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The East African : February 17th 2014
32 The EastAfrican OUTLOOK FEBRUARY 15-21,2014 DI S C O U R S E Courts and civil wars subject of first EA debate at Kenyatta University means, then you are giving a blank cheque to the perpetrators to unleash more violence,” said Ms Murungi. The debate, at Kenyatta Uni- versity in Nairobi, was the first in a series sponsored by the Nation Media Group to get young people and university staff from all over East Africa to debate contemporary issues. Prof Mamdani noted that post-apartheid South Africa never went for criminal or social justice after decades of atrocities, but achieved political justice with the abolition of apartheid on the basis of a compromise. He noted that opposing forc- es in South Africa had to drop their key demands to give peace a chance. There was no judicial process to try the perpetrators of atrocities during apartheid, but white-owned property owners were assured of protection while the Truth and Reconciliation Commission ensured amnesty to enable reconciliation after public confessions by the perpetrators. “You cannot take political leaders to court unless you isolate them politically because they have a constituency. In a situation of conflict, perpetrator and victims tend to trade places. If you prosecute the perpetrators without addressing political issues and without initiating political reforms, you are unlikely to stop the violence,” said Prof Mamdani. Need for political reform His position is that criminal P≥of Mahmood Mamdani leads students, lectu≥e≥s, p≥ofessionals and human ≥ights lawye≥s in animated discussion By FRED OLUOCH Special Correspondent Mahmood Mamdani, of Columbia University and Makerere University Institute for Social Research, sought to answer as he led university students, lecturers, professionals and civil society activists in a debate organised by The EastAfrican. His view: African countries in C conflict should consider pursuing dialogue as opposed to legal remedies to bring the perpetra- an courts end civil wars? That was the question Prof tors of violence to account. This has worked in countries that embraced it such as South Africa and Mozambique. Trying to attain criminal justice on matters that were politically motivated is mixing criminal violence with political violence. But human-rights lawyers, including Betty Murungi and Njonjo Mue, disagreed with him, wondering how the continent would deal with the issue of impunity unless political violence was punished to avoid a repeat. “If you say that political violence cannot be solved by legal CONTEMPORARY ISSUES The debate, at Kenyatta University in Nairobi, was the first in a series sponsored by the Nation Media Group to get young people and university staff from all over East Africa to debate on contemporary issues. The first debate on whether courts can end civil wars tackled reflections on peace, justice and ethnic conflict in East Africa. Moderator Prof Mahmood Mamdani is a Ugandan academic, author and political commentator. He specialises in the study of African and international politics, colonialism and postcolonialism, and the politics of knowledge production. Top, The Kenyatta University in Nairobi held a Students Debate on February 14. The event was sponsored by the Nation Media Group. Students who attended the debate had a look at the various Nation products available for sale. Picture: Emma Nzioka justice without political reforms will not result in long-lasting peace. He gave the example of Rwanda, where after the Genocide against the Tutsi, the political leadership opted to pursue criminal justice and reconciliation, but have evaded the political question in relation to power domination by the minority. South Sudan is currently in conflict and regional leaders through the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (Igad) are trying to initiate a national dialogue to deal with the underlying political and governance issues in Africa’s newest country. Prof Mamdani’s paradigm is similar to the position by the African Union leaders over the cases facing Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta and Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir at the International Criminal Court at the Hague, which they accuse of giving priority to justice as opposed to peace and reconciliation. The professor gave the exam- 2nd from top, Nation Media Group CEO Linus Gitahi with Kenyatta University Vice Chancellor Olive Mugenda. Above, Prof Mahmood Mamdani arrives at Kenyatta University on February 14. Pictures: Emma Nzioka ple of the Kenyan post-election violence, where he said civil society and human-rights lawyers caused a situation where gains made in constitutional reforms were forgotten as the country was divided along ethnic lines in relation to the cases at the Hague.
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