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Dr. Anthony Diala

diala-circle Dr. Anthony Diala

Short Bio

Anthony C. Diala is an associate professor of law at the University of the Western Cape and founding director of its Centre for Legal Integration in Africa. He holds a Ph.D. from the University of Cape Town (2016), an LLM in Human Rights and Democratisation in Africa from the University of Pretoria (2007), a PG Diploma from the Nigerian Law School (2004), and an LLB from Enugu State University (2002). Diala has twenty years of graduate experience in nineteen countries. He was a URC Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Cape Town, Head of Jurisprudence and International Law Department at Madonna University, Nigeria, legal assistant at the International Criminal Court and the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, and a Human Rights Programme Officer in Nigeria’s Justice and Peace Commission. His teaching and research on legal pluralism, comparative law and human rights has received grant support from the American Council of Learned Societies, the Nordic Africa Institute, the Social Science Research Council of New York, the Institute of International Education, German Academic Exchange Service, and South Africa’s National Research Foundation. He is a visiting professor at the University of Turin, a member of the RQ+ College of Reviewers of Canada’s International Development Research Centre, the College of Senior Mentors of the Council for the Development of Social Science Research in Africa, and the Advisory Committee on Matrimonial Property of South Africa’s Law Reform Commission. Among others, he is on the editorial board of Legal Pluralism and Critical Social Analysis.

Selected Publications

  • ‘Legal pluralism and the future of indigenous family laws in Africa’ (2021) 35(1) International Journal of Law, Policy and the Family pp. 1-17 [Link].
  • ‘Peacebuilding and the interface of state law and indigenous market laws in Southern Nigeria’ (2020) 64(1) Journal of African Law pp. 1-26 [DOI].
  •  ‘A butterfly that thinks itself a bird: The identity of customary courts in Nigeria’ (2019) 51(3) The Journal of Legal Pluralism and Unofficial Law pp. 381-405 [DOI].
  • with B Kangwa ‘Rethinking the interface between customary law and constitutionalism in sub-Saharan Africa’ (2019) 52(2) De Jure pp. 189-206 [DOI].
  • ‘The shadow of legal pluralism in matrimonial property division outside the courts in Southern Nigeria’ (2018) 18(2) African Human Rights Law Journal pp. 706-731 [DOI].
  •  ‘The concept of living customary law: A critique’ (2017) 49(2) The Journal of Legal Pluralism and Unofficial Law pp. 143-165 [WOS].


Project Description

Over the past seven decades, African states have responded to the socio-economic changes of globalisation with law reforms aimed at harmonising their customary laws with universalistic human rights values. While change agents use constitutional values to champion law reforms, opponents of these reforms use cultural relativism to defend the preservation of indigenous norms. The jurisprudence of cultural contestations shows that judges tend to invalidate indigenous practices that they find offensive to human rights. Significantly, the criteria used by judges are mutations of colonial standards of equity, fairness, and natural justice, which are also known as the ‘repugnancy test.’ In many cases, however, neither judges nor legislators address the dissonance between the agrarian character of customary laws and the individualistic modern settings in which they are applied. Instead, law reforms construct customs into universalist images of the rights to dignity, equality and non-discrimination. The resultant conflict of laws obscures the nuanced ways in which people use the foundational values of customary laws to adapt their normative behaviour to modern conditions. Against the background of globalisation and legal history, this project explores the future of normative orders in sub-Saharan Africa. It suggests measures for integrating legal orders in the continent.



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