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Periodical article Periodical article Leiden University catalogue Leiden University catalogue WorldCat catalogue WorldCat
Title:'Changing Traditions to Meet Current Altering Conditions': Customary Law, African Courts and the Rejection of Codification in Kenya, 1930-60
Author:Shadle, Brett L.
Periodical:The Journal of African History
Geographic term:Kenya
customary courts
Peoples of Africa (Ethnic Groups)
History and Exploration
Law, Human Rights and Violence
External link:https://www.jstor.org/stable/183621
Abstract:In Kenya from at least the 1920s, but especially in the 1940s and 1950s, administrators struggled with the question of how customary law could best be used in African courts. Prominent among their concern was the codification of customary law, against which most administrators vigorously fought. British officials believed that reducing African custom to written law and placing it in a code would 'crystallize' it, altering its fundamentally fluid or evolutionary nature and preventing changes necessary in a period of rapid development. Through continual alteration of a fluid body of customary law, administrators could try to guide these changes and keep a firm hold over African life. Second, codification threatened to empower the judiciary in their ongoing struggles with the administration over the control of African dispute resolution. In actual practice, the identification and use of customary law remained fluid. Even when Europeans and Africans put customary law to paper, a review of court transcripts shows that African court elders continued to employ law situationally. Notes, ref., sum.