Posted by: mensab | May 30, 2008

Are Peace and Justice Possible after a Prolonged War?

desolated freetown     

     I am an optimist. I believe that anything good is possible if the world including me wills it. Justice and Peace are human virtues. As human, I yearn for those virtues to exist in the world. All the parties involved in the war are humans or have humanity in themselves. Justice and Peace can be drawn from their humanity. How wonderful the human world will be if Justice and Peace reign in the world. Many human rights activists and peace workers will be out of job, but it will be perfectly fine for them

    since it is their and everyone’s dream to have a world devoid of injustice and war.

 

It is often said that one can only understand and make sense of one thing through its opposite or absence of it. To understand Justice, let me talk about injustice then. Injustice occurs when one is deprived of what is due to her/him. It happens to a landless farmer, jailed “terrorists” like in Guantanamo Bay without trial, dismissal of employee without due process, demolition of houses without advanced notice, orphans whose parents are killed by either rebels or government forces, children who are forced to work or fight in wars, and many other examples of injustices. So the courses of Justice in these examples are land to the farmers, trial to the accused, due process to the dismissed employee, advanced notices to the informal settlers, court’s conviction of the killers and traffickers, and emancipation and rehabilitation of children from the wretched conditions.

 

War like in Sierra Leone takes place because two or more groups compete for a resource/s and have a conflicting goal/s. So Peace can be understood here as the cooperation or partnership of two or more groups in communal resource/s and having common and shared goal/s.

 

I would argue that Justice and Peace can happen and co-exist after a prolonged war like in Sierra Leone. Then, what could have been done in Sierra Leone to make this a reality?

 

The peace settlement could have been the best venue for Justice and Peace to happen in Sierra Leone. But the parties involved bungled it with the blanket amnesty clause which would not address the crimes of the combatants and leaders. Unaddressed and unresolved crimes mean injustice to the victims. The parties were more concerned with ending the war, and not with the injustices. This was, in my mind, a blunder. Leaving the injustices unaddressed would result to a fragile and superficial peace. This is not the Peace I have in mind.

 

What could have been done in the beginning are the following; 1) call for ceasefire on all parties, 2) continue engaging the rebels and government to peace settlement without preconditions, 3) prosecute those rebels who were captured, keep Sankoh in jail and allow the rebels to choose and send their representatives to the negotiation, 4) familiarize the parties to objective and existing options such as Truth and Reconciliation Commission, Special Court, Amnesty and Pardon, and other matters relevant to the resolution of the war, 5) establish and define the role of the UN and national and international civil society in the negotiation, 6) cite the importance and necessity of a Special Court in a peace settlement to give justice to those who have been aggrieved and violated, 7) assure the parties of the wide-ranging and all-out support of the international community on the process and outcome of the negotiation, 8) plan out the Demobilization, Disarmament and Reintegration (DDR) program for all combatants, and 9) after the DD, schedule a presidential election to submit the leaders’ fate to the will of the people.

 

It would have been another story if these had been done in the beginning. I believe that it would have been a better story with both Justice and Peace reigning in Sierra Leone. Or am I being too optimistic here? I would say it does not hurt to yearn and desire the good things for the world like Justice and Peace. I believe that both can coexist because I dream of that scenario. That dream motivates me to pursue this program of peace studies.

 

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