Academic journal article Global Governance

Power Sharing and Transitional Justice: A Clash of Paradigms?

Academic journal article Global Governance

Power Sharing and Transitional Justice: A Clash of Paradigms?

Article excerpt

Recent peace negotiations practice has given rise to the emergence of two paradigms. In line with normative developments in global human rights protection, internationally brokered peace processes often address the options for accountability for abuses committed in the past and generally cannot include blanket amnesties. At the same time, many agreements end armed conflicts by offering power-sharing incentives for warring parties. In most cases, power-sharing arrangements are likely to clash with attempts to meaningfully deal with truth, accountability, and reparation for past abuses. The tension between the two paradigms gives rise to a number of important challenges and constraints for policymakers and, thus far, there is little practical evidence to guide them in managing the clash. Keywords: power sharing, transnational justice, peacebuilding, human rights.

SHOULD FORMER REBEL MOVEMENTS BE REPRESENTED IN PARLIAMENT AND THEIR leadership be given a position in the cabinet? Or should they be held accountable in a court of law for the crimes they committed? Peace negotiators intervening in internal armed conflicts are generally confronted with these fundamental questions, sometimes more broadly referred to as the "peace versus justice dilemma." From a normative perspective and depending on the short-term or longer-term goals set (immediate war termination, a more representative polity, a culture of governance that is respectful of human rights, etc.), a variety of possible answers comes to mind. When considering the issue from an empirical perspective, it is clear that the international practice of peace negotiations and conflict mediation over the past fifteen years has given rise to the emergence of two paradigms. On the one hand, it has become standard practice that peace accords, in one way or the other, include provisions on how to address the legacy of human rights atrocities that were committed in the (recent or more distant) past. These transitional justice arrangements generally refer to the need to tell the truth, to establish accountability for past crimes, to provide reparation to victims, and to promote reconciliation. On the other hand, armed conflicts (most of which are internal) rarely end through military victory. In most cases, international mediators assist in designing a negotiated settlement, and a popular instrument in the toolbox of negotiators is power sharing between incumbent governments and their armed opponents.

In this article, we do not seek to present the wide range of modalities of transitional justice and power sharing in practice. Neither do we seek to assess the success or failure of transitional justice and power-sharing arrangements per se. We focus instead on the real and potential tensions between both paradigms and explore the extent to which they are mutually contradictory. We highlight a number of key constraints and challenges for policymakers. Against the background of the current international practice of peace negotiations, which often appears to be mainly a matter of trial and error, we draw illustrations primarily from ongoing or recently completed peace processes in sub-Saharan Africa, in particular in Burundi, Sierra Leone, and Sudan.

Setting the Scene: The Rise of Two Paradigms

The Global Spread of Transitional Justice

With history seemingly coming to an end in the early 1990s, a global--though relatively short lived--consensus arose around the need for and the strategies of liberal peacebuilding. The establishment of multiparty democracies, the introduction of market economies, and the transition from conflict to peace were seen as three interdependent and mutually reinforcing transformation processes. The protection of human rights and the promotion of the rule of law were considered to be one of the stepping stones in order to attain this overall goal. The contemporary concepts of transitional justice were born in that context. …

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