Customary law

Uganda’s courts ‘too westernized to handle cultural, customary issues’ – high court judge

Prominent Ugandan high court judge Ssekaana Musa has told litigants in dispute over traditional leadership that they should ‘always’ refer such quarrels ‘to the King or traditional or cultural leaders’. Judge Musa was considering two disputes about traditional leadership positions. He said that courts should discourage ‘petty issues’ like who was the rightful heir, family head or chief prince, from being ‘dragged to court’. These matters would be better dealt with by the established mechanism of a particular community, he said.

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Judge Ssekaana Musa heard two related applications involving the Kabaka (King) of Buganda and dismissed them both earlier this month.

Wife "charged" 15 cows by traditional court after husband commits suicide

A woman whose husband committed suicide after he assaulted her and she laid a complaint with the police, has been “charged” by a traditional court in Namibia for causing her husband’s death. The woman, Kathova Shiputa, was told she should not have gone to their joint home where she had found her husband in bed with another woman, and that she should not have complained to the police after her husband threatened her with a knife.

Kathova Shiputa can’t afford to lose 15 cows. Her husband, Mukwangu Haingura Mikwangu recently committed suicide and now she is the sole parent of their four-year-old child and a second child due in October. But she has been “sentenced” by a Namibian traditional court to hand over those precious cattle as punishment for the “crime” of causing her husband to kill himself.

Ghana’s Supreme Court orders chief’s name reinstated in national register of traditional leaders

With Ghana’s constitution limiting the role of the courts in certain matters related to traditional leadership, judges are not always sure of when they may intervene to right wrongs. But in the case of Nana Abor Yamoah II, and a dispute about his name being removed from the register of chiefs, the supreme court has made something very clear: there has to be justification for action like expunging names, the process has to be fair and involve a hearing, or else the courts would be entitled to intervene and impose their “supervisory authority”. 

Read judgment on GhaLII here

FOR commoners among readers, this is a particularly interesting decision. It trawls the arcane administrative processes required before a chief in Ghana is either “enstooled” or on the other hand, removed, “destooled or deskinned”.

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