Experts gathered at the IITR Resource Center just this past Monday to discuss the challenges inherent in transitional justice with students and scholars from all over the world. In a day-long workshop officially titled "Justice, Memory and Reconciliation in African Post-Conflict Societies, Dr. Innocent Iyakaremye and Simon Rwabyoma from the University of Rwanda shared brief accounts of the Rwandan perspective on transitional justice mechanisms and education in relation to the Ugandan context while Drs. Lydia Potts and Katharina Hoffmann from the University of Oldenburg in Germany and Dr. Robert Muriisa from MUST facilitated the discussion.
Both Uganda and Rwanda are veterans of a sad history of violence and conflict, most notoriously the conflict with the LRA in the North of Uganda and the 1994 Rwandan Genocide. With ample experience in the conflict arena, both countries have unfortunately had many opportunities to navigate issues of transitional justice and memorialization on their respective pathways to peace and reconciliation.
During the workshop, both students and scholars shared ideas and criticisms of transitional justice mechanisms. Post-Genocide Rwanda, for example, juggled a tenuous path to peace and reconciliation by navigating both local and international justice mechanisms. Rwanda adapted local mechanisms of justice embodied in the Gacaca court system, while also utilizing the international platform offered by the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) which handled notorious leaders of the Genocide. The question of whether the International Criminal Court (ICC) system is biased or truly universal came under particular scrutiny, with some optimistic about the future transparency and equality of application of the ICC system to countries outside of Africa.
The question of equality in transitional justice was also discussed, particularly in regard to the inclusion of both men and women in the justice and reconciliation process. Just as the conflicts in Rwanda and Uganda take on a gendered tone, so too, must the applied mechanisms of transitional justice according to the presiding experts. Both men and women suffer the trauma of conflict, and the presence of both voices in transitional justice mechanisms are vital to sustaining long-term peace and growth.
Students and experts shared prior knowledge of their own state history and drew upon their knowledge of on-going conflicts in the present day. With students and experts from Armenia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Uganda, Brazil, Rwanda, the United States, and Germany represented, a diverse array of views and experiences were expressed. As Dr. Lydia Potts from Germany shared, transitional justice requires multiplicitous solutions appropriate to the complexity of the problem. With such a diversity of voices and experiences present, the workshop truly embodied the global spirit of collaboration necessary to tackle issues of conflict at the national and international levels.