Creating an independent traditional court : a study of Jopadhola clan courts in Uganda

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This article examines the contribution of clans (kinship institutions) to the administration of justice within the context of standards set out in the African regional human rights instruments. Field work on the Jopadhola of Eastern Uganda is drawn upon, to explore how clans reproduce their notion of an independent court using an abridged legal doctrine of separation of powers, and partially mimicking lower level government and judicial features. The field work also shows how clans accommodate interests of women and youth. Even so, clans retain a largely customary approach to the appointment, qualifications and tenure of court officials. The main findings lead to the conclusion that, by applying an “African” notion of human rights, clans have created traditional constructs of an independent court: one that is culturally appropriate for their indigenous communities.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)215-242
JournalJournal of African Law
Issue number02
Early online date29 Aug 2012
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2012