Rebuilding Relationships after Civil War: Relational Justice and Ex-Combatant Reintegration in Liberia
Date of Submission
Doctor of Philosophy in International Conflict Management (Ph.D. INCM)
Dr Volker Franke
Dr Kwesi Aning
Dr Thomas Jaye
Contemporary civil wars occur in the context of eroded state capacity, marked by the absence of effective formal institutions. At the same time, these wars occur in relational contexts where relationships are important. While institutions and relationships matter, ongoing approaches to peacebuilding give insufficient attention to the relational dimensions of conflict and peacebuilding. When relational imperatives are considered, the transitional justice mechanisms employed often prove unsuitable or insufficient to restore justice and reconcile estranged individuals and groups, as the Liberian case amply demonstrates. This exploratory and grounded theory research was conducted in response to the call by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Liberia for national Palava Huts that will help restore justice and broken relationships in Liberia. The Palava Hut is widely practiced in Liberia’s relational rural communities where it has evolved as an effective tool for conflict transformation. However, its utility as a transitional justice measure has not been established, prompting the immediate question: Can the Palava Hut process work to address war-related injustices in relational and non-relational communities in Liberia? The results suggest that, with the exception of felonious cases, the Palava Hut can, with some modifications, address war-related crimes in ways that support effective reconciliation and reintegration, or peopleto- people peacebuilding. The Palava Hut provides a forum that enables the preconditions for justice and reconciliation to be fulfilled. This study develops a relational theory of justice that accommodates the concurrent needs of justice and peace and proposes a more comprehensive and sustainable approach to reconciliation through a focus on relational justice. Keywords: ex-combatant reintegration, non-relational community. Palava Hut, peacebuilding, relational community, relational context, relational justice, transitional justice.