Traditional African Conflict Resolution: The Case of South Africa and Ethiopia

  • Tsegai Berhane Ghebretekle
  • Macdonald Rammala


In Africa, traditional conflict resolution is based on values, norms, cultures and beliefs as practiced by the members of the community. Thus, traditional conflict resolution decisions are readily accepted by the community. However, colonialism had very serious impact on African values, norms, cultures and beliefs. It disregarded, undermined and weakened them. Cultural hegemony (as a result of colonialism) and legal transplantation (without adequate attention to traditional systems) have adversely affected traditional conflict resolution in Africa. Nonetheless, the continuous use of traditional dispute resolution mechanisms across African communities clearly demonstrates that they still have a role to play. The article aims to assess the institution of traditional conflict resolution in Africa with particular emphasis on South Africa and Ethiopia. Both countries are multiethnic societies with a variety of cultures, languages and religions. Ethiopia maintained its freedom from colonial rule with the exception of a short-lived Italian occupation and from 1936 to 1941. South Africa was a Dutch colony from 1662 to 1815, a British colony from1910 to 1948 and under the Apartheid era from 1948 to1994. Using case studies of South Africa and Ethiopia, the article examines some of the successes and challenges faced by traditional conflict resolution institutions.  The opportunities offered to them by the two legal systems are also examined. The two systems are not selected for the purpose of comparative analysis compared, but are examined as self representative examples in their own historical, political and legal contexts.  

Key terms

Tradition · Conflict · Traditional conflict resolution · South Africa · Ethiopia 


Journal Identifiers

eISSN: 2309-902X
print ISSN: 1998-9881