A Compendium on the State of Peace, Reconciliation and Healing in Southern Africa

Societies emerging from violent and protracted conflicts and wars often face considerable challenges in rebuilding and entrenching a culture of peace. Similarly, negotiating and building peace in post-conflict societies is often a huge and complex undertaking; in large because these processes involve a myriad of players and actors at different levels including at government and civil society, community, national and international levels. From a transitional justice perspective, the biggest and perhaps the most daunting challenge is how to deal with war crimes, human rights violations and atrocities committed during war and violent conflict. For instance, should perpetrators of war crimes be held accountable through judicial processes or should the focus shift to truth-telling and compensating victims? Transitional justice offers a range of options and instruments to help societies transitioning from war to peace deal with the legacies of war and other forms of injustice. Across the world, some of the most commonly used transitional justice instruments include trials (whether domestic, international or hybrid systems), truth commissions, institutional reforms, reparations and amnesties. The countries covered in this report, namely, Lesotho, Namibia, Mozambique, Mauritius, Seychelles and Zimbabwe have implemented a range of transitional justice processes although some of the processes have been criticised for lacking transparency and being ineffective. This tends to be the case when peace and healing processes occur within contexts of ‘enforced silences’ where incentives for truth-telling and genuine engagement with the past are either limited or non-existent. In Zimbabwe, Namibia and Mozambique, in particular, the ruling parties’ official policies and narratives of reconciliation and national healing continue to demonstrate a strong determination to suppress information and discussion about the past; specifically, aspects of history that incriminate and implicate them as perpetrators of some of the crimes committed during and after independence. Consequently, how much of the past remains forgotten and how much must be known; and through what means do shaped debates about transitional justice threaten or strengthen post-war peacebuilding initiatives.