The Process of colonialism and Eurocentric thought created propaganda about the criminal justice of Africa that has existed for an extended period. Still, its presence is so evident in today’s world. Africentric evidence fights those assumptions by providing evidence that the criminal justice system was still present in the African continent and was used to maintain law and order before the European nation’s intervention (Dalgleish, 2005). When people believe in a lie for a long time, the truth is quickly forgotten, and new beliefs and cultural practices and beliefs are developed, taking a deep course in the lives of the new generation. Culture is a result of ideas, norms, beliefs, virtues, social behavior, and customs of a group of people, which have been in practice for a long time passed from one generation to another. The Malian Empire and Songhai Empire of West Africa are Africentric evidence that the criminal justice system existed way long; they practiced both Common-law and Sharia law long before the colonialists.
The Malian Empire was established By Sundiata Keita around c.1214-c.1255 in West Africa. The empire existed till c.1670, and it is well known because of its famous leaders like Mansa Musa, who is the wealthiest man to have ever lived; much of his wealth was from gold and trade. Strong leadership led the empire to much success, and the Islam religion, which primarily influenced the use of Sharia law, kept law and order within the empire. Many leaders converted to Islam, forming one culture and uniting the Empire, which contained many tribes. Still, no subject was forced to convert to Muslim, creating a fair justice system. Aristotle’s work on the theory of justice proves that in the community we live in, the law of nature divides us into two groups: the people who want to rule and the other group of people who are okay with the bulk of humankind (Gallagher, 2012). The same applied during the Malian Empire as it was divided into provinces, with each headed by a governor known as Ferba, who were Muslim scribes. While the other group of people as soldiers, fishermen, farmers, slaves, and civil servants. The success of the Malian Empire and its justice system based on Sharia law is a piece of Africentric evidence that proves the false illusion created by the Eurocentric truth of the lack of criminal justice system before the colonialism period.
Songhai Empire conquered the Malian Empire to become one of the greatest empires in West Africa. The Empire covered Burkina-Faso, Senegal, Niger, Mali, Ivory Coast, Guinea, Algeria, Nigeria, Gambia, and Mauritania. The Empire’s had local ministers and head judges, also known as Cadi, who ensured justice and the rule of law. The Cadi, who the King appointed, ensured justice by using Common-law and Sharia law in cases of Muslim Cadi by settling and administering disputes in the Empire tribunals (Dalgleish, 2005). The Cadi had the power to offer refuge or grant a pardon to convicts. Royal justice that the king conducted only took place in serious crimes like treason. The Africentric evidence, even with the lack of much evidence, proves that the justice system existed even before the Songhai Empire’s existence and long before the colonial influence, as the central governments know as emperor and then administered at the local level.
The thoughts created along the early civilized western nations influenced the other places of the world through colonialism, including Africa. The propaganda undermines the already set judicial system and cultures that existed in the African continent before the European influences. The Evidence from Africa fights to do away with the false illusion created around Eurocentric thoughts as they do prove that Africa within the 10th and 16th moved even towards criminal solid justice and governance system than the one portrayed by their successors, colonizers, and even the modern governments (Dalgleish, 2005). The evidence proves that the African justice system was a civilized one. It was similar to the ones for Western countries like Britain, with even ministers representing the minority in the society that is different from the one the Western systems. The events of conquering of Mali Empire by Songhai are not new as such cases are evident in the European continent like the Spanish Armada. The evidence from Africa proves that the theories around the Eurocentric thought are not purely based on facts but on propaganda which needs to be addressed to do away with the imbalance they create when it comes to matters of historical criminology.
In conclusion, the evidence proves the presence of a working system for criminal justice in West Africa even before the colonial influence took place. The two central systems of criminal justice were Common law, which was still applied in Britain during the same time, and Sharia law, which was highly practiced in the Malian and Songhai Empires. The head of the justice system was cadi and the king, who only dealt with cases like treason to create fairness in the justice system. The idea of colonialism being perceived as a civilizing agent is so biased given the evidence and similarity of the criminal judiciary system.
Dalgleish, D. (2005). Pre-colonial criminal justice in West Africa: Eurocentric thought versus Africentric evidence. African Journal of Criminology and Justice Studies: AJCJS, 1(1), 55.
Gallagher, R. L. (2012). Incommensurability in Aristotle’s theory of reciprocal justice. British Journal for the History of Philosophy, 20(4), 667-701.