Traditional Justice System and Conflict Resolution: Exploring the Pre-colonial Institutional Frameworks in Mamfe and Bakweri lands of Cameroon (Published)
The current paper is geared at establishing the historicity of the traditional justice system in Cameroon using the Mamfe and Bakweri experiences. It centers on how traditional justice was dispensed in certain specific areas in Cameroon. Before the introduction of Formal Justice Instruments, it is important to mention that different societies applied different instruments of justice. Justice systems were modeled based on cultural belief patterns. Every society in pre-colonial Cameroon had its unique instruments of dictating and punishing crime. These instruments were enshrined in the people’s culture and handed down from generation to generation. The recognition of these traditional instruments of justice was born out of the ever increasing acceptance of the validity and legitimacy of the adjudicative powers of traditional leadership. In some instances a word from majesty was law. To realize this study, an interdisciplinary approach is adopted to prop into traditional instruments of justice using the Bakweri and Mamfe areas as typical examples. A qualitative design was adopted to look at the various crimes that were committed in these societies and the punishments that were mated out depending on the nature and magnitude of the crime. From all indications the traditional society in the Mamfe and Bakweri areas were not lawless societies. The people upheld human right values through their traditional belief patterns and could dictate and punish crime accordingly. The spirit of fair hearing was accorded criminals before punishment was mated out and this was enshrined in the doctrine of the traditional councils and customary courts that were charged with the resolution of land disputes, marital conflicts and other crimes like theft. Colonialism came with its own judicial system but some of the customary legal practices have continued to survive like customary marriages that are still recognized even in the presence of modern patterns of marriage.