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Periodical article Periodical article Leiden University catalogue Leiden University catalogue WorldCat catalogue WorldCat
Title:The Status of Human Rights in Pre-Colonial Africa: Implications for Contemporary Practices
Author:Busia, Nana K.A.
Periodical:Afrika Zamani: revue annuelle d'histoire africaine = Annual Journal of African History (ISSN 0850-3079)
Notes:biblio. refs.
Geographic terms:Subsaharan Africa
Subjects:political systems
customary law
human rights
History and Exploration
Law, Human Rights and Violence
History, Archaeology
Abstract:The human rights performance of contemporary African States must essentially be traced to the structures and social forces of precolonial African societies which combined or spilled over into the colonial period, producing a complex mixture of social institutions and processes, which in turn surfaced in postcolonial Africa. After exposing the limitations of the notion that human rights is the sole product of Western culture which can only be implemented through a liberal regime, the author looks at the status of human rights in precolonial Africa. He distinguishes four models of precolonial social formations. The first corresponds to a 'near state of nature' (San, Pygmies, Maasai). The second comprises social formations without centralized political authorities in which family, lineage and age grades were central (Luo, Ibo, Tallensi, Nuer). The third are semifeudal social formations based on kinship and lineage networks (Ashanti, Ndebele, Hausa-Fulani, Zulu). The fourth is classical feudalism (Buganda). The more sophistical a social formation, the greater the tendency for human rights to be violated. The absence of political authority in the first social formation made human rights a non-issue. The author then examines the role of colonialism in the creation of multiethnic States incorporating different social formations, the strengthening of certain precolonial structures as a result of the British strategy of indirect rule, and the implications for contemporary human rights practices. Notes, ref.