Culture, conflict resolution and the legacy of colonialism
Colonialism impacted local cultures far beyond their infrastructure, government and geography. In addition to eroding indigenous power structures, the structural violence inflicted during colonialism left native populations with lasting self-doubt and rejection of traditional practices. Among these rejected traditions are informal processes of resolving conflict. Conflict resolution methods in different cultures often vary greatly in underlying values and perceptions. Western judicial systems reflect individualistic, highly uncertainty avoidant, low-context tendencies, while indigenous conflict resolution methods reflect collectivistic, minimally uncertainty avoidant, high-context tendencies. Research into the current state of formal courts and informal justice forums in present-day rural Cameroon and Vanuatu provides case study-based evidence arguing that the transition from restorative justice to retributive justice catalyzed by colonialism has effectively crippled both systems of justice. Due to impacted value systems, neither the restorative, social harmony focus of traditional processes, nor the retributive, compensatory justice focus of the formal judicial system make the available forums wholly appropriate or adequate resources.