Repairing Communities: My experience of the TJI/PSRP Summer School

The TJI summer school, ‘Gendering the Practices of Post-Conflict Resolution: Investigations, Reparations and Communal Repair,’ was one of the first PRSP events. Here Jestina Mukoko (Director of the Zimbabwe Peace Project, ZPP) talks about her experience.

Jestina Mukoko - Creative Commons

I was impressed by the input of the wide range of experts who were on hand and who spoke authoritatively in their various fields. In particular, the experience of Bridge of Hope organisation was hugely relevant to my work. The interaction with women who were on opposite sides of the divide and who experienced violence was not only humbling but a learning that no matter how big the conflict is the actors in it can with time and the right approach actually embrace. The experience of how some families endured prison seemed to me a heart breaking one but at the same time an indication that dedication and commitment have no other alternative. The story told by Eilish about a woman who witnessed her mother being arrested as a teenager, had a brother sentenced to 10 years in prison and to experience prison herself and the inhuman treatment that she endured just made me realise the strength that women have and how they become resolute in their goals. The Bridge of Hope project and the Toolkits that were eventually developed by the Transitional Justice Institute are an inspiration.

On the 3rd day the session on investigations and the material provided answered a lot of the questions that I had about what makes a full investigation. The definitions and distinctions between war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide were so clear. The different cases that the facilitator introduced were so interesting and set out what is required for proper documentation so that a case can stand in a court of law.

The comparison of what has happened in other countries like South Africa, Rwanda, Guatemala and Northern Ireland are cases that should be closely considered for what worked and what did not work.

The public lecture by Professor William Schabas who focused on the International Criminal Court and its relationship with Africa was an eye opener for me. I realised that the ICC needs to change its profile by ensuring that it does not overly occupy itself with the low hanging fruit on Africa as this simply gives Africa ammunition to discredit it. The fact that it was African countries that wanted the court would be easily set aside.

A key learning for me also was that the voices of the affected, need to be heard well above the voices of CSOs – which should just act as conduits in creating platforms for the affected.

ZPP is currently working with victims of violence in various communities around the country. I could see the Bridge of Hope toolkit helping Zimbabwean communities deal with their wounds and working towards transforming into survivors and also being able to eventually embrace those who perpetrated the violence.

The course highlighted the importance of gender aspects of transitional justice – this will also be of value to ZPP as it goes about dealing with both women and men victims as well as women and men perpetrators. The issue of gender is an issue that is a critical issue for Zimbabwe when one looks at conflict. ZPP is particularly concerned by the number of women who do not realize that rape during conflict is used to get at their male counterparts be they husbands, brothers, fathers and sons although the body that is abused is that of a woman.

Zimbabwe Peace Project is grateful for the opportunity extended to it by Christian Aid and the Transitional Justice Institute – it was time well spent and a course that fully applied to the work that ZPP does. We are hopeful that the insights gained will not only enhance the capacity of ZPP in its work but once properly used will make a lasting contribution to the Zimbabwean situation.

My report will not be complete if I do not speak about the imposing picture in the room where the training was held which captured a white dress that looked to me like a christening dress coming from a Christian background surrounded by guns of all shapes and sizes. In the Anglican church baptism or christening is done on children and my feel was that women and girls are targeted by violence from the cradle to the grave.

By Jestina Mukoko, Director of the Zimbabwe Peace Project (ZPP)

Photo: Stephan Röhl – Creative Commons