The Nature of African Customary Law

By T. Olawale Elias | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XIV
SUMMARY AND CONCLUSIONS
WE shall now proceed to make a brief recapitulation of the main analyses made and arguments advanced in the preceding chapters. Before we go on to that, however, it cannot be too strongly emphasised here, as we did at the beginning, that this study has not been conceived in the spirit either of a legal polemic or a sociological critique. The aim throughout has been rather the marriage of anthropological research data on African societies to the juristic technique of analysing specific concepts and basic institutions. Naturally, in such a process, many time-honoured puerilities about African law have had to be jettisoned to the extent to which they have failed to bear precise analysis. Wherever the evidence about any particular theory has been glossed over, distorted or imperfectly appreciated, an effort has been made objectively to put the issue in its proper perspective. And it will be clear to the reader that the opportunity has very rarely been missed of confirming or supporting the views of those writers who happen to have made a correct or useful appraisal of specific African legal ideas.In this wise we began by classifying African societies into the three broad categories of:
a. Those that have no centralised political authority but are mainly segmentary kinship groups in which authority tends to be dispersed, rather than concentrated. In this rudimentary political organisation, authority is hardly yet institutionalised and the essential mechanism for securing the social order are rules, rather than rulers.
b. Those that have a strong centralised political authority, a military organisation, and an administrative and judicial machinery. These possess the traditional chieftaincy system and are frequently strong kingdoms with a regulated hierarchy of royal and chiefly authorities.
c. Those that are usually loosely-knit confederacies composed of a number of semi-independent chiefdoms, the heads of which recognise the supremacy of one king as being the fountain and

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