The provision of effective, legitimate and accessible justice is one of the most fundamental public goods expected from a well-governed state. In this article, we compare the legitimacy of three state or state-supported Ghanaian dispute settlement institutions: the magistrate's courts, the Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ) and the land dispute committees of the neo-traditional Customary Land Secretariats (CLSs). It was found that popular beliefs and expectations are predominantly focused on the notion that justice requires a ‘balanced process for establishing the truth’, and that the procedures, codes and remedies used by the magistrate's courts and the CHRAJ were more congruent with these beliefs than those of the CLSs. The findings challenge stereotypes of popular and traditional justice as being primarily about reconciliation or restoration of communal harmony, and suggest that state institutions should be supported in their current development of hybrid and informal kinds of dispute settlement.
IDS Bulletin (2011) 42 (2) 64-75 [DOI: 10.1111/j.1759-5436.2011.00212.x]