The Justice and Reconciliation in Africa programme at the IJR has recently released four new policy briefs, together with the Justice and Reconciliation Project. The briefs focus on Northern Uganda, as the region tries to recover after more than two decades of war (click here for a chronology of events). The release of these policy briefs coincides with the commencement of War Crimes trials, with the case against Lord’s Resistance Army commander Thomas Kwoyelo commencing in the High Court in Gulu in July (more here).
The policy briefs can be accessed by following the links below (in PDF), and your feedback and comments are welcome!Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
I want to start out by thanking everyone for the great feedback I have received on the latest issue of the SARB newsletter – especially those who appreciated our new template! If you would like to be added to our mailing list, leave a comment on this post – I won’t post your email address, but I will add you to our database.
Today I thought I would post a short selection of interesting things –
First, have a look at the latest article in the Race & Identity series: a joint initiative of the IJR and the Cape Times. In it, journalist and author Bryan Rostron asks why We can’t break the cursed circle of colour in South Africa.
On a very different note, war crimes trials have begun in Uganda, and our colleagues at the Refugee Law Project at Makerere University have been observing and summarizing proceedings – an excellent resource for those who are unable to attend. Here are Update 1 and Update 2 on the proceedings of the trial of Thomas Kwoyelo, a former combatant in the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) (more…).
Last thing – I recently attended the 13th conference of the International Association of the Study of Forced Migration in Uganda, which focused on transitional justice and forced migration. For me, a visit to this region really confirmed the strong links between these two themes. Pambazuka News has complied a special issue with excerpts from some of the papers presented at the conference – it’s definitely worth a read here!Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
I just got back from a really amazing conference of the International Association for the Study of Forced Migration (IASFM), hosted by the Refugee Law Project (RLP) at Makerere University in Uganda. (#iasfm13)
The RLP, together with the African Transitional Justice Research Network (ATJRN) and the Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation (CSVR), established the Institute for African Transitional Justice (IATJ) in May of 2010.
Every year, the IATJ hosts a week-long residential programme focused on Transitional Justice in Africa. This year’s programme takes place from 20th – 27th November 2011, in Kitgum, Northern Uganda, and focuses on: “Whose Memories Count and at What Cost?” It should be fascinating!
The deadline for applications is 1 August 2011, and applicants wishing to apply for scholarships must do so in advance of the deadline. Further details are available from the RLP website here, or in the Call for Applications (PDF) here. Good luck!Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
The South African Coalition for Transitional Justice (SACTJ) has released a press statement indicating that it rejects the regulations gazetted by the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development (DOJ&CD) earlier this month, and related to the ‘payment of educational assistance and health benefits exclusively to victims identified by the TRC’.
These regulations, the Coalition maintains, were ‘gazetted after only a very superficial consultation process with victims and other stakeholders, and do not address the key concerns expressed by these stakeholders’.
The Coalition consists of the Institute for Justice and Reconciliation, Khulumani Support Group, Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation, International Centre for Transitional Justice, South African History Archives, Human Rights Media Centre, Freedom of Expression Institute and the Trauma Centre for Survivors of Violence and Torture.
To read the full press release, click here.
A press conference will also be held on 11 June in the COSATU boardroom, Community House, 41 Salt River Road, at 11am.
For more information please call:
Dr Marjorie Jobson, Khulumani Support Group 082 268 0223
Shirley Gunn, Human Rights Media Centre 082 4509276Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
The South African Coalition for Transitional Justice (SACTJ) has welcomed last week’s Constitutional Court ruling upholding the “rights of victims of apartheid-era abuses, as well as the media and public, to speak the truth about crimes amnestied by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC).”
The case of The Citizen 1978 (Pty) Ltd and Others v Robert John McBride, according to the Constitutional Court, focused on how an “amnesty granted under the Promotion of National Unity and Reconciliation Act 34 of 1995 (Reconciliation Act) affects a claim for defamation.” In 2003, while under consideration for the post of Ekurhuleni metro police chief, The Citizen “published a number of articles and editorials questioning Mr McBride’s candidacy”, and in which he was described as a “criminal” and a “murderer”. This was in reference to a bombing McBride carried out in 1986 in Durban while a member of Umkhonto we Sizwe, in which three people were killed and sixty-nine injured. He applied for amnesty under the Reconciliation Act, and this was granted in April of 2001. (full statement from the Constitutional Court)
The Constitutional Court describes its ruling, in which The Citizen‘s appeal was upheld and McBride’s cross-appeal dismissed, though also finding that The Citizen defamed McBride by “claiming falsely that he was not contrite”:
In a majority judgment by Cameron J (Brand AJ, Froneman J, Nkabinde J and Yacoob J concurring), the Court found that the Reconciliation Act did not make the fact that Mr McBride committed murder untrue. And that Act did not prohibit frank public discussion of his act as “murderer”. Nor did it prevent his being described as a “criminal”. The Court emphasised that protected comment need not be “fair or just at all”, in any sense in which these terms are commonly understood. Criticism is protected even if extreme, unjust, unbalanced, exaggerated and prejudiced, so long as it expresses an honestly-held opinion, without malice, on a matter of public interest on facts that are true. The Citizen was thus entitled to express views on Mr McBride’s suitability for the post. It did so with coverage that struck the Court as vengeful and distasteful. But the Court emphasised that its opinion is not the issue. Despite the harshness of the Citizen’s coverage, it is entitled to legal protection.
A separate judgement was also made by Ngcobo CJ, with Khampepe J concurring. (full statement from the Constitutional Court)
The SACTJ supported Joyce Mbizana and Mbasa Mxenge, who brought an amicus brief before the Consitutional Court. Both Mbizana and Mxenge suffered the loss of family members murdered by apartheid security police officers, who were later granted amnesty through the TRC. Their brief emphasised the “right to truth”, and maintained that,
“the ruling of the lower courts impaired their ability to speak freely about the crimes committed against their family members, and about the wrongdoers who received amnesty. They contended that freedom of expression is constitutive of dignity: to deny persons in their position the right to speak the truth without fear of being sued for defamation strips them of their dignity. They argued that the effect of amnesty could not alter the historical facts.” (full statement here)
The SACTJ consists of the Khulumani Support Group, Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation, International Centre for Transitional Justice, South African History Archives, Human Rights Media Centre, Institute for Justice and Reconciliation and the Freedom of Expression Institute.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
The IJR’s Transitional Justice in Africa programme has just released the second in its Occasional Paper series for 2011, entitled Reconciliation and Transitional Justice: The case of Rwanda’s Gacaca Courts and authored by Executive Director Fanie du Toit.
In the paper, du Toit explores of reconciliation as an outcome of transitional justice, and examines Rwanda’s gacaca system within this framework.
To download the full paper (pdf), click here.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
The IJR is pleased to announce the convening of a five week Transitional Justice in Africa Fellowship Programme. This intensive residential programme which will be held in Cape Town from the the 9th of May to the 10th of June 2011.
This year’s Fellowship Programme will be open to nationals from Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda only.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
The IJR’s Transitional Justice in Africa programme manager Tim Murithi recently returned from a conference in Barcelona. Co-hosted by the International Catalan Institute for Peace (ICIP) and Casa África, the conference focused on ‘Peace, Conflict and Security in Africa: New Challenges and New Perspectives’.
Tim’s talk was on peace and security architecture and the African Union – but don’t take my word for it, watch it below! (Posted in 3 segments) And don’t forget to leave your questions and comments…Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
During a four day consultation hosted by the Institute for Justice and Reconciliation with community leaders representing three ethnic groups from the Southern Sudanese state of Upper Nile, participants were asked to identify their major developmental challenges. An elder and paramount chief, William Deng Abol who had walked for two days to attend the meeting, stood up and explained ‘God had two sons and promised his old cow to Dinka and its calf to Nuer. But Dinka went to God’s cattle pen at night, imitating the voice of Nuer, thereby managing to get the calf. When God realized what happened he was very angry and urged Nuer to raid Dinka for cattle as revenge’.
This frequently told age-old anecdote is indicative of the many challenges South Sudan faces today. Months away from a long-awaited referendum, in January 2011, to decide whether or not to secede from the Arabic North, it outlines some of the challenging tasks a potentially new government of Southern Sudan will face. The anecdote tells of the breakdown of trust between ethnic groups, of the ancient cattle raids, of the clash between old and new cultures and traditions. But most importantly Abol’s anecdote refers to the vast and nation-wide low-scale conflict which receives virtually no international attention, but that continues to cost thousands of lives annually. Cattle raids are part of many Sudanese cultures. Sparked by disputes over grazing land and water, the raids are increasingly violent due to continued arms possession. Sudan’s disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration (DDR) programme – so vital to the country’s post-war reconstruction – has largely failed. According to the Small Arms Survey, a Geneva-based NGO, gun possession has become a rite of passage in areas of Southern Sudan. Coupled with the major socio-economic crises ravaging the South, prospects for peaceful coexistence, nation building and reconciliation in the South are looking dire.
The January referendum will enable the people of South Sudan to decide on whether to stay unified with the North or secede and form an independent state. Referred to frequently as the ‘final walk to freedom’, the referendum presents the chance finally to be free from Arabic rule and systemic oppression. Signed in 2005 with the assistance of (and some will argue under extreme pressure from) the international community, the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) brought to an end Sudan’s second brutal civil war which began in 1983.
At a recent public meeting held in September 2010, in Cape Town, Francis Deng, the Special Adviser to the UN Secretary General on the Prevention of Genocide and Sudanese Minister of State for Foreign Affairs referred to the CPA as the peace agreement of all peace agreements. Deng went further to say that if the CPA does not bring lasting peace to Sudan, no agreement can. Less than 100 days before the referendum, fears abound that the government of the North will intentionally delay the referendum thereby sparking a revolt in the South. Given the fact that Sudan’s vast and mostly untapped oil reserves are located in the South, this would come as no surprise. Serious delays have marred the setting up of the South Sudan Referendum Commission. Voter registration for a population estimated between 8.3 and 11 million has officially been postponed to November 2010.
Key CPA provisions agreed by the guarantors of the agreement have not been finalised-these pertain mainly to border demarcation and the sharing of oil wealth but also to the future of the armed forces and demobilisation, disarmament and demobilisation (DDR) processes. Salva Kiir, president of South Sudan and chairman of the Sudan People Liberation Movement (SPLM) has already warned that the South might conduct its own referendum should the North attempt to hinder the process.
Southerners are anxious yet resolute – in their hearts and minds they have already seceded. The referendum is merely a formality, albeit one that promises to be turbulent. Adviser to President Omar al Bashir, Mustafa Omar Ismail recently called on Sudanese youth to prepare for war to defend the country against cessation from the North. This was echoed by other senior officials in the ruling National Congress Party who have publicly stated the referendum’s outcome will not be recognised.
Despite this increasingly hostile rhetoric, political will to prepare for a smooth transition and improve living conditions is in critically short supply in South Sudan. As the threat of hostilities lingers, the incentive to spend the South’s limited budget on reconstruction and development rather than weaponry is minimal. And yet the need could not be more urgent: 90% of the population of Southern Sudan live on less than one dollar a day. Chronic hunger stands at 33%: in early 2010 Akobo, a town in South Sudan was named the ‘hungriest place on earth’ by the United Nations. The country still suffers one of the worlds’ highest infant mortality rates. 92% of women in Southern Sudan cannot read or write. Tellingly, these statistics originate from a summary sheet issued by the office the UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator for the Sudan entitled ‘Scary Statistics-Southern Sudan’.
All this presents a gloomy picture for the future of Africa’s largest country. In the international media, the ongoing conflict in Darfur and the indictment of President Bashir on charges of war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide by the International Criminal Court, continue to overshadow the challenges mentioned here. Community leaders in Upper Nile State explain that reconciliation and healing are far-off ideals when every-day life is a struggle. Though they will vote for cessation, they have little confidence that the leadership of an independent South will be able to provide the large-scale reconstruction programmes that are desperately needed. After citing the Dinka-Nuer anecdote, William Deng Abol again stands up and adds ‘our children are hungry and uneducated, our cattle are sick and our crops are failing. We have no clean drinking water; the hospitals and schools are understaffed and under resourced. We don’t trust our neighbours. It is hard to build peace under these circumstances. How are we meant to reconcile like this?’
This article appeared in the Cape Times on 15 October 2010.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
In late August, Kenyan president Mwai Kibaki promulgated the country’s new constitution: in a recent article for The Current Analyst, IJR programme manager Tim Murithi describes this event as “the culmination of a journey that begun over two decades ago when the first attempt was made to reform the constitutional order that Kenya had inherited from Britain, its former colonial power, in 1963.”Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
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