the context of weak states that are overwhelmed
with ongoing state-building processes. Though there is no clear-cut formula as
to the interactions between traditional and state institutions, a relationship exists
which is central in the promotion of sustainable peace in post-conflict Africa.5
In this article it is argued that not all traditional dispute resolution institutions
are worthy of legal recognition, nor are traditional institutions immune from
weaknesses. It is argued that there is a strong case for acknowledging the value
of certain traditional institutions, and the rights of people to make use of them in
legally recognized ways. Traditional conflict resolution mechanisms can
1 Fayemi Ademola Kazeem ( 2009), “Agba (Elder) as Arbitrator: A Yoruba Socio P olitical
Model for Conflict resolution-A Review of Lawrence O. Bamikole ” Journa l of Law a nd
Conflict Resolution, Vol. 1(3) pp. 60-67, August 2009.
4 Carolyne Gatimu (2014), Traditional Str uctures in Peace and Security Consolidation: The
Case of the House of Elders (GUURTI) in Somaliland, International Support Training
Center, Occasional Paper Series 5, No.7, Kenya: Nairobi, p.5.
5 Martha Mutisi (2012). “Local Conflict Resolution in Rwanda: The Case o f Abunzi
Mediators.” Africa Dialogue Monograph Series 2/2012. ACCORD.