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Accepted paper:

Towards decolonizing criminal justice: A critique of the decolonial credentials of indigenous restorative justice mechanisms in Africa.


Moses Osiro (Masinde Muliro University of Science and Technology)

Paper long abstract:

Postcolonial criminology acknowledges that state-based delivery of justice is fraught with contradictions and insofar as the State has been implicated in administering injustice in various forms under the auspices of the modern justice system. As a result, the justice system in many Africa countries suffer from a deficit of legitimacy, especially in its judicial processes. As a result, there have been calls for a rejuvenation of the ideals and modus operandi of indigenous justice mechanism as a way of ameliorating the pathologies of Western models of justice or altogether replacing them. Preferences of alternative justice mechanisms have been apparent in transitional justice situations where countries are coming from conflict or seeking to redress for mass atrocities as has been the case in Rwanda. In Kenya, there are increasing efforts to institutionalize alternative dispute resolutions mechanisms which, at least notionally, conceive of crime as conflict between disputants. However, these initiatives do not seem to have a distinctive paradigmatic grounding, except as an appendix to the mainstream operations of the justice system geared to achieving efficiency benefits. This notwithstanding, there is not only valid reason to avoid adopting Eurocentrism as the only viable paradigm in criminology and criminal justice but also to explore Afrocentricity especially in the search for answers to the threat of violence within the continent. It is against this backdrop that this paper seeks to distill the decolonial contours and potential of these restorative justice practices on the premise that the decolonial presumes that modernity is the visible side of coloniality, a reality often obfuscated by the rhetoric of 'progress' in discourses of modernity that centralize modern justice mechanisms while 'othering' the indigenous. From the vantage of critical criminology, it explores the philosophies of indigenous restorative justice mechanisms for decolonizing the justice process in Kenya and beyond within the continent. Indebted to Bigo Agozino's definition of criminology as a technology designed for the control of others (Agozino, 2003), it argues that the fixation of the discipline with social control and domination over others in otherwise supposedly democratizing societies can be mitigated by reinvigorating these indigenous technologies of justice.

panel D22
Disciplinary trends in Africa: legal and socio-legal studies