Monday, January 28, 2008

Masculinity and Transitional Justice

The latest copy of the International Journal of Transitional Justice is just out and it focuses on gender and transitional justice. The issue was guest edited by Judge Navanethem Pillay of the International Criminal Court and former President of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda. I have an essay published in the journal entitled: 'Masculinity and Transitional Justice: An exploratory essay". If you would like a copy of the article send me an email, or the Table of Contents of the journal to get see all the articles in it.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Tips for riding a Zumanami

There is no doubt Thabo Mbeki was hit by a ‘Zumanami’ at the African National Congress (ANC) conference. He was trounced by Jacob Zuma, who seized the mantle of ANC president. The story is great reading, containing sleaze and power politics. Not since 1994 has so much been written about South Africa. I am not even sure whether I should weigh in on the debate.

But, as I sit staring at my screen, I am inevitably drawn back to the overanalysed story as surely as a jolly smiling fat bloke will always defeat a dull, short and grumpy technocrat when it comes down to a popularity contest (especially at Christmas).

On reflection, the whole affair was poetic (if you were not Mbeki). It was a magnificent demonstration of democracy with the people (well, ANC members) and the underdog winning the day. In an instant, Mbeki crumbled. Suddenly he seemed feeble, nattering on for two hours to a crowd who were not listening but sharpening their voting pencils, ready to make their fateful mark. And, indeed, a mark was made on history.

Zuma, the populist, the come-back kid, and an earthy soldier from the grass roots, has made it to the pinnacle of power (well, almost). He is seemingly destined to be the next South African President. Corruption charges and being acquitted of rape have propelled him forward and added wind to his people-powered sails.

So is this how we like our politicians these days? Fallible but personable? With a weakness for making dodgy friends, but indestructible? Four weddings down and still no funerals? Or is Zuma’s triumph merely a protest vote against the waBenzi – that Mercedes-Benz-driving new elite?

However, unlike fairy tales that end happily ever after, this story still has more pages to burn. Will Zuma shrug off corruption charges? Will Mbeki supporters roll over? And how long until the masses notice that Zuma himself probably has a Merc, if not a fleet? Who knows?

What I do know is that the event received massive international coverage. And, as in South Africa, reviews were mixed. International newspapers such as the New York Times and the UK Financial Times hailed it as a cautious triumph for democracy. The UK Guardian was more sceptical, asking whether South Africa deserved “a better choice than a dubious populist as its leader”.

But what is certain is that South Africa did not collapse with Zuma’s victory as some predicted. Even the rand managed to hold firm. Is this is a sign that politics does not really matter any more and that South Africa is just becoming another boring democracy? Or, as the Financial Times noted, is it because there is no need to worry (if you are a big shot financial investor, that is) because, despite the rhetoric, Zuma “is no radical left winger”.

So the Zumanami has come and gone. On one level, it seems radical. Yet, on another, as the waters subside, I am left feeling the process may be similar to that of a flood. Although a deluge can change everything in its path once the water recedes, people tend to build their houses in the same place. Will that much change?

Any prediction is doomed to failure, it seems. It is like gambling on whether global warming will or will not eventually result in floods sinking New York. Mbeki’s undoing was his remarkable ability to deny the impact of issues such as crime to HIV on ordinary people’s lives. Is a little compassion and affability all that the masses need? I suspect not.

So, JZ, my friend, you had better start waxing your surfboard. It is one thing stirring up a tidal wave, but surfing on the crest for a few years while trying to outwit the anticorruption squad and building several million houses at the same time is another matter.

This article by Brandon Hamber was published on Polity and in the Engineering News on 18 January 2008 as part of the column "Look South". Copyright Brandon Hamber.

Contribute to Conflict Trends

The African Centre for the Constructive Resolution of Disputes (ACCORD) is presently soliciting contributions for Conflict Trends 2008, Issue 1. This General Issue will cover a range of topics related to Africa (conflict, conflict resolution, peace, security and development, politics, specific regional and/or country case-studies/analyses etc). It is a more open-ended Issue and contributors are encouraged to submit articles on any topics of interest.Articles must be 2500-3000 words in length, and the deadline for the submission of the complete article is 15 February 2008.Should you wish to submit an article for publication consideration in this issue please refer to the Guidelines for Contributors on their website.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Handbook on Reparations launched

I have been meaning to post this for ages but last year (or maybe the year before), the International Center for Transitional Justice (ICTJ) launched its Handbook on Reparations edited by Pablo de Greiff. The ICTJ press statement "announced its global launch of The Handbook of Reparations, a groundbreaking collection of essays analyzing massive reparations programs for victims of human rights violations published by Oxford University Press. Over the coming month, events in The Hague, Brussels, Geneva, and New York will publicize and celebrate this tremendous accomplishment, reaffirming the Center’s deep commitment to working on reparations programs all over the world as an integral part of its holistic approach to transitional justice. At more than 1000 pages, this comprehensive study is the result of more than three years of intensive international and interdisciplinary research and the collaborative work of 27 authors from 14 countries. Written from a transitional justice perspective, the book employs a unique approach in examining national reparations programs by analyzing the experiences, needs, and impacts on victims". To read my chapter Narrowing the Micro and Macro: A Psychological Perspective on Reparations in Societies in Transition, email me and I will send you a copy. To find out more on the book click here, US or UK.

ICTJ New York Transitional Justice Essentials Course

ICTJ New York Transitional Justice Essentials Course 2008 is now taking appllications. Applications are due no later than January 14, 2008. Decisions on these applications will be communicated by January 25, 2008. The New York City-based Essentials Course is run by International Center for Transitional Justice (ICTJ) in partnership with New York University's School of Law. The course will be held from 25-27 February, 2008 at the beautiful Greentree Estate, an exclusive venue with 400 acres of rolling hills, gardens and woodlands on the outskirts of New York City. The course is intended for mid-career and senior staff of multilateral agencies, governments, NGOs, foundations, and universities who wish to undertake an intensive course on cutting-edge developments in this important and expanding field. For more details click here.