The Justice Sector Development Programme (JSDP) has concluded a meeting of key stakeholders in Moyamba, to review the draft report on the Restatement of Customary Law in Moyamba District.
In law, customary law consists of established patterns of behaviour that can be objectively verified within a particular social setting. Sierra Leone, like many other Commonwealth African countries was divided into two distinct territories during the colonial era: the colony (Freetown and other parts of the Western Area), operating laws received from England and other local enactments and the protectorate (now the Provinces), applying customary law to a large extent. With the merging of these territories after independence, both systems of law were not merged and continue to operate side by side with many potential conflicts. Unlike the general law, customary law is unwritten and it varies from one community to another and from one tribe to another.
JSDP, in its aim to support the development of an effective and accountable justice sector that is capable of meeting the needs and interests of poor, vulnerable and marginalised, commissioned the study on the Restatement of Customary Law in Moyamba District in May 2006.This is also in line with Sierra Leone’s Local Courts Act which states that customary law must conform to natural justice.
Restating customary law will greatly reduce arbitrary abuse of power and predicting the outcomes of cases dealing with customary law will be made possible, due to the documentation of actual customary practices that have evolved into law as a result of their long usage. Documenting customary law shall, to a large extent, infuse the much-needed confidence in not only litigants, but also the courts’ administrators. Miss Glenna Thompson, JSDP’s Administration of Justice Manager remarked “For the very first time in the history of Sierra Leone, the restatement of customary law is underway to develop a more accountable and responsive justice system for the benefit of court users. Furthermore, the local court decisions will be a true reflection of the people’s custom and customary law will be consistent with human rights principles”.