Transitional Justice in Crisis Situations: Addressing Violent Extremism Beyond a Militarised Approach

While transitional justice mechanisms have been repeatedly proffered and experimented in virtually every African country that has undergone armed conflict since 1990, its application in situations of unconventional warfare, as is the case with violent extremism, is relatively nascent and sometimes radically discounted in favour of hardcore military approaches. In the last decade, despite multiple military responses, violent extremism has surged exponentially in frequency, brutality and spatially across Africa and globally. The same trend has been observed in the COVID-19 context, with a record-breaking 37 percent increase in violent attacks in Africa’s hotspots in barely a month between mid-March and mid-April 2020. The consequent death toll, enforced displacement and billions in financial costs show that violent extremism currently constitutes one of the leading threats to peace, security and state existence in Africa. As such, it is imperative to rethink the current responses to addressing violent extremism on the continent in a bid to explore complementary policy options that are strategic, operational and holistic. In this vein, it becomes relevant to interrogate if, why and how non-military responses like transitional justice mechanisms can effectively supplement military solutions for atrocities resulting from violent extremism. This paper draws from the discussions of the Fourth African Transitional Justice Forum, held virtually on 26–28 October 2020 under the theme “Silencing the Guns in the Context of COVID-19: Progress, Problems and Prospects.” The paper particularly draws from Session 2, which focused on “Transitional Justice in Crisis Situations: Addressing Violent Extremism, Going Beyond a Militarised Approach to Addressing Insurgency in Africa.” Following an overview of the growing threat posed by violent extremism in Africa, the paper highlights limitations of militarised approaches. It further builds a case for mobilising transitional justices measures to address violent extremism, and proposes the tools enshrined in the African Union Transitional Justice Policy (AUTJP) as a viable option.