Research Handbooks in Comparative Law series
Edited by Mauro Bussani and Anthony J. Sebok
Chapter 18: Customary tort law in Sub-Saharan Africa
The essential properties of a thing are those which one observes universally wherever that thing exists and which pertains to it alone. If, then, we wish to know what crime essentially is, we must extract the elements of crimes which are found similar in all criminological varieties in different social systems. None must be neglected. The juridical conceptions of the most inferior societies are no less significant than those of the most elevated societies; they are not less instructive. To omit any would expose us to the error of finding the essence of crime where it is not. Thus, the biologist would have given vital phenomena a very inexact definition, if he had disdained to observe mono-cellular organisms, for, solely from the contemplation of organisms of higher types, he would have wrongly concluded that life essentially consists in organization. The starting point of any analysis of the law of torts must be consideration of those rights tort protects. The diversity and complexity of the African Continent has been well documented and recognised. In one such commentary, Dr. Kwame Nkrumah stated that: Africa and its islands, with a land area of some twelve million square miles … could easily contain within it, and room to spare, the whole of India, Europe, Japan, the British Isles, Scandinavia and New Zealand. The United States of America could easily be fitted into the Sahara Desert. Africa is geographically compact, and in terms of natural resources potentially the richest continent in the world.
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