Political Justice (5)
TrustAfrica established the International Criminal Justice (ICJ) Fund in 2012 to support civil society’s efforts to improve accountability mechanisms for grave crimes in Africa. We work at national, regional and international levels, where we use different strategies to foster justice and reconciliation, often following protracted conflict.
At the national level, we have placed victims at the center of our engagement and enhanced the work of key organizations in Cote d’Ivoire, Kenya, Mali, Nigeria, Senegal, and Uganda.
At the regional and international level, we have sought to address the declining legitimacy of the International Criminal Court and seize opportunities presented by new African accountability mechanisms (including the African Court for Human and Peoples’ Rights as well as the proposed African Union Transitional Justice Policy Framework) by facilitating cross-continental experience sharing and learning.
These activities have contributed significantly towards building a well-networked and robust advocacy movement capable of addressing the challenges facing the implementation of international criminal justice in Africa.
In 2015, Fund activities included building the capacity of civil society organizations; fostering the development of research and data on African ICJ and transitional justice processes; and supporting strategy workshops, cross-continental learning initiatives, and joint advocacy missions at key regional and international meetings. At the center of this work is the need to re-focus attention on the plight of victims and governments’ responsibility to provide redress, a strategy that has proven effective in mobilizing constituencies to advocate for criminal and transitional justice.
One such initiative has been our engagement with the trial of Hissène Habré before the Extraordinary African Chambers in Dakar, Senegal. Since the trial began on 20 July 2015, the Fund has been working closely with a consortium of civil society organizations and Senegalese law graduates to monitor, document, and share information on proceedings across various platforms. The ICJ Fund trained a group of law graduates from Cheikh Anta Diop University (UCAD) in Dakar, Senegal, to monitor and provide daily reports on the proceedings in both French and English. The work of these students provides an invaluable resource to activists and legal experts working on criminal justice issues in Africa and beyond. As the trial reopened on 8 February 2016, the media and other key partners highlighted TrustAfrica’s work in supporting documentation and monitoring of the ground-breaking trial, and developing the skills of young Africans to lead justice and accountability processes on the continent.
A 2015 interim evaluation of our work found that by bringing together major human rights grant-makers the Fund has been able to expand the operational scope and diversity of their investments in Africa. The evaluation also noted that the Fund has been adept in its response to the evolving climate for international criminal justice work on the continent and has supported fresh and bold advocacy initiatives.
The Fund continues to help sustain the efforts of its partners and to explore opportunities to expand its work in parts of Central Africa where accountability processes are just beginning. It is also deepening its engagements with continental mechanisms, including improving the African Court’s international criminal justice mandate – according a special role for victim participation and engaging groups working on documentation to improve these for litigation.
The ZimAlliance is a donor collaborative formed in 2010 to seize the opportunity created by the constitutional reform process and general elections to strengthen the role of civil society in influencing the country’s transition to democracy.
Emphasis has been on strengthening the capacity of civil society to advance informed and effective citizen participation and secure human rights and democracy.
The alliance’s grants, convenings, capacity building and technical support have enabled civil society partners to design creative, coordinated responses that have built regional and international solidarity, amplified the voices of marginalized groups, and educated citizens to mobilize others and engage with policymakers.
In partnership with Magamba Network, we used our Changemakers Hub platform to convene several discussions to catalyse youth to promote democracy and social change in Zimbabwe. Themes included arts for social change, new media, citizen journalism and freedom of expression.
We recently offered a skills training workshop for youths, citizen journalists and community organizers that explored how to use information communications technology (ICT) and geographical information systems (GIS) in campaigns to enhance social service delivery and monitor the political environment.
We also commissioned leading academics and thinker-activists from a range of disciplines to contribute to a book entitled Beyond the crisis: Zimbabwe’s prospects for transformation [link to order book], and hosted a high-level national convening to launch the book and promote dialogue on the theme.
We are also investing in efforts to strengthen community-based organizations through a series of residents’ forums in partnership with Amandla Network.
Our aim is to contribute to rebuilding a permanent national civil society platform that has the ability to hold the state accountable to all of its citizens.
Over the past five years, TrustAfrica has provided critical support for Liberian civil society organizations engaged in pro-poor policy advocacy. Support has included organizing national policy convenings as well as providing technical assistance and flexible grant-making, with more than 50 grants for groups seeking to advance democracy, human rights and media development.
Now in its third phase, the initiative is focused on harnessing civil society’s collective voices to monitor the lucrative extractives industry in Liberia.
Over the last ten years of peace, the Liberian government has attracted an estimated US$19 billion in foreign direct investment mainly from natural resources extraction. While some progress has been made by the state, affected communities continue to decry the slow or negligible benefits they receive from the exploitation of their communal lands. This has led to continuing community discontent and communal violence around concession areas.
Activities of the initiative focus on providing partners with the resources to enable ordinary citizens to campaign for their rights and benefits while conducting advocacy with high-level government officials and institutions. The aim is to create a workable framework for channelling community feedback on concession conflicts and violations to the Liberian government.
Local partners include the Liberia Extractives Industries Transparency Initiative, Publish What You Pay Liberia and the Liberia Peace Building Office. In addition, we have vigorously engaged the Liberian government through the National Investment Commission, the National Bureau of Concessions and the Forestry Development Authority.
The Concessions Working Group (CWG), our diverse coalition of international and local actors working on the extractives sector, serves as a clearinghouse for ongoing discussions and advocacy on natural resource governance within Liberia. It has also launched several advocacy campaigns against human rights violations of ordinary citizens in concession areas and given community feedback to the Independent National Human Rights Commission of Liberia and is considered as a community of practice on natural resource governance in Liberia.
We have also aired civil society’s positions on current concessions agreements at high-level meetings with the Liberian legislature. As the country heads toward elections in 2017, we will pursue the development and adoption of a natural resource manifesto or agenda by political actors.
Local actors in Liberia now have access to more reliable and rigorous governance and concessions data with our geo-spatial map of Liberian concession agreements which was developed by Aiddata, one of our international partners.
TrustAfrica works to support civil society coalitions and networks to conduct advocacy around regional organizations such as the Pan-African Parliament and the African Court on Human and People's Rights, in an attempt to expand and secure basic freedoms in countries where democracy is under attack. In the past we have worked with regional organizations such as ECOWAS, SADC, IGAD, COMESA, ECCAS, EAC and AMU in an effort to improve the economic climate and ensure collective security. One outcome of this program is our ARO Wiki (click on News and Ideas below), an online database of more than 150 African Regional Organizations.
Issue areas: Human rights, rule of law, citizenship, gender justice, transitional justice, political participation, public accountability
Politics in Africa remains unstable as arbitrary constitutional changes weaken democratic practice and new laws limit civil society activities in several countries. The need to promote citizen participation in the deliberation of public affairs – at local and national levels – is more pressing than ever. This culture of responsible citizenry must be met by improved performance by public officials and respect for human rights. We see an opportunity to encourage policymakers to draw on the considerable expertise of African researchers, advocates, and civil society to address these challenges.
Some results of this work:
- At the continental level, we helped set up the Centre for Citizens Participation at the African Union (CCP-AU) to observe and track the implementation of AU resolutions.
- In Liberia and Zimbabwe, we provided support to civil society groups at crucial political moments in each nation. We sought to ensure that citizens have the capacity to exercise their right to hold leaders to account for public policy choices, especially governance reforms.
- We have built the capacity of those working in the international criminal justice field, including in Francophone countries such as Mali and Côte d’Ivoire, and helped victims of atrocity crimes become involved in important dialogue processes for restitution.
- In order to instil confidence in Africa-led criminal justice processes, our support ensured that the recent trial of the former president of Chad in Dakar was properly observed and communicated across the continent and globally.