The African continent has confronted a series of violent conflicts, resulting in massive loss of life, egregious human rights violations, and various atrocity crimes. Although the sources of conflict are varied, from civil wars, to social unrest, and electoral contests, the results are the same. Local populations pay the price for elite politics, and once the hostilities have ended, bereaved communities rarely have an opportunity to seek redress and accountability. Moreover, unpunished atrocity crimes breed a culture of impunity where historic grievances give rise to recurring cycles of violence.
Justice, truth, and accountability play crucial roles in rebuilding communities affected by conflict and advancing the prospects of peace, democratic governance, and equitable development. While conflict can deliver fatalities over a number of hours or days, the aftermath of violence can last for generations. Therefore, it is essential to hold perpetrators accountable in order to foster healing within societies, prevent atrocities from being repeated, and pave the way for improved governance.
Yet, there are complex and political issues that arise from bringing those who have committed atrocity crimes to justice. The time consuming nature of investigations can delay indictments and generate sentiments of neglect among victims; while limited resources and lack of political will limit the impact of criminal prosecutions. Such challenges need to be addressed by involving concerned stakeholders to develop innovative and creative strategies to advocate for improved accountability measures both domestically and internationally. For example, there are many ways to engage state and non-state actors, such as civil society, to strengthen justice systems and local accountability mechanisms as a further means to hold those who have committed criminal acts responsible.
TrustAfrica has been working on the topic of international criminal justice in Africa since 2009, culminating in a convening organized jointly with the MacArthur Foundation and the Center for Citizens’ Participation in the African Union (CCP-AU) in 2011. As a result of these initiatives, several funders pooled resources to create a fund that will address challenges and opportunities in the realm of international criminal justice and improve relations among its actors.
The $1.5 million, three-year multi-donor fund seeks to ensure greater collaboration and accountability among African states to transform the field of international criminal justice through:
• Developing and implementing collaborative and strategic grantmaking to advance international criminal justice; and
• Fostering civil society networking and capacity strengthening for concerted regional advocacy against impunity.
“TrustAfrica hopes to work closely with all the stakeholders engaged in pursuing justice on the continent and through its grantmaking to serve as a bridge to advocate for those seeking an end to impunity in Africa. We are excited to dedicate our energy to strengthening the capacity of civil society organizations so that they may seek greater accountability and transparency,” said Dr. Akwasi Aidoo, Executive Director of TrustAfrica.