Friday, March 8, 2013

The Igbo Justice System

I really think the Igbo justice system is very well designed. The "justice department" is comprise of nine members. These members are the egwugwu. The egwugwu are each an ancestral spirit of the nine villages. They keep the peace among different families, groups, members, and other villages. They are almost like a justice panel, similar to judges on a court panel. They make group decisions on things and, like a jury, debate for a while by themselves on what decisions they are plan to enact. They seem to make very level headed, well thought out decisions that do not involve drastic measures to be taken to solve the problems that arise. For example, with the family who took back their daughter because her husband did not treat her well in Chapter 10, the egwugwus decided the solution of the problem would be to, "Go to your in-laws with a pot of wine and beg your wife to return to you. It is not bravery when a man fights with a woman."I think this was a very reasonable decision on their part. It is a very civilized system of governing the members of the villages and I think it works well.

5 comments:

Austin Falk said...

I agree that the Igbo justice system was very well designed. During pre colonial times in Africa, there were probably several governing systems similar to this that were responsible for governing their specific tribes. Throughout reading Things Fall Apart, Okonkwo’s tribe seems to be in control of itself and does a fine job handling day to day running of their society. It is a shame that when the British colonized Africa that they seemed to ignore these previous systems that were in place. Many of the problems in Africa today can be blamed on the negligence of the British. Obviously this Igbo system of government couldn’t have been to bad since it seems like they possessed early ideas that look a lot like the successful US Justice System today.

Michell D said...

I would have to agree that the Igbo government system is very well structured. I had a preconceived notion that it would be very primative because much of their life seems that way (an example being each wife serving her husband dinner and polygamy in general.) However, a system with judges and witnesses is very higher level thinking. They do have certain aspects that tie them back to their old less sophisticated ways such as the Evil Forest which I think is absolutely ridiculous. Overall I think the way they run their trials is surprisingly advanced compared to other aspects of their life.

Tyler Dean said...

I agree with you, Ian.They have a very fair and civilized justice system, contrary to popular belief. Westerners simply assumed African society was primitive and that they were inferior to Europe. Achebe describes the complicated and sophisticated nature of the Igbo judicial system to contradict the ideas of the prejudiced west. Achebe is rejecting the premonition that Igbo and all of African society was uncivilized. He reacts and defends his culture from the oppressive west.

Ben Bonner said...

I do have some reservations about the Igbo justice system. On the one hand, it does seem to emphasize "restorative" rather than "punitive" justice, which I think is a good thing. However I do take issue with the way the village responded to the murder. To me, it seems completely unreasonable that Ikemefuma and the girl from the other village should suffer the consequences of an action which they had no involvement in. They don't deserve to be punished and yet they are removed from their families and Ikemefuma is later killed. If I remember correctly, Ikemefuma was taken because his father was involved in the murder. This seems to suggest a notion of "corruption of blood" which appears contrary to Achebe's statement at the beginning of the book that "the people judged a man based on his worth, not the worth of his father." In this sense, the Igbo justice system seems unfair and Igbo society hypocritical.

Madeline Davis said...

I agree. I thought it was interesting that tradition plays a big role in the justice system. The Ibo people respect the egwugwu court system simply out of reverence for their ancestors and tradition. I also found it interesting that the Ibo people suspended their disbelief and treated the egwugwu as if the nine men were the actual ancestors of the villages.