n African Journal on Conflict Resolution - Efficacy of top-down approaches to post-conflict social coexistence and community building : experiences from Zimbabwe

Volume 16, Issue 2
  • ISSN : 1562-6997


This paper provides an assessment of the work done by the Organ on National Healing, Reconciliation and Integration (ONHRI) in post-2008 Zimbabwe. ONHRI was employed by the Zimbabwean government (precisely as Government of National Unity) to ensure national healing and integration. The efficacy of top-down approaches to social cohesion in post-conflict contexts is questioned. The paper outlines how political expediency, mistrust and polarisation debilitated the work of ONHRI. There was little consultation done in creating ONHRI, especially with communities affected by political violence. Academics, civil society, smaller political parties and private entities were left out of the process of creating social cohesion mechanisms. For the Zimbabwe African National Union - Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF), the Organ was a concession on their part to the demands of the MDC and this led to problems in implementing its mandate. What transpired became a political cat and mouse game in which actors at the national level frustrated the process of uncovering the truth and the promotion of healing. ONHRI's work has to be understood within a context of political competition in the Government of National Unity (GNU) in which self-interest overtook the mandate of the Organ. The paper therefore argues that Zimbabwe lost an opportunity to entrench grassroots social cohesion and healing processes.

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