The Case of the Ewe People
(Pratiques du droit au Togo Le cas du peuple Ewe)
03 / 1993
Each people can be defined by its culture which embodies its own civilisation. But when two civilisations meet and there are mutual exchanges, one or other loses to a greater or lesser extent some of its fundamental values. Africa is the continent which has been the most deeply struck by this phenomenon. When it came into contact with the West, despite its richness, the African culture was in some way emptied of its contents.
From this anthropological starting point, Komi Biosse notes that hte model of development imposed on Africa by the colonisers and then by their own political elites denies the cultural values of African peoples and prevents them from fully expressing themselves. Thus the idea that "Africa is not ready for democracy" is frequently put forward. However, democracy is not new in Africa, "it is the very essence of this people". But the western model of democracy that was forced onto Africa does not take into account its own approach and is driving the countries towards permanent conflict with numerous side effects.
In order to combat this evil, one has to attack at the roots, in particular the educational system, which is badly oriented: thus students doing final honours and post gratuate studies, instead of copying research subjects adapted for developed economies, should innovate and put themselves at the disposition of their own environment.
CERAD (Centre d’Etude, de Recherche Appliquée et d’Appui au Développement = Centre for Study and Applied Research for the Support of Development)is working on this. It is a NGO from Togo which supports, informs and awakens the population so that it can be conscious of its real problems and mobilise itself in order to find the right solutions. The Centre wants to complete the action of the central administration by carrying out research that should provide a better knowledge of the area in order to adapt development actions appropriately and to give them some cohesion.
Starting with a concern for cultural adaptation the author quotes the example of a study carried out by the CERAD on the sources of the Ewe people’s traditional practices of social regulation. For this ethnic group, numerically the most important in Togo, the sources of their law proceed essentially from their religious universe. Thus God is the lawmaker and ensures that the law is respected through the instrumentality of the spirits of ancestors and Voodoo spirits represented on Earth by spiritual chiefs (the chief elected by the population becomes the "wise man"). The notions of community and solidarity are extremely important for life in society.
The author analyses three traditional Ewe practices : the judgement of the dead (any infringement of the law is punished even after death and the guilty party’s family may be obliged to pay a fine for the damage caused); the ceremony of purification of the initiated after the transgression of Voodoo interdiction, where the culprit’s family is again involved; and the respect of the weekly day of rest, at the risk of being excluded from the community.
The study shows how development policies which do no not take realities into account result in confrontations and are bound to fail.
The presentation illustrates how the law is an expression of a culture and corresponds to a certain vision of man and society.
The author describes traditional legal practices, but infortunatly the study does not consider the means used by the Ewe people to get recognition and respect for their vision of the law and their types of legal practices.
Original card in French in Dph data base. The ’title/sub-title’ field corresponds to the ’translated title’ field in the French card.
Contact : CERAD, 22 Bd des Armées - BP 1423 - Lome Togo - Tel 216653 - Person to contact : EDJOSAN, Edoh.
BIOSSE Komi, 1992