David Pimentel


Legal pluralism - defined as a situation in which "more than one legal

system operate(s) in a single political unit" - is a practical reality in a large

number of countries in the world, most notably in the post-colonial states of

Africa. These newly-independent states are grappling with how to

preserve the cultural heritage reflected in their customary law and

institutions, even as they attempt to function as modern constitutional

regimes.' Many of their constitutions preserve a role for customary law or

recognize the inevitability of legal pluralism in the state. But few have

found a functional and effective way of implementing legal pluralism or,

more specifically, defining the relationships between the pluralistic


This Article attempts to define the challenges and opportunities

associated with linking statutory and customary adjudication. In order to

assess the various approaches to the problem, it is necessary to evaluate the

appropriate goals and purposes of legal pluralism, distinguishing the

motivations of many who have exploited pluralistic systems for their own

self-interest. It is also necessary to recognize and preserve the virtues

inherent in customary systems, which have been historically undervalued

as "primitive," and remain under attack by those who see them as a threat

to the protection of human rights.

Striking these balances to implement legal pluralism in Mozambique

presents serious, but by no means unique, challenges. Mozambique's

current situation serves as a case in point for application of the principles

developed in this Article.