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Promoting international support for community-based justice mechanisms in post-conflict Burundi and Uganda

November 10, 2009

From the Conclusion:

is a concept that exists in much of Africa that we do not have in the West,
called Ubuntu in Southern Africa. It is
a sense that humanity shares a common spirit and that when one individual is
violated, the whole of humanity feels that pain. Archbishop Desmond Tutu has characterized
Ubuntu as such: “my humanity is bound up in yours, for we can only be
human together.” He employed this ideology when he presided over the Truth and
Reconciliation Commission (TRC) in South Africa after apartheid. At
the TRC, those who had committed crimes of aggression appeared in front of
their communities and apologized for the sake of a greater good. Although the
TRC is much better-known, Acholi justice mechanisms in Uganda, Ubashingantahe in Burundi, and community projects such as the Kamenge Youth Center
all provide a similar result of reconciling humanity. Though transitional
justice often takes place alongside criminal justice, it has proven to be an
incredibly effective means of cleansing a society previously wrought with
violence and instability.

restorative justice must happen on local terms, but Westerners can contribute by
broadening the public understanding of community-based justice mechanisms and
ensuring that their foreign policy respects such forms of peacebuilding. The United States
can transform its justice narrative from one of criminal prosecution to one of
community reconciliation, and then embolden this perspective through political
pressure and funding allocation. If we consider Ubuntu as a guiding
principle, then we must necessarily support and recognize restorative justice in
Burundi and Uganda as
legitimate, for it is only when those communities are healed that we too can
feel reconciled.

Read the whole report.


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