Transitional justice: what funders need to know

Abdul Tejan-Cole

The mechanisms are often flawed, but many of those flaws can be corrected if the need for accountability is effectively balanced with the need to build a stable society and sustainable peace

In the past two decades, transitional justice (TJ) mechanisms have abounded in Africa. They have met with limited success. Many of them have mirrored the governance challenges that gave rise to conflict in the first place and have not been properly designed or implemented.

Truth commissions (TRCs), for example, have either not been independent or not perceived as such, or they have failed to take advantage of local and traditional means of reconciliation. In other cases, the limited scope of their mandate and the choice of commissioners has deprived others of credibility.

Many African countries are yet to domesticate the Rome Statute. This makes it difficult for them to prosecute serious crimes under local laws. In Uganda, for example, attempts to prosecute international crimes in domestic courts have encountered a series of challenges including limited capacity, inadequate legal framework and selective prosecutions. There is also a backlash against the International Criminal Court (ICC) due to the perceived importation of western notions of justice, disregard for local perceptions of justice and the perceived selective targeting of African states, while even worse atrocities happen in other places such as Syria and the Gaza Strip. African leaders see the ICC as a replication of the global hegemony of western states and the prioritisation of criminal justice over other transitional justice measures which promote healing, social harmony and reconciliation.

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