A critical appraisal of law reform in Cameroon: Pluralism and harmonisation of laws

Authors Mikano Emmanuel Kiye

ISSN: 2521-2605
Affiliations: Lecturer, Department of English Law, University of Buea, Cameroon
Source: Journal of Comparative Law in Africa, Volume 6 Issue 1, p. 28 – 54


This paper, through conceptual and practical analyses, unravels the challenges posed to the Cameroonian legal system by the existence of multiple and divergent values. It addresses the challenges associated with law reform in the polity and advocates for an alternative approach to reform, which is holistic and practical in nature. Cameroon’s legal system is mostly a relic of colonialism and consists of multiple divergent values that interact with each other. Among these values are civil law derived from France, common law received from England and customary law that has, hitherto, been in existence prior to colonialism. The differences between these values are insurmountable, and have led to tensions and frictions which have, in turn, made incidences of conflict of laws and forum shopping inevitable. The situation is compounded by the fact that, although being a unitary state, the laws are applicable in the entity as if it consisted of several different territories. While acknowledging the laudable initiatives toward reform, the paper questions the rationality and objectivity underlying the policies adopted, consisting mostly of the harmonisation of received laws and the restriction of customary jurisdiction. Law reform has been problematic: harmonisation is at the verge of establishing a uni-jural system founded on civil laws; restriction of customary jurisdiction has fragmented the legal process; and law reform has failed to completely eradicate conflict of laws and forum shopping. The paper calls for alternative approaches that, among others, equally reflect the country’s inherited traditions while also strengthening the role of customary law.