Thoughts on Peace Building

Liezl Groenewald recently attended the 7th Annual Conference of the International Society for Military Ethics in Europe (EuroISME).  The theme of the conference ‘Restraint in War: Essential for a Just Peace?’ lent itself to interesting discussions about the relation between restrained behaviour on the battlefield and ius post bellum (conduct after war)

 

Did the Truth and Reconciliation Commission contribute to building longer-term peace?

Liezl Groenewald recently attended the 7th Annual Conference of the International Society for Military Ethics in Europe (EuroISME).  The theme of the conference ‘Restraint in War: Essential for a Just Peace?’ lent itself to interesting discussions about the relation between restrained behaviour on the battlefield and ius post bellum (conduct after war).  It also presented the ideal opportunity for Liezl to present a paper on ‘The role of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in South Africa in building longer term peace’ in which she concludes that the TRC was no panacea for all of South Africa’s problems.  But, while the TRC may not have united the nation and addressed the socio-economic problems of the past, it did help to prevent a return to the political violence of pre-1994 and laid the foundation for a brighter future for all South Africans.  It furthermore helped reveal the worst excesses of apartheid and achieved a good measure of social reconciliation at the time; its lessons to the world for conflict resolution were insightful.  Scholars and commentators seem to agree that the entire process had a cathartic, healing effect that enabled the country to transcend the violence and acrimony of the apartheid years.

In societies undergoing transition, long-term peace, stability and development may depend on the degree to which the country’s social fabric has been resolved. The TRC had “… to balance the need to repair the country’s social fabric with questions of retributive criminal proceedings” (Kisiangani, 2007:12[1]), and ended up with a trade-off between the two.

Achieving sustainable peace requires at least two steps: knowing which tools are effective in the circumstances, and knowing how to devise and implement multi-tooled and place-specific strategies. The South African TRC should be viewed as a building block in the peacebuilding process in South Africa and not as an end in itself. Multi-dimensional strategies and processes that may take generations are required to move beyond past atrocities in order to rebuild the affected and still fragile societies of South Africa.


[1] Kisiangani, E. 2007. Between principle and pragmatism in transitional justice. South Africa’s TRC and peace building.  Institute for Security Studies Paper 156. [Online] Available at https://issafrica.org/research/papers/between-principle-and-pragmatism-in-transitional-justice-south-africas-trc-and-peace-building [Accessed 30 April 2017]