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Law and Society under a Democratic Dictatorship: Dr. Banda and Malawi

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The regime of Dr. Banda in Malawi was characterized by various methods of social control, but an appeal to "tradition" was one source of legitimacy. The concept of "authoritarian populism" can be applied. The principal means of law enforcement was through operation of the "traditional" courts. These were developed from precolonial systems and were modified during the British period. They administer justice without due regard to technicalities, and rules of evidence are less strict than in the Western-type system. Under Banda, their scope was extended. The Western-type system also operated but its scope was diminished and Banda felt free to interfere. Workings of traditional courts could be problematic particularly in view of Dr. Banda's interpretation of "tradition" and the use of them for political trials. But abolition could also prove problematic, and they still operate in a watered-down form. Issues are raised about the cross-cultural applicability of "human rights."


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