Moussa Samb (Dakar, Bonn): Mediation as Effective Traditional Dispute Resolution in Africa


Traditionally, mediation was the preferred way for resolving intra-community conflicts in Africa. It helped find an acceptable solution for conflicts between family members, with other families or between different historically linked communities, thereby preserving relations between the groups.  Most practices of traditional African conflict management in Africa were classical mediation or negotiation with a third-party catalyst, with a particularly strong integrative spirit. The mediator seeks a formula for an agreement – a common definition of the problem and the solution that can be defined as the terms of a trade agreement between the parties. Building on the society’s desire for restored harmony, order and justice, the mediator brings the two parties together in a win-win outcome that meets both parties’ interest, while preserving peace within the community.

Previous research has shown how during colonialism, legal transplants from French civil law or Anglo-American jurisprudence were imposed in Africa, while African values, norms and beliefs provided the normative and undergirding framework for conflict resolution, named by scholars the “African Medicine for conflicts”. In this presentation, we will show, with collected references and cases, how the traditional mediation procedure was organized, ruled and remains in practice today in Africa.

Despite the fact that there traditional conflicts resolution mechanisms retain some resilience, less confidence is placed in the “modern” corrupted justice system in Africa. It appears, then, that traditional mediation remains the best way to resolve social conflicts, which arise mostly on family and land issues.

Curriculum vitae

Moussa Samb ist Professor für Privatrecht und Handels-/Wirtschaftsrecht an der Universität Cheikh Anta Diop in Dakar, Senegal, und lehrt zudem “Contract Law in Africa” im Rahmen des Studienprogramms “Master of Business Law in Cross Cultural Practice” an der Universität Freiburg, Schweiz. Er war Gastprofessor an der Universität Paul Cezanne Aix-Marseille III und Senior Fulbright Scholar am Georgetown University Law Center in Washington, D.C. Professor Samb war außerdem als Senior Program Officer für den Bereich “Governance, Equity and Health” des kanadischen International Development Research Center und als Director of Research and Documentation der Organization for the Harmonization of Business Law (OHADA) in Benin tätig. Zuletzt war er Fellow am Institut d'Etudes Avancées in Nantes. Seit Oktober 2015 ist Moussa Samb Fellow am Käte Hamburger Kolleg „Recht als Kultur“.