16 April 2018

THE LAW OF THE SOMALIS: A Stable Foundation for Economic Development in the Horn of Africa


THE LAW OF THE SOMALIS: A Stable Foundation for Economic Development in the Horn of Africa

by Michael van Notten, Edited by Spencer Heath MacCallum



Written by a trained and sympathetic observer, this book shows how Somali customary law differs fundamentally from most statutory law. Lawbreakers, instead of being punished, are simply required to compensate their victim. Because every Somali is insured by near kin against his or her liabilities under the law, a victim seldom fails to receive compensation. Somali law, being based on custom, has no need of legislation or legislators. It is therefore happily free of political influences. The author notes some specific areas that stand in need of change, but finds such change already implicit in further economic development.

Somali politics is based on consensus. The author explains how it works and shows why any attempt to establish democracy, which would divide the population into two classes-those who rule and those who are ruled-must inevitably produce chaos.


Viewed in global perspective, Somali law stands with the Latin and Medieval laws and the English common law against the statutory law that became prominent in Europe with the modern nation-state. This book explains many seeming anomalies about present-day Somalia and describes its prospects as well as the dangers facing it.

(Subjects: Somalia; customary law; legislation; criminal law; torts; delicts)

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