African Constitutional Law (origin of real Democracy)

axum_15876from The Destruction of Black Civilization by Chancellor Williams

Some Political Theories and Principles of Ancient African Constitution Law

(Drawn from African Traditional Constitutional and Customary Laws.  Different versions and modifications of the same laws occurred in different societies.)

I. The People are the first and final source of all power.

II. The rights of the community of people are, and of right ought to be, superior to those of any individual, including Chiefs and Kings (a) The Will of the People is the supreme law; (b) Chiefs and Kings are under the law, not above it.

III. Kings, Chiefs, and Elders are leaders, not rulers.  They are the elected representatives of the people and the instruments for executing their will.

IV. Government and people are one and the same.

V. The family is recognized as the primary social, judicial, economic and political unity in the society; the family council may function as a court empowered to try all internal (non-serious) matters involving only member of the Extended Family Group.

VI. The Elder of each Extended Family of Clan is its chosen representative on the Council.

VII. Decisions in council are made by the Elders.  The Chief or King must remain silent.  Even when the Council's decision is announced, it is through a Speaker (Linguist).  Decrees or laws are issued in the same manner to assure that the voice of the Chief or King is the "voice of the people." (This is an example of a provision that had wide variations.)

VIII. The land belongs to no one.  It is God's gift to mankind for use and as a sacred heritage, transmitted by our forefathers as a bond between the living and the dead, to be held in trust by each generation for the unborn who will follow, and thus to the last generation.

IX. Each family, therefore, has a right to land, free of charge, sufficient in acreage for its economic well-being; for the right to the opportunity and means to make a living is the right to live.

(a). The land, accordingly cannot be sold or given away.

(b). The land may be held for life and passed on to the family's heirs, and so on forever.

(c). The Chief is the Custodian of all land, the principal duty being to assure fair  distribution and actual use.

X. All moneys, gifts, taxes and other forms of donations to Chief or King still belong to the people for relief or aid to individuals in times of need.

XI. Every member of the state has the right of appeal from a lower to higher court.  (In some states appeals could be taken even from the King's Court to the "Mother of the Nation.")

(a) The procedure was from the Chief's Village Court to the District Court, to the Provincial Court, to the King's Court.

(b) Such appeals were allowed in serious or major crimes only (those affecting the whole society).

XII. Fines for offenses against an individual went to the victim, not the court.

(a) Part of the money received from the loser was returned to him as an expression of goodwill and desire for renewal of friendship.

(b) Another part was given as a fee to the trial court as an appreciation of justice.

XIII. "Royalty" in African terms means Royal Worth, the highest in character, wisdom, sense of justice and courage.

(a) He who founded the nation by uniting many as one must be the real leader, guide and servant of his people.

(b) The people, in honor of the founder of the nation, thereafter will elect Chiefs from the founder's family (lineage) if the heirs meet the original test that reflected the Founder's character, whose spirit was supposed to be inherited.

XIV. The trouble of one is the trouble of all.  No one may go in want while others have anything to give.  All are brothers and sisters.  Each is his "brothers' or sisters' keeper."

XV. Age grades, sets, and classes are social, economic, political and military systems for (1) basic and advanced tradition education (formal); (2) individual and group responsibility roles; (3) police and military training; (4) division of labor; (5) rites of passage and social activities.  In chiefless societies the age grades are the organs of social, economic and political action.

XVI. Bride Price or Bride Wealth is the gift that signifies mutual acceptance on the part of both families and is intended as a family security bond which may be returned in part if the wife turns out to be worthless or utterly unsatisfactory.  (Bride Wealth tended to stabilize the institution of marriage.  This was not "wife buying.")

XVII. The community as a whole is conceived of as One Party, opposition being conducted by leaders of various factions.

  1. Factions of opposition are usually formed by the different age-groups.
  2. Debates may go on indefinitely or until a consensus is reached.
  3. Once a consensus is reached, and the community's will determined, all opposition to the common will must cease.
  4. Those whose opposition is so serious that they are unwilling to accept the new law may "splinter off" either individually or in groups under a new leader (to form a new state or the nucleus for it).

XVIII. In warfare the object is not to kill the enemy, but to overcome him with fear, if possible, such as screaming war cries, loud noise, hideously masked faces, etc.  Where killing is unavoidable it must be kept at a minimum.  In case of defeat there must be some kind of ruse to enable the enemy to retire in honor.

XIX. The African religion, not being a creed or "article of faith," but an actual way of thinking and living, is reflected in all institutions and is, therefore, of the greatest constitutional significance.

  1. Politically, the role of the Chief as High Priest who presents the prayers of the people to his and their ancestors in Heaven, is the real source of his influence, political or otherwise.
  2. Socially, the "rites of passage," songs, and the dances (to drive away evil, etc.), as well as the purification and sacrificial rites for the atonement of sins - are important.

XX. Since religious and moral law must prevail and the race survive, a man may have more than one wife; for he is forbidden to sleep or cohabit with his wife during the nine months of pregnancy or during the suckling period of one or two years thereafter.  (1) The wife may not prepare meals for the husband or family during the menstrual period (2) The husband is strictly forbidden to have any kind of relationship with one wife during the set period that belongs to another wife.

XXI. The supreme command of the fighting forces is under the Council, not the King.  If the King becomes the Commander-in-Chief, it is through election by the Council because of his qualification as a general or field commander.  This position ends with the war and the armed forces return to former status under the Council or, more directly under the respective Paramount chiefs.  There were no standing armies.]]>