The Truth About the Truth: Insider Reflections on the Sierra Leonean Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC)
Ainley, Kirsten and Friedman, Rebekka and Mahony, Chris, eds (2015) Evaluating Transitional Justice: Accountability and Peacebuilding in Post-Conflict Sierra Leone. Palgrave Macmillan, London, UK, 241-264. ISBN 9781137468215
28 Pages Posted: 26 Jun 2016
Date Written: August 1, 2015
The literature on Sierra Leone’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) considers a variety of issues, including the breadth and authenticity of participation, the relationship of the Commission to the Special Court and the extent to which the Commission provided for healing, reconciliation and accountability. However, there has been little scholarly consideration of the integrity of the Commission’s historical narrative and its findings from the perspective of the Commission’s practitioners. In particular, there needs to be more focus on the nature of the ‘truth’ that should be sought. The South African TRC conceded that the testimony and other forms of evidence collected constituted a ‘more extensive and more complex’ truth than any one commission could hope to adequately process. This chapter considers the Sierra Leonean TRC’s efforts to provide a historical narrative describing the causes of the conflict and the conflict itself, under more constraints than the South African Commission. The chapter places the TRC’s accomplishments in political context by tracing the scarcity of resources and political support, the ill-defined and broad mandate and other key concerns to the post-conflict environment in which the Commission was established. The chapter discusses the importance of the nature of the conflict’s conclusion and the shift in British and American transitional justice (TJ) preferences to explain the constraints that prevented the TRC from accessing deeper truths and confronting structural drivers of conflict. We provide a critical appraisal of our own and our colleagues’ efforts within the Commission.
Keywords: Truth Commissions, International Relations, Politics, African Studies, Transitional Justice, Sierra Leone
JEL Classification: K33, K42, N40, N47, F02, F35, F34, H56, O19, P26
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation