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

See all articles by Chris Mahony

Chris Mahony

Centre for International Law Research and Policy; World Bank Group; United Nations Development Program

Yasmin L. Sooka

Independent

Date Written: August 1, 2015

Abstract

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

Mahony, Chris and Mahony, Chris and Sooka, Yasmin L., The Truth About the Truth: Insider Reflections on the Sierra Leonean Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) (August 1, 2015). 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, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2798281

Chris Mahony (Contact Author)

Centre for International Law Research and Policy ( email )

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Belgium

HOME PAGE: http://https://www.cilrap.org/mahony/

World Bank Group ( email )

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Washington, DC 20433
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United Nations Development Program ( email )

United States

Yasmin L. Sooka

Independent ( email )

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