Activating justice: local appropriation of transitional justice in Sierra Leone
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Martin, Laura Stearns
This thesis examines local transitional justice programmes and processes in Sierra Leone. I will examine both recognised mechanisms – official institutions with preconceived goals and processes that are already recognised as part of the transitional justice ‘toolkit’ and unrecognised mechanisms – processes outside the institutional transitional justice scope and discourse. Much research and analysis of these processes often prioritise organisations and their programmes as the starting point of investigation and fail to recognise the various individual actors involved, both within the organisational structures and the groups for whom these programmes are designed. Moving beyond discussions of impact and effectiveness, this thesis examines the actual activity of Sierra Leonean individuals in both recognised and unrecognised processes. Fambul Tok is an example of a recognised local transitional justice programme, which seeks to facilitate justice and reconciliation through bonfire ceremonies to make the programmes more contextually relevant for rural communities. I will look at the various individuals involved in constructing and shaping how Fambul Tok operates and is represented to different audiences to better understand dynamics amongst different Sierra Leoneans with attachments to different places, all of whom theoretically constitute the local. My thesis will demonstrate how transitional justice processes are not only institutional, but also individual. I move away from discussions about ‘societies,’ normative questions of institutional effectiveness, the underlying assumptions that propel transitional justice programmes and mechanisms and look more specifically at the activities and appropriation of individual actors within these transitional justice processes to better illustrate the diverse means through which individuals construct as well as engage with local transitional justice programmes and the unique unrecognised ways individuals move past their war-related experiences.