Author : CSVR

Title : Press Release: Victims Should Come first in Transitional Justice

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Press Release

March 7, 2018


Victims Should Come First in Transitional Justice


The Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation (CSVR) hosted a seminar on the State of Transitional Justice (TJ) in Africa drawing on experiences in Northern Nigeria, Northern Uganda, South Africa, Cameroon and the Central African Republic.

The seminar, which was held on March 2, 2018, in Johannesburg, South Africa, was a follow-up to the first Continental TJ Forum which CSVR hosted in partnership with the African Union Commission – Department of Political Affairs (AUC-DPA) in October 2017.

Annah Moyo-Kupeta from the CSVR noted that the seminar sought to explore good practices, challenges and opportunities for transitional justice in Africa drawing from lessons learned from current experiences.

“Learning from our experiences is critical in informing future interventions,” said Moyo-Kupeta. “African governments and TJ practitioners need to put victims first.”

At the same time, however, there was a need to be realistic and not unnecessarily raise hopes about what transitional justice could or could not achieve, she said.

Jackson Odong of the Refugee Law Project noted that various traditional justice mechanisms were used in Africa to resolve conflict and implement reconciliation.

"Traditional Justice should not be subservient to Prosecutorial Justice — they should be cooperative and complimentary,” he said. He highlighted Mato Oput — which is a traditional justice process which involves drinking the bitter herb by both victims and perpetrators as —inclusive of various forms of justice such as reconciliation and guarantees of non-repetition.

“Uganda is a country doing transitional justice where there is no transition,” Odong noted and asked how it would be possible to hold “accountability mechanisms accountable in the absence of transitional justice policy".

Odong argued that it was important to put victims first, reviewing “transitional justice as justice for us (by lawyers, government stakeholders, etc.) versus justice with us, with victims informing and designing the transitional justice agenda and process”.

He added: "Reconciliation is a process — a journey that requires time and healing. It cannot be rushed."

“We need to understand the past in order to move forward," said Jasper Ukachukwu of the Centre for Democracy and Development in Nigeria who reviewed transitional justice processes in Northern Nigeria.

Transitional justice processes must serve the needs of the people, said Ukachukwu who asked how we could tackle the dilemma of the interchanging identity of "victims today - perpetrators tomorrow”.

Nomfundo Mogapi of the CSVR addressed the importance of the psychosocial issues in the transitional justice process, noting that “we have neglected our woundedness as a continent”.

“We are a wounded nation being led by wounded leaders who have not dealt with their own trauma,” she said.

Wendy Isaack of Human Rights Watch warned that sexual violence continued to be used as a weapon of war in Central Africa.

She questioned whether the Special Criminal Court in the Central African Republic could deliver justice for women — particularly women who are victims of sexual violence and recommended that the Court in CAR should put victims at the centre of transitional justice processes that would seek to address their needs.

“Many victims of rape in the CAR live in the same communities and alongside their perpetrators. They are deeply traumatised,” she said.

In her report on the state of Transitional Justice in the Cameroon, Laura Tufon of the Justice and Peace Commission described various challenges in the country: “Cameroon is a country that needs intervention and healing,” said Tufon.

In closing, Moyo-Kupeta questioned whether TJ processes have sufficient tools to address socio-economic dimensions of conflict both as root causes of conflict, and as specific rights violated during conflicts.


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