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Judiciary

Is there crime in Africa?

Like in every human society, there is crime in Africa, and it has only just gotten worse as certain scenarios shift from the typical traditional to the more urban and Western in style. This is not to say there was no crime in Africa at all before the white man; the changing face of Africa, ever since the arrival of foreigners, is bringing along many strange things, and so equally strange behavioral patterns are no exceptions. There is the need to point out that whereas hideous crimes coming out of Africa of recent—the Congo and Rwanda for example—have been beamed to the world, it is also necessary to let the world know that these are countries with ongoing or just concluded wars. In every human society, horrible things happen when there is the breakdown in law and order. I am yet to learn of a war where atrocities have not been committed, even wars involving parties that are signatories to the Geneva Convention and which claim to be more civilized. Where there are human beings, there is crime; it varies only in intensity depending on the cultures of the people concerned.

What, if there are any, are the courts in Africa like?

To begin with, there are courts in Africa: customary courts and courts adopting the legal systems of the West. In most African societies, the courts were the very last resort, as there were highly respected elders who were always called in to settle disputes at any level before it ever got to the palace of the traditional leader, where the latter officiated. With the coming of the colonialists, they brought along their own legal systems that conflicted with those of the local people whose freedom and independence they snatched. The result was such that customary courts were to help with judiciary activities after the traditions of the natives, whereas the colonialists' own Western styled courts took care of their affairs. There was a clash of roles here as the colonialists manipulated the situation such that the customary law they allowed to continue had to be compatible with colonial ideas of justice. Then there were Muslim courts, which were guided by Islamic laws otherwise called sharia.

So one sees different judiciary systems in Africa depending on where one is—traditional, Western, and those that are based on religious practices.

Landscape

Is Africa very hot?

Africa can get hot in certain areas, but it is not always as "steamy" and "sweltering" as some would want people to think. I cannot understand why reporters and writers from Western countries where temperatures sometimes soar to as high as 1200 F speak and write about Africa as if it is a permanently steaming cauldron. True, Africa is next to the equator but these exaggerations are just absurd. In Texas, for example, it sometimes gets so hot that people die from the heat, but you do not hear of "America's boiling heat," or "America's choking heat," or better still "America's killer heat" in the media; the diction used to describe the situation is usually different and not damning and condemnatory as would be when the setting is Africa.

The problem with heat in Africa is that certain areas get to about 800F and stay that way for months with minimal, and sometimes no rainfall. Droughts and deaths result from this because of the famine and starvation that follow such extended dry periods, and not because Africa is incredibly hot. But some writers and reporters alike would like the world to think that Africa is a raging inferno in which only the black man can survive; a possible hint at the reason why Africans are "burnt black," I dare suggest. Just like other parts of the world, Africa has places with warmer climates and others that are cooler; I dare not say colder so as not to mislead some people who know what it means to get cold, as the temperature does not get anywhere near the twenties except on mountain caps.

I have often heard people who have been to Africa compare Florida's weather to that of Africa. Bottom line, Africa is not as hot as some people want us to believe. The weather is beautiful all year round, even when it rains. There are numerous Africans who are born and they die without experiencing a tornado, or a real American style storm, and of course freezing winter conditions. People do die in parts of the world from time to time either because of extreme cold or from heat waves, which is no more the case in Africa. No, Africa is not a sweltering oven wherever you turn. Writers who claim this must be reminded that besides Africa's wealth, it is the beautiful tropical weather conditions of most of the continent that got the earliest white people bent on not leaving Africa, malaria carrying mosquitoes notwithstanding. What would temperatures around the seventies and the eighties sound like to a Canadian or Minnesotan after one of those true native winters? Beautiful, I guess. Yet hardly anybody talks about "stifling" heat or "frosty" Western cold with that disgust which is often present when Western writers talk or write of Africa's heat. Robert W July's summation of the weather conditions in Africa seems to me reasonably representative: "The geographic location of Africa has contributed to its tropical climate which is warm but extreme only in certain locations and which lacks the violent fluctuations in temperature found, for example, in North America" (3).

 
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