Effectiveness of the traditional court system in conflict resolution in chief Chitimukulu chiefdom and Munkonge chiefdom of Zambia’s northern province.

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Mwalula, Michael
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The University of Zambia
The focus of this study was to investigate the effectiveness of traditional courts in conflict resolution in chief Chitimukulu and Munkonge Chiefdom of Zambia’s Northern Province. The endeavoured to address the following objectives: To identify the people that preside over traditional court cases, to determine specific cases which are taken before the traditional court system, to determine the process involved in the adjudication of traditional court cases and to ascertain the effectiveness of traditional courts in resolving conflicts in Chief Chitimukulu Chiefdom and Munkonge Chiefdom in Zambia’s Northern Province. A case study was used to gather data for this research. Data was gathered using structured interviews and focus group interviews/discussion. This research study was guided by the structural functionalism theory. Research participants included: Chief Chitimukulu, Chief Munkonge, four members of the royal establishment, 10 village heads and 20 Chiefdom subjects. It was revealed that the cases brought before the court were presided over by a group of counsellors called “Ba Shicilye” appointed by the chief. The composition of the council of elders who presided over the cases is not fixed. The study also found that there were numerous categories of cases that come before the courts, the most prominent ones being, land disputes, witchcraft cases, marital disputes and theft. Cases of a criminal nature such as defilement, grievous bodily harm, murder and manslaughter are not tried in the traditional court but judicial courts. The justice process in a traditional setting starts with the case being reported to the chief through the chief returner who records of all the details and forwards the case to the council of elders (Ba Nchenje or Ba Shicilye) for consideration. The courts exist for the sole purpose of reconciliation and peace among or between the conflicting parties. The study concluded that the traditional courts are effective in resolving conflicts. The larger number of the participants, chiefs inclusive. They narrated that the traditional courts were very effective in the sense that there had never been instances or situations when where they reached a stalemate. They promote reconciliation which leads to a just, fair and united society. Arising from the findings and discussion, the study made the following recommendations; There is need to strengthen the operations of the traditional courts through a legal framework to legitimise and legalise their authority. It is also imperative that through the house of chiefs the government can come up with a tentative policy to guide the operations of the traditional courts. The government should also support the operations of the traditional courts in any way possible to make them even more efficient, for instance the construction of shelters for the courts as most of them operate in make shift structures. There is a dire need to create a link between traditional courts and the local courts so that they can complement each other in resolving conflicts because they deal with similar issues. It would also be imperative to organise workshops, seminars and short trainings for the counsellors who preside over cases. That will equip them with basic skills on how to handle cases in the traditional set up and have a better understanding of customary law. The efficiency of the traditional courts can also be guaranteed if the dates or days for the sessions in a traditional court can be fixed so that there is no speculation about the sittings of the court. There is also need to reform some sentences that are meted against those found guilty of practising witchcraft. Forcefully asking those found guilty to leave the village does not help them to reform instead the problem is only transferred from one village to another.
Traditional courts--Conflict resolution.