Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Transition, Human Rights and Violence: rethinking a liberal political relationship in the African neo-colony

by Michael Neocosmos, Critical Studies Seminar, Rhodes University, 31 August 2011

The courage, inventiveness and organisation of the people of North Africa in Tunisia and Egypt, as the new year of 2011 was turning, have evidently disproved (if refutation were needed) the thesis of „the end of history‟. In doing so they have provided renewed enthusiasm for 'people power' and a popularly driven process of mass mobilisation in which people can not only force the resignation of dictators and seemingly the (partial or full) collapse of authoritarian states, but crucially also demand a greater say in the running of their own lives. In standing up against oppression in this manner, people have asserted that they are no longer victims but full blown political subjects. Yet the appearance of the masses on such a broad scale on the political scene for the first time since independence cannot be assumed to mean that they will remain there, and not only because coercive military power has yet to be transformed.

Given the fact that this process is generally understood as one of 'democratisation', it becomes sooner or later systematically accompanied by an invasion of experts on 'good governance', 'democracy', 'empowerment', 'civil society' and 'transitional justice' inter alia. All these experts purport to provide advice to the struggling people on how to come to terms with past atrocities, in order to consolidate their hard won gains, via a transitional judicial process of reconciliation between erstwhile enemies in order to produce a functioning democracy.

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