The Justice 3rd Continental Transitional Forum for all African Union (AU) Member States


Interview with Annah Moyo

The Forum was hosted by the AU in collaboration with the Center for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation (CSVR) 24-26 September, 2019, in  Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

CSVR on Twitter: Although, the African Union Transitional Justice Policy (AUTJP) is closely linked to other international norms and standards on transitional justice, it however takes into account the nuances of various forms of human rights violations which are peculiar to the African context and proffers context- specific solutions to them by striking a balance between reparations and development, various understandings of democracy and controversial issues such as the granting of amnesty.

R. Possekel: The African continent, over the last 30 years, has gained a wealth of experience in creating and implementing various forms of Transitional Justice. The AUTJP probably reflects this and draws certain lessons from this experience. Could you please outline two or three of them? What might be specific to the African context? What should donors from the Global North be aware of when supporting TJ measures in Africa?

Annah Moyo: The lessons learnt include:

African context-specific conflict and crisis-related experiences cannot be pinned down to one occurrence of conflict resulting in large-scale violations. In most cases, conflicts are cyclical in nature (recurring) and are symptomatic of the legacies of unresolved trauma (at various levels – community and societal levels), structural and systematic challenges that persist in the post-colonial Africa and inequality stemming from the colonial era violations. There is a need to address these dimensions of conflicts and crises through a transitional justice process.

Although transitional justice processes are known and in some cases, universally accepted, their effective implementation will require that they are adapted to the context, to address the contextual experiences and nuances including cultural and social nuances, structural and systemic challenges and vulnerabilities, and root causes of the conflict with its attendant wide-scale human rights violations.

There is a need to focus on positive peace (as opposed to negative peace, which refers to an absence of large scale violence) which focuses on addressing structural violence which hinders democratic processes, restoration of relationships between victims and perpetrators, and creation of social systems that serve the transformational needs of a society that has emerged from conflict or repression.


CSVR on Twitter: Reconciliation&Social Cohesion: From victims & perpetrators to citizenship: What strategies are key 4 rebuilding trust &transforming both victims &perpetrators into citizens? Does TJ invests enough in reconciliation&social cohesion initiatives?

R. Possekel: Could you please briefly outline some of the strategies to rebuild trust that have been discussed at the TJ Forum?

Annah Moyo: Most conflicts and crises in Africa are rooted in what starts as local grievances and situations that make people feel excluded from political and economic life. This marginalisation if left unchecked often grows, affecting communities and societies as a whole, making societies vulnerable to internal strife and external actors adept to exploiting people’s marginalisation. When conflict and crises follows the fault-lines of marginalisation, exclusion and inequality, rebuilding trust, and transforming both perpetrators and victims into active citizens will require the following:

  1. That transitional justice processes aimed at reconciliation and social cohesion should go beyond addressing the violations during the conflict, to addressing the root causes, local grievances and situations that perpetuate this marginalisation in communities and society (these are mostly structural and would require facilitating all citizens’ access to resources and opportunities).
  2. That transitional justice programmes and initiatives be undertaken that facilitate and foster inclusive societies where every citizen feels a sense of belonging, and has a stake in the future
  3. That in as much as investments are made to build the state’s and institutional capacity for countries emerging from conflict, equally important is an investment in building the relationship between political leaders and the people they are meant to serve, ensuring that the state is responsive to its citizens and that the citizens are actively engaged in the governance processes of their country.
  4. The work of reconciliation and social cohesion will require long term initiatives and programmes aimed at transformation, development and correcting the injustices and inequalities of the past. Failure to promote inclusive transitional justice processes, initiaves or programmes risks the recurrence of conflict as a result of some population groups feeling marginalised and (re)traumatised.


CSVR on Twitter: Justice is not a straightforward term. Victims and survivors of conflict and human rights violations tend to have their own notions of justice? How do we synchronize and balance the various notions of justice in #TransitionalJustice? How about if we diversify and explore various pathways to justice; both communal and judicial approaches while allowing those affected to champion the search for justice their way!

R. Possekel: Could you provide one or two examples?

Annah Moyo: There has been over-emphasis on formal justice or accountability processes in transitional justice. The international community often pushes for accountability processes, while accountability is key for fighting impunity, the process of accessing justice through the courts often has very little value for victims, and is not a consultative process. The long-winding court process can have adverse effects of traumatising the victims and often excludes active victim participation. Formal justice often serves the societal objectives, and not victims’. In some instances, victims want to reconcile, that atrocities be acknowledged, that a public apology be given by perpetrators and reparations, “to repair the damage and harm they suffered”. There is therefore a need to balance the societal need for justice on the one hand, and the victims’ agency, needs and articulation of justice on the other, in transitional justice. Justice must satisfy those who have been wronged as well.

Traditional justice mechanisms such as gacaca in Rwanda and Mato Oput in Northern Uganda have been adapted and applied to address conflict-related gross human rights violations. Communities have opted for traditional justice mechanisms for their reconciliatory goals, their active victim and perpetrator participation, and for swift delivery of justice that moves affected communities (comprising of both victims and perpetrators) forward.


CSVR on Twitter: How do we address Sexual and Gender Based Violence within #TransitionalJustice when we know once women share their stories they get ostracized and further victimized and shamed by their communities

R. Possekel: It’s a very important issue. What approaches were presented at the forum?

Annah Moyo: Sexual and gender based violence in conflict situations requires that a transitional justice process does no harm to the victim of conflict-related sexual violence. This requires that safer spaces and platforms be made available where victims of SGBV can openly talk about their experiences, and further that they are provided with support.

There is a need for transitional justice processes to take into consideration, the cultural/traditional and religious implications for women coming forward to share their experiences – what this would mean for family ties, community relationships and social standing for victims, and this is further compounded in situations where there are children born out of rape. These cultural and religious dynamics are also to be taken into consideration when women victims become recipients of reparations awards, in cultures or religions where women have limited social standing, such reparations might not benefit the victim, but the extended family (mostly male family members).

Gender-sensitive documentation and truth-seeking processes must be employed in order to protect victims on the one hand, and maintain the integrity of the information shared by victims to secure justice and bring perpetrators to book.


Further information: African Union Transitional Justice Policy (adopted February 2019) [pdf, 52 pages]


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Issue: Politics

Dealing with the past is often subject to passionate political struggles - on the national, as well as on the international level. They can lead to rather supportive or suppressive, truly effective or ineffective frameworks, institutionalised by state-policies and laws. However, below the surface, political struggles are about the access to scare resources, institutions or, more generally, the distribution of power. What political initiatives exist that try to foster inclusive and coherent processes of dealing with the past? Why do they exist and what is their room for manoeuvre?


Annah Moyo is the Advocacy Programme Manager at the Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation (CSVR).