Academic journal article African Journal of Criminology and Justice Studies : AJCJS

Justice in History: An Examination of 'African Restorative Traditions' and the Emerging 'Restorative Justice' Paradigm

Academic journal article African Journal of Criminology and Justice Studies : AJCJS

Justice in History: An Examination of 'African Restorative Traditions' and the Emerging 'Restorative Justice' Paradigm

Article excerpt

**Searchable keywords: restorative justice; community/criminal justice; African justice; Alternative Dispute/Conflict Resolution; Comparative/Cultural criminology.


The internationalisation of restorative justice is a welcomed development. But restorative justice literature would be incomplete if the contribution of African restorative traditions to the emerging restorative justice paradigm is obscured or continued to be ignored. Some western criminologists and authors write about restorative justice history obscuring Afro- historical evidence. Others have even written that 'when race are classified by colour, the only one of the primary races which has not made a creative contribution to any of the twenty-one civilisation is the black race' (see Dalgleish, 2005:57). This paper argues that such assertion was perhaps wrongly and erroneously made due to the obscurity of Afro-centric evidence in most comparative criminology literature. The author thus reviews the 'African restorative traditions' and how it might have contributed and/or could contribute to the emerging 'restorative justice' paradigm. This paper is to advance the cause of restorative justice as a global paradigm and to comparative criminology because knowledge in restorative justice and perhaps comparative criminology would be incomplete if 'Afro-centric' contributions continued to be ignored.


Braithwaite (2002) have argued that we have yet to discover a culture which does not have some deep-seated restorative traditions. Nor is there a culture without retributive traditions. Perhaps it is in view of this understanding that more and more people in contemporary times are looking within their existing cultures and finding models and traditions that can be adopted or adapted to suit a culturally sensitive dispute resolution and reconciliation process. This international trend of looking 'within' or 'inwards' for dispute resolution, peace and reconciliation mechanisms, is a new and developing one which ought to be encouraged especially in Africa . This author thus advances the Afro-centric historical evidence aim at re-building the African restorative traditions in the light of emerging restorative justice paradigm.

However, in spite of the truth of deep-seated restorative traditions in most cultures of the world retributive traditions is mistakenly often seen to have survival value, perhaps, because restorative traditions or cultures which were regarded as 'timid' and weak in fighting back imported traditions and cultures were often wiped out by the more determinedly retributive cultures (Braithwaite, 2002). But in the contemporary world, the author would argue that, retributive emotions have less survival value because retributive emotions are more likely to get us into trouble than out of it, as individuals, groups and nations.

The message that this paper wish to communicate to all cultures (especially the African cultures) is that in the world of the twenty-first century, we are more likely to find our restorative traditions a more valuable resource than our retributive traditions. Even sadly though, the hegemonic cultural forces in the contemporary world communicate just the opposite message. The knowledge we need to learn is what has being the status quo in African traditions for dispute resolution? This Afro-historical knowledge is imperative because according to an Italian philosopher Marcus Tullius Cicero (106 BC- 43 BC), 'not to know what happened before one was born is to remain a child forever'. So examining justice in history as per the idea of restorative justice will offer a backdrop for our understanding of the concept and its metamorphosis. An historical review of restorative justice might also help us to understand what factors influenced the move away from restorative justice in favour of the criminal justice model and why we might in the recent times want to move back towards this model of justice in our current social context globally. …

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