The role of ICT in transitional justice for SADC

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Levious Chiukira

Stakeholders have made a rallying call for the implementation of coherent and all-inclusive transitional justice mechanisms aimed at achieving development and peace in line with the African Union’s Agenda 2063 and the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

However, embracing the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) means pushing and adapting the role of technology in advocacy and implementation of transitional justice.

The use of technology has been witnessed in Zimbabwe during the Mothlante Commission of Enquiry which accepted evidence spanning from pictures, videos and audios taken pre during and post the election violence.

With the high demand for evidence during these processes there is need for gathering enough proof to prove a case but these is also potential to reinforce existing global and local inequalities in access and to create new privacy or security risks for ordinary citizens.

The current momentum for Transitional Justice comes after the adoption of the African Union Transitional Justice Policy (AUTJP) at the 32nd Ordinary Session of the Assembly of the Union African Summit in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia in February last year.

The concept of transitional justice resonates well with the SADC Treaty and vision which calls for improving the economic and social wellbeing of the people of Southern Africa.

The end result sought to have a peaceful and prosperous region.

Through its various units and organs, SADC has been involved at a lower level and scale in the implementation of transitional justice processes.

The region has observed attempts by individual member states to implement transitional justice processes with little or no assistance from the international organizations.

These approaches have varied: commissions of inquiry, truth and reconciliation commissions, redistributive policies, memorialization initiatives and institutional reforms.

The region through its leaders such as former South African president Thabo Mbeki has assisted with mediation and peace agreements in countries such as Zimbabwe.

These resulted in the Global Political Agreement which ended conflict over the disputed 2008 general elections in Zimbabwe.

Major challenges experienced during these transitional justice processes have been the time factor and consolidation of evidence to prosecute crimes, or provide a nuanced, detailed understanding of the various truths.

The time constraint is mostly influenced by the incapacitation of governments in terms of financial resources in the light of the amount of work needed to be done.

There is therefore need to consider 4IR technologies as presenting a faster and efficient option in generating evidence and in preserving the reality of human rights atrocities.

With the changes in information and communication technology being experienced in the globalized world there has been a call to embrace the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) mechanisms in the advocacy and implementation of transitional justice processes to address the ongoing conflict challenges.

There is need for the region to emphasize the need to deal with the past and allow the healing and reconciliation for all people up to the community level and this will result in sustainable peace and development.

To address these challenges and move towards peace in the region, there is need to address issues of justices which have remained unresolved or not fully dealt with creating enclaves for future recurrence of conflicts and disharmony.

There have been efforts by the region to address the issues of injustices through ad hoc processes which only addressed symptoms not the real root causes.

Technologies like smartphone applications, digital media shared via social networks, drones, open source mapping, environmental sensors and satellite imagery, have all become more accessible to non-state actors over the past decade.

Technology provides transitional justice practitioners with an opportunity to engage more broadly and directly with affected populations and to educate societies about past and current injustices.

It also enables affected communities to provide evidence and testimony to transitional justice mechanisms and processes, and to keep up with relevant developments at home and abroad at reduced costs.

Such victim centre technologies have the capacity to expand the justice program and help to further open the documentation and communication of injustice as they have been recorded in the past or during the happening of the conflict by spectators or those involved in the conflicts.

Existing techno serve content-gathering methods have the capacity to replace labour-intensive human searching and filtering especially during the brainstorming and mapping stage requiring significantly less effort and cutting on costs for instances in cases where the commissions have to visit all conflict affected areas and do an in-depth research.

This has been observed on the social media when request are made on certain information and within a short period of time the responses comes from different parts of the world.

There is need to consider those communities which are still failing to access the ICT tools to avoid reinforcing inequalities and shunning important information though the methods adopted.

It is inevitable that transitional justice has to consider the use of technology and transitional justice practitioners must explicitly and meaningfully engage with the indigenous knowledge systems in the region in developing and delivering transitional justice mechanisms to ensure that sense of local ownership is engraved making acceptance more likely.

The many transitional justice practitioners in the SADC  region can make use of existing technological platforms and even go further to develop their own specific applications which will assist in the collecting, analyzing  presenting documentation and dissemination of information on the transitional justice needs.

Levious Chiukira is a PhD in Political Science student at the University of Johannesburg.

 Contact +27627063570

 [email protected]

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