The maintenance of the law and order in the African pre-colonial societies

The maintenance of the law and order in the African pre-colonial societies

  • The pre-colonial East African societies that existed before the coming of Europeans were both centralized and decentralized and they included Buganda, Galla, Masai, Kikuyu, Nyamwezi, Bunyoro, etc. In these societies law and order was maintained in the following societies.

  • There was use of assemblies or councils that is; the pre-colonial societies used assemblies to make laws that guided them. Such assemblies aced as advisory councils of the leaders/kings about the issues concerning welfare of the societies that is; boundary conflicts, clan conflicts, examples of such assemblies’ included Lukiiko for Buganda, Rukurato for Bunyoro, Chama or Kikuyu and Ateker for Iteso such acted as centers for conflict resolutions.
  • Use of the army, these played a political and involved in the economic undertakings of the society. It should be noted that the army doubled as the policing and defensive machinery. In the centralized societies, there were standing armies like Ruga ruga army
  • of the Nyamwezi, Abambowa for Buganda, Abarusura for Bunyoro, etc. It should be noted that in the decentralized societies there were no standing armies that able-bodied men would be called upon incase danger arose.

  • Use of the spy network system that is; these took the Baganda and Banyoro people either total/loyal to him they included the members of the king, distant relatives and chiefs. It has to be noted that the use of women as spies was very vital in the maintenance of law and order that is; women were used as spies in both the subjects and chiefs they acted as eyes and ears of the king. As they informed him of the day to day activities in the kingdom thus maintaining law and order.
  • Proper hereditary system that is; most of the pre-colonial societies had strict hereditary system among the royal family which eventually greatly hindered power hungry leaders to struggle for power. The system strongly kept law and order as it minimized cases of power struggle in Buganda, the head of clans/Katikiro and the queen-mother had to make sure that the heir of the throne was in the King’s will. Among the Banyoro, the first son to touch the late Omukama”s body upon death would be the next Omukama, while in decentralized societies the elders’ council chose successor depending on age, status and patronage.

  • The role of religious leaders that is; they would predict peace and danger that could befall or attack the society that is; among the Iteso the “Emurons” were greatly respected, the Mandwa in Buganda, among the Nandi society chief Orkoiyot and Kimunyole was highly respected. These religious leaders therefore were consulted on various issues but mainly about peace and danger. They would foretell the fortunes in society hence maintaining social law and order.
  • Social classes/divisions that is; almost all societies there were classes of the inferior and superior people that is; in Buganda there were the Princes (Balangira), in Ankole there were the Bahima and Bahiru in general. Each class had its role and no class was allowed to involve itself in the activities of the others. In this way social harmony was maintained or dissolved.


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