Restorative Justice in Transitional Sierra Leone
Intense debate surrounds truth commissions as to their mission, perceived roles and outcomes. This paper seeks to contribute to the understanding of truth commissions in post-conflict settings. It examines the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) for Sierra Leone, the first truth commission to be engaged concurrently with a retributive mechanism, the Special Court for Sierra Leone for transitional justice. The study finds that the TRC provided an opening for conversation in Sierra Leonean communities to search for the meanings of truth about the conflict. In this way the communities simultaneously created an understanding of the situation and set reconciliation directions and commitment from the process of creative conversation. This notwithstanding, the TRC did not have the needed public cooperation because the people were not sure the war was over and feared that their assailants could harm them if they disclosed the truth to the TRC. The presence of the Special Court also created tensions and fears rendering the transitional environment unfriendly to the reconciliation and truth telling endeavors of the TRC. The study has implications for future truth commissions in that the timing for post-conflict reconciliation endeavors should take into consideration the state of the peace equilibrium of the societies involved. It should also be packaged for harmonious existence in a given transitional contexts, particularly where it will coexist with a retributive mechanism.
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