Journal of the British Academy focuses on the role of transitional justice in post-conflict societies

25 May 2021

A special edition of the open access Journal of the British Academy published today explores the crucial role transitional justice plays in post-conflict reconstruction, social cohesion, and nation-building in several post-conflict societies across Africa including South Sudan, the world’s youngest nation.

The new research by humanities and social sciences scholars in the UK and Africa highlights several different approaches to transitional justice and their contributions towards peacebuilding and conflict resolution – such as feminist advocacy, interfaith engagement and grassroots initiatives.

The edition includes several critical insights and findings:

  • International criminal tribunals – such as the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda – may not be as effective at probing the collective memory of rights violations as is commonly understood within legal scholarship.
  • Current transitional justice processes fail to reflect the rising human rights abuses against women, underlining the need for more women to be represented in truth commission processes and for new legal frameworks and training for staff and commissioners.
  • Women are ‘silent peacemakers’ in the Northern Rift region of Kenya and their efforts – often at the level of grassroots initiatives – in preventing relapses into conflict merit greater decision-making powers in transitional justice processes.
  • A comparative study of South Africa and Kenya demonstrates that religious leaders play a vital role in building the social links essential to transitional justice processes, supporting the case for the inclusion of an interfaith agenda in these processes to address violent conflicts.
  • Poorly-timed or poorly-sequenced interventions may have a negative effect on the long-term sustainability of the South Sudan peace process as key contestations relate to when to initiate transitional justice mechanisms, not just how.
  • Field-based research into Kenyans’ experiences of the transitional justice interventions that led to the signing of the National Accord in 2008 suggests historical injustices still constrain efforts towards effective conflict transformation in Kenya.

Dr Elias Omondi Opongo, Editor of this special edition of the Journal of the British Academy, said:

“Transitional justice processes undoubtedly contribute to peace and sustainability in Africa. This special edition of the Journal of the British Academy calls for new ways of assessing truth-telling processes and illuminates the contextual factors that shape them – including legal frameworks, gender and cultural sensitivities, political stability, and peace and conflict resolution strategies.

“Documenting historical injustices and addressing grievances are critical and arduous tasks. They must never be taken for granted, and these studies aim to improve post-conflict reconstruction initiatives by opening up debates about the most effective and sustainable strategies.”

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