Violence has left a lasting mark on many African countries, revealing the urgent need for effective approaches to healing and rebuilding. With the ongoing conflicts within countries in the SAHEL and west-, southern and east African regions, the scars of history underscore the importance of transitional justice and peacebuilding initiatives. The violence that has affected countries across Africa points towards the need the importance of capacitating communities, on the African Union Transitional Justice Policy (AUTJP). Transitional Justice outlines a range of strategies to assist countries who need to address the historical violations of the past and to make the transition from violent conflict or authoritarian rule towards democratic governance.
It is evident that countries and societies who suffered mass atrocities which has involved the violation of human rights of its citizens require processes that will enable them to address the past engage in trauma-healing as a pathway to building sustainable peace. The pillars that transitional justice is built upon, truth and justice, reconciliation, memorialisation, reparations and institutional reform, maps out the process of transformation required to promote peace.
Citizens often fail to grasp the roles they can play within their communities in terms of promoting and implementing transitional justice and peacebuilding. An active citizenry has the potential to drive transitional justice processes and to achieve a positive impact in terms of peacebuilding. It is therefore necessary to raise the awareness of African citizens so that they can better understand their roles and contributions within families, at work, and across society at large. Active citizens promoting transitional justice and peacebuilding can affect particular dynamics within societies which is important and crucial for positive symbiotic change within countries. In particular, citizens can lead intra-community and inter-community dialogues to address deep divisions and outline an approach to restoring broken relationships.
The AUTJP and its African solutions for African Problems approach recognises the importance of “support and respect for community-based accountability mechanisms that seek to foster integration and reconciliation.” Reconciliation is a long-term process that seeks to restore broken relationships by addressing the atrocities of the past. The pursuit of a reconciliation approach is based on an acknowledgement that we are different, that we can respect each other’s differences whether it is race, ethnicity, language, status, and the commitment to shared values, group or community practices and identities that includes religious, family values, and respect for cultural traditions. As citizens we play different roles and have responsibilities to protect and strengthen our communities, creating harmony and safety. This is the only basis upon which the African continent can pursue unity, and it difficult to shake and disrupt a united, confident and strong society.
It is evident from IJR’s contribution towards building the capacity of 20 civil society actors from Ethiopia, Kenya, South Africa, Somalia and Sudan over an 18-month period from 2022 to 2023 that there is a significant degree of need for additional training programmes. IJR (Institute for Justice and Reconciliation) is committed towards supporting the implementation of the African Union Transitional Policy which concludes that “it is critical to ensure that transitional justice processes are aligned to local needs and aspirations”, and that they contribute towards enhancing a common understanding of a shared vision for societies in order to maximise public support and consolidate national ownership of peacebuilding processes. It needs to be noted that while transitional justice holds promise, challenges such as political resistance, insufficient resources, and uneven implementation across regions must be acknowledged. Critics argue that imposing international models of justice may not adequately address the diverse needs of local communities.
As we reflect on the journey from violence to healing, it is evident that our commitment to tailored peacebuilding is pivotal. Let us amplify the efforts of organisations like the Institute for Justice and Reconciliation, supporting their tireless work as they build bridges to a united and harmonious future.
Anthea Flink is the IJR Project Leader for the Pan-African Reconciliation Network (PAREN)
The views and opinions expressed in the article are solely that of the author, and not the IJR.