n African Security Review - Rethinking conflict trajectories : South Africa and Kenya revisited : essay

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South Africa and Kenya experienced various forms of conflict and gross human rights abuse between 1948-1994 and 1963-2002 respectively. In both situations, the conflicts were motivated by various factors; these included unequal distribution of socio-economic resources and skewed political relationships. The centrality of human rights abuse and political violence to both situations places similar issues on the agenda for analysis. In both cases opposition to regimes was justified on the basis that the political systems were constructed in such a way that limited alternative conceptions and prevented democratic freedom (until 19921 in Kenya and 1994 in South Africa). After undergoing transition to democratic rule in 1994, South Africa engaged the idea of a truth and reconciliation commission as an instrument for dealing with its past conflicts. The South African case animated widespread international interest and after an electoral victory in 2002, the National Rainbow Coalition (NARC) government in Kenya mooted the same idea. By the end of 2004 however the NARC government seems to have lost interest in the truth commission concept; this paper probes the question why? Broadly there is room for alternative interpretations both within and between the two cases on how conflicts were perpetuated and the potency of a truth and reconciliation commission as a viable alternative for dealing with past conflicts. This paper broadly aims to offer a clearer account of conflicts and mechanisms for dealing with them from the conceptual lenses of conflict management theory.


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