This report contends – and substantiates - that in the short-to-medium term better justice outcomes in Mali can only be achieved by stimulating greater mutual recognition of, and synergies between, the country’s customary and state judicial systems as more or less equal components of the country’s ‘justice ecology’.
Accepting that the Malian state does not have, will not have and should not aspire to have a monopoly on the provision of justice for the next few decades is a critical starting point for making improvements to how justice is provided in matters that affect Malians in their daily lives.
As this will be a contentious endeavour, a gradual approach is needed to identify directions for development that are both acceptable and feasible.
A five-step process may provide this:
1. Map the nature and legitimacy of Mali’s many customary justice systems with the aim of developing a better understanding of their performance and development potential.
2. Organise ‘Justice Summits’ throughout Mali to discuss the problems that Malian citizens encounter in their justice systems and how these can be creatively resolved using state and customary justice mechanisms.
3. Make greater use of customary justice leaders as legal officials of the state to increase mutual exposure and create shared experience between the various elements of Mali’s legal pluralism.
4. Work towards recognition of those customary justice systems in positive law that enjoy adequate levels of popular legitimacy and are open to development in order to offer Malians more synchronised ‘paths to justice’.
5. Imagine what the next iteration of Malian justice could look like, based on the results of steps 1–4, drawing from the strengths of both state and customary systems while achieving both modernisation and maintaining an organic fit with Malian culture.
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