RotaryPeaceChula

Rotary Peace Center at Chulalongkorn University, Bangkok, Thailand

A JOURNEY OF A THOUSAND MILES……

It’s been an amazing 12 weeks of the rotary peace fellowship. This experience has been nothing short of rewarding, revealing and insightful. Embodied with the rainbow coloration of 23 individuals from 6 continents. Nothing could more exhilarating learning from profound experts in the field of peace and conflict resolution, emptying themselves in a bid to transfer knowledge and equipping fellows with requisite skills to succeed in the peace and conflict field.

Week in week out, the introduction of intriguing, different but related topics to peace and conflict resolution enhances better appreciation of the subject matter. Learning about Peace Education and the steps in facilitating successful workshops was nonetheless insightful. As the saying goes ‘we learn by doing’, and so were put in groups to play out a mock training; decide on the training topics, training methodology and eventual facilitation of the training program. Receiving constructive feedbacks from other fellows and picking up one or 2 useful methods in facilitation was rather helpful.

Understanding the concept of transitional justice from a whole new expose, detailing countries emerging from periods of conflict and repression, with transitional justice addressing human rights violations so grave that the regular justice system will inadequately address issues of such nature.

Transitional Justice is rooted in the accountability and redress for victims, recognizing and respecting their dignity, acknowledging their violations with an attempt to avoid a repeat of such occurrences. Transitional Justice questions the law and government by putting the victims first as a way to provide succor, to make citizens victims more at peace in their countries through the use of retributive justice or restorative justice.

The documentary ‘Gacaca’, is a system of community   justice {a method of transitional justice} applied in Rwanda after the genocide lasting for 100 days, killing about 800,000 citizens. Gacaca details the experience of a mother who witnessed the gruesome killing of husband and children in the most brutal way. The local tribunal was set up in the village where the most atrocities were committed. Both the victim and perpetrator were availed the opportunity to narrate their sides. The victim, Josephine, graphically detailed her ordeal blow to blow on the capture and eventual murder of both husband and children. The documentary left not a dry tear in the classroom.

Watching the Gacaca documentary typically shows that victims want to be heard, feelings expressed, and have perpetrators own up to their actions with utmost remorse. However, the perpetrator in the documentary refused to display outright remorse, despite exhuming and washing the corpse of the family he killed. He was however, found guilty of the crime and charged to court.

Another, yet again heart wrenching documentary to watch was the truth commission set up in South Africa during the apartheid struggle between the white and black South Africans. The blacks felt marginalized by the whites which resulted to the killing of a white South African young lady by thereby sparking outrage around the world. The young man was made to face the truth commission, but was later pardoned after the parents of the slain victim forgave him.

Due to the rising rate in discrimination against the black South African, freedom movements were formed in a bid to stand up for themselves by speaking against oppression. The law enforcement agency killed members of a youth movement representing the black South Africans.

The perpetrators in the act were made to face the truth and reconciliation commission; a restorative justice tool initiated after the end of apartheid. To say the least, it was painful watching the mothers of the slain young men scream with anguish while listening to the perpetrators explain their roles in the murder of the deceased men. One could only imagine the pain these women endured in the whole process.

In narrating the roles of both perpetrators, it could be viewed that one expressed guilt, sadness, remorse and asked for pardon from the mothers of the murdered boys while the other, remained stiff, insisting he was in line of duty when the killing occurred and it was nothing personal. This left me think along the lines of this saying ‘in the absence of remorse, can there be reconciliation’?

And as I bid farewell to my peace fellows who have become friends, I say thank you for making these months easy, thank you for sharing a piece of yourselves, . Thanks to the beautiful land of smiles, thanks for being good to me in many ways imagined, for the lovely cuisine, appreciable culture, the language, I won’t forget you in a hurry Bangkok, and everywhere else I happened to experience in the course of these 3 months.  I am indebted to Rotary for this unique opportunity which has impacted me personally and professionally.

 

Ifeoma Louisa Ologwa – Nigeria

Rotary Peace Fellow – Class 25

 

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