African Journal on Conflict Resolution

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Towards justice and reconciliation in post-conflict countries: Meaningful concepts and possible realities

Charles Mulinda Kabwete


This article contributes to the debates around concepts of truth, confession, forgiveness and reconciliation. The theoretical discussion shows to what extent these concepts are interconnected, and share a complex relation with justice and reconciliation. It argues that the knowledge about past violence is hardly a canonical truth. It is at best a negotiated truth. This knowledge is inevitably a combination of facts and interpretations. This knowledge is sought and used for understanding past violence but also for paving a way towards the reconstruction of post-conflict societies. The article argues that confession offers a two fold opportunity: it produces knowledge of past violence, and acknowledgement of victims’ pain through perpetrators’ expression of remorse, although in a limited manner. Forgiveness is also discussed in relation to its essential meaning, the actors involved, and its purposes. Finally, reconciliation is built on two pillars, firstly, the proclamation of a seemingly achieved reconciliation; and secondly, the experiencing of reconciliation in everyday interaction between perpetrators and victims.

Keywords: Justice, truth, confession, forgiveness, reconciliation, post-conflict situations

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