n South African Journal on Human Rights - Consolidating peace : rule of law institutions and local justice practices in Sierra Leone




The strengthening of rule of law institutions is increasingly recognised as a key component to consolidating peace in post-conflict situations. Ensuring fairness under the law (and the appearance of fairness) whilst expanding access to justice in rural areas has become a chief plank in peacebuilding efforts in Sierra Leone following a decade-long civil conflict born of corrupt mismanagement in this failed post-colonial state. However, in order for justice institutions to be meaningful, local practices must be engaged. Despite discourse suggesting that justice is 'universal', socio-legal scholars have demonstrated that justice and its performance are cultural artefacts. Any robust peace in Sierra Leone must twin increasingly globalised rule of law institutions with local meanings and practices of justice. At the same time, local justice practices must be articulated with human rights. Moreover, the post-conflict period opens a unique space to expand Sierra Leonean local justice practices to stay the hand of vengeance following an inter-communal war where regular people became perpetrators, and almost everyone became a victim. Drawing on fieldwork conducted in Sierra Leone, this article will examine the development of rule of law institutions in Sierra Leonean peacebuilding and attempt to suggest how these institutions might coexist with local, 'traditional' justice practices. Moreover, the article also offers a critique of rule of law programming, drawing analogies to the criticisms mounted against the Law and Development Movement.


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