This chapter addresses the recent resurgence of traditional authorities in sub-Saharan Africa. It focuses on two groups of African countries: those that had British colonial rule and those that were administered by France. The British colonial practice of ‘indirect rule’ led to the recognition and co-option of traditional authorities in existence at the time of British arrival; France, on the other hand, imposed direct rule in its territories. While most post-colonial regimes in Africa did not undo the institutions and legal systems put in place during colonial rule, former British colonies nevertheless display more political continuity from the pre-colonial to colonial and post-colonial eras. In Francophone Africa, by contrast, the combination of direct rule from France and a continental civil law tradition distorted, weakened, and even dismantled traditional authorities.
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