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Who Benefits from Customary Justice? Rent-seeking, Bribery and Criminality in Sub-Saharan Africa


  • Olivier STERCK

    () (UNIVERSITE CATHOLIQUE DE LOUVAIN, Institut de Recherches Economiques et Sociales (IRES))

  • Olivia D’AOUST



In many Sub-Saharan countries, customary and statutory judicial systems co-exist. Customary justice is exercised by clan leaders or local courts, and based on restorative principles. By contrast, statutory justice is mostly retributive and administered by magistrates’ courts. As the jurisdiction of the customary and the statutory systems often overlap, victims can choose which judicial system to refer to, which may lead to contradictions between rules and inconsistencies in judgments. In this essay, we construct a model representing a dual judicial system. We show that the overlap of competence encourages rent-seeking and bribery, and yields to high rates of petty crimes and civil disputes. We recommend the subsidization of the statutory judicial system, as it efficiently improves deterrence and incapacitation in the dual judicial system while minimizing corruption of customary judges. We illustrate our theoretical predictions by discussing the functioning of the Ugandan dual judicial system.

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  • Olivier STERCK & Olivia D’AOUST, 2012. "Who Benefits from Customary Justice? Rent-seeking, Bribery and Criminality in Sub-Saharan Africa," Discussion Papers (IRES - Institut de Recherches Economiques et Sociales) 2012015, Université catholique de Louvain, Institut de Recherches Economiques et Sociales (IRES).
  • Handle: RePEc:ctl:louvir:2012015

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    Custom; Justice; Criminal Behavior; Informal Institutions;

    JEL classification:

    • K40 - Law and Economics - - Legal Procedure, the Legal System, and Illegal Behavior - - - General
    • O17 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Formal and Informal Sectors; Shadow Economy; Institutional Arrangements
    • D70 - Microeconomics - - Analysis of Collective Decision-Making - - - General

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