Whose Peace, Which Justice?
In Report Series, Phoenix, Arizona: The Zambakari Advisory, 2019
9 Pages Posted: 16 Oct 2019
Date Written: September 20, 2019
The single biggest life-defining event in my life was a civil war: The Sudanese civil war. It consumed the bulk of my childhood and teen years. It killed more than 2.5 million people and displaced millions more around the world. If you take away the first five years of my life and subtract the 12 years that I have been a U.S. citizen, you end up with the biggest section being the middle part. Those were the great years of the wilderness of my youth.
I spent most of my life running from conflict. I moved first with my family as an internally displaced person within the same country. Then when that didn’t lead to peace, we fled to neighboring countries. From country to country, each time I found myself in the middle of a civil war, a genocide, and political unrest. I agree with Rick Warren who said, “Your greatest life messages and your most effective ministry will come out of your deepest hurts.” Ironically, I have spent the last 15 years trying to make sense of violence. With conflict often comes the call for justice. I think we can all agree that we live in challenging times. You cannot turn on the television without hearing about a country or region consumed by the problems of violence and conflict. The question that many plural societies around the world face is how to end violence (the end of hostilities), hold perpetrators accountable (justice), and achieve peace (conflict transformation).
I would like to do three things through offering you the benefit of a comparative analysis between two countries: Germany and South Africa. In the process, I would like to introduce the concept of survivor justice. I will challenge the belief that reform can only come through having the courts as the only viable alternative to dealing with the aftermath of mass violence (trials). I want to ask you to keep few things in mind: leadership, institutions, and the importance of seeking a solution from within the parameters of the problem. Often times, our conception of the problem is our main problem. I will argue that in contexts where a decisive military victory is untenable, survivor justice, that is political reform combined with judicial reconciliation, is the best way to resolve today’s intractable conflicts.
Peace and justice involve fundamental ethical challenges and dilemmas in many societies around the world. In divided and polarized societies there are heated public debates on the role and place of perpetrators, victims, beneficiaries and survivors in the new political dispensation. How to resolve the tensions between making peace and promoting justice? And what are some of the lessons to be learned about waging peace and justice in the aftermath of injustice and violence?
Keywords: War, Peace, Transitional Justice, Nuremberg Trials, Justice, Willy Brandt, TRC, Truth Commission, Reconciliation, Convention for a Democratic South Africa, Apartheid, Holocaust, Genocide, Civil War, Germany, South Africa, Nelson Mandela, Codesa
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