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Reconciliation, Justice, Forgiveness and Contentious Politics


When we carefully examine the purpose of Truth Reconciliation and Reparations Commissions, it is evident that Forgiveness and Justice falls on different sides of the Reconciliation Spectrum.To forgive is to let go and to prevent all forms of vengeance. However Justice emphasises our social contract with regards to rules, laws and principles that strengthen our values as communities at both the National and International level. Our obligations and responsibilities to each other and to our institutions are clearly defined by the social contract at both the national and international level. Even the role of our institutions are clearly captured in the social contract. Arguably, victims of rights abuses can forgive but that does not necessarily mean the attainment of Justice. The state therefore has a responsibility to uphold its commitment by enforcing the provisions of the law in all its policy efforts, including institutional reforms. Reform efforts must therefore be clustered in transforming our institutions from patrimonial to institutionalised ones. This will promote and entrench efficiency and commit institutions to the state and not a single person. To restore confidence in our institutions, the services of public officials found in violation of rights abuses such as torture, murder etc, must therefore be terminated. Since TRRC's are aimed at empowering and helping citizens to never again be confronted with inhumane challenges and contradictions to the social contract, it is imperative that we set examples to support the never again campaign. This will require paying reparation to victims, provide a dignified retirement for those whose careers were wrongfully terminated, and bring to justice all predators of human rights. Internationally, there is a consensus among legal scholars, civil society and states that "crimes against international law are committed by men and not by abstract entities, and it is only by holding citizens fully accountable for such abhorrent crimes can we enforce the provisions of national and international law". Perhaps it is only by clearly distinguishing Forgiveness, Reparations and Justice that can fully help reconcile our nation with the challenges and contradictions of the past two decades. Jealousy, hatred, and divisive tribal and ethnic politics will not take us anywhere as a nation. 


Dr Binneh S Minteh served in the Gambia Armed Forces before moving to the United States of America


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