Source: (-0001) The ANNALS of the American Academy of Political and Social Science.

J6a0n3uary Throughout the world, truth commissions are being constructed under the hope that discovering the “truth” about a country’s conflictual past will somehow contribute to “reconciliation.” Most such efforts point to South Africa’s process as an exemplar of the powerful influence of truth finding. But has truth actually contributed to reconciliation in South Africa? No rigorous and systematic assessment of the truth and reconciliation process has ever been conducted. This article investigates the hypothesis that truth leads to reconciliation. Based on a survey of thirty-seven hundred South Africans in 2001, the author begins by giving both “truth” and “reconciliation” clear conceptual and operational meaning. The author reports empirical evidence that the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s “truth” is fairly widely accepted by South Africans of all races, that some degree of reconciliation characterizes South Africa today, and that the collective memory produced by the process (“truth”) did indeed contribute to reconciliation. The author then considers whether other divided countries might be able to use a similar process to propel themselves toward a more peaceful and democratic future.