oa African Yearbook of Rhetoric - Verbalising violence

Volume 6, Issue 1
  • ISSN : 2220-2188
  • E-ISSN: 2305-7785



To achieve the "move" beyond dictatorship and a successful "entry" into democracy - if these terms might have a sense other than the mere metaphorical reference to a "transition", which is, to say the least, problematic - require, as a condition, that the terror wielded in the name of the State should be spoken of. It should be spoken of in public by those who turned to violence, and by those who were subjected to it. Without this public space of expression, it is hard to imagine how a solid and lasting democratic social bond could be established. This is perhaps one of the principal difficulties that Haitian society faces today. The violence has not been spoken of, it is still not spoken of; it has been silenced. This straightforward observation prompts three questions. Can one speak publicly of this violence? Is it sufficient to speak of it in order to overcome it? What provisions are required for its public expression? These three questions lead to a fourth: Can we be sure that this public verbalisation opens a way to move beyond State terrorism? Can we be certain that the fact of recreating a lasting bond of trust between citizens will permit the establishment of democratic practices of power? The question of the conditions under which violence can be spoken of is certainly a prerequisite for two other questions that should be treated together: on the one hand, the sentencing of the dictator and his accomplices and, on the other, the commemoration of the crimes committed and the injuries suffered.

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