Ivory Coast: truth or Justice?

27 April 2011 by Thijs Bouwknegt

How salubrious and healing are Truth and Reconciliation Commissions? This question rears its head again in Ivory Coast. The country’s new president hopes such a commission would restore the calm needed for a future of peace. At the same time, it could offer Ouattara the possibility of not having to appear in court. 

One of the first statements made by Allasane Ouattara as president, after he had finally crushed his rival, was: ‘a truth and reconciliation commission is going to heal the wounds of the civil war’. Ouattara is facing the emblematic problem of political transition: he has to rebuild the country and settle the past.

Ivory Coast’s much divided population must find a way to live side by side, while the two former presidential rivals must bear responsibility for possible crimes against humanity their troops might have committed. Is it a matter for a TRC, or for judges in a court of law?

Ouattara looks at South Africa, which serves as the classic example of dealing with a brutal past without the interference of judges. Desmond Tutu’s truth commission in the 1990s uncovered the atrocities of Apartheid. Victims were heard in public, while perpetrators were offered amnesty in exchange for confessions. The commission’s purpose was to document past atrocities, reconcile the black and white populations, and reach justice. In South Africa, healing was more important than retribution in court.

Want to read more?

If you subscribe to a free membership, you can read this article and explore our full archive, dating back to 1997.

Subscribe now

Related articles

article
21 December 2011 by Thijs Bouwknegt

Being the ICC's Chief Prosecutor is a delicate and politically sensitivejob.ForLuisMorenoOcampo it has been "the best job in the world." Fatou Bensouda will be taking over his office in June. She inhe

article
07 December 2011 by Thijs Bouwknegt

December 7, 2011 Ivory Coast is the latest playgroundoftheInternationalCriminal Court. This week the courtroom in The Hague became its theatre of justice. Chief Prosecutor Luis Moreno Ocampo proudly p

article
07 December 2011 by Richard Walker

Four Congolese witnesses testifying at the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague, find themselves caught in a legal wrangle, which could at once set a legal precedent and make them the last

article
07 December 2011 by Lindy Janssen

Brazil is booming. The economy is expanding and the country is getting ready to host the Football World Cup in 2014 and the Olympics in 2016. But the Latin American giant has not even begun dealing wi

article
07 December 2011 by Radosa Milutinovic

The primary purpose of the retrial of Ramush Haradinaj, as proclaimed by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia in its appeal judgement in July, should have been to hear testimonies of two "key" witnesses who proved unwilling to testify in the original trial in 2007. Almost four months into the retrial which started in mid-August, its stated aim has not yet been achieved.