Towards an inclusive vision of law reform and legal pluralism in Ghana


University of British Columbia

Date Issued


Document Type



Doctor of Philosophy - PhD




In post-colonial Ghana, some rules of customary law have been criticised as being inimical to the rule of law and to socioeconomic development. As such, customary law has been a key focus of legal reform. There has been resistance to law reform efforts, especially from communities in rural areas because the state and customary legal systems have failed to reconcile their perceptions of law and legal responsibilities. Taking these legal conflicts as its starting point, this dissertation explores the mechanisms for effective reforms of customary law in a legally plural Ghana. One key objective is to consider the types of legal reforms that might be agreeable to rural dwellers in ways that ensure compliance with state law. Drawing on legal pluralism as a guiding framework for analyzing the relationship between state and customary legal systems, and focusing on intestate succession as one concrete example, I argue that in order for legal reforms to be embraced, especially by rural dwellers, the state must adopt an inclusive vision of law reform, by modifying the machinery of law reform to meet the particular needs of its people. In the context of intestate succession, I argue that the courts should be given discretion, based on suggested guidelines, to vary the extended family’s portion of intestate property. In addition, I argue that changes to intestate law must also be accompanied by political, economic, educational and even psychological changes to the structures that frame the customary legal system. In sum, legal reform must also mean social, political and economic reform. It must also mean establishing and nurturing meaningful reciprocal relationships among legal systems and empowering people to consider engaging with and accepting opposing views, with a view to managing conflicts.

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Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International




Law, Peter A. Allard School of