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“Accounting for which Past? Transitional Justice and Colonial Continuities in Burundi”

Wed, 25 September 2019, 12:00 to 14:00

Christodoulou Building CMR06 Ground Floor - Discussion: 12.30pm – 2.00pm (Lunch 12.00 - 12:30, please register)

International Development Seminar Series 2019-2020

“Accounting for which Past? Transitional Justice and Colonial Continuities in Burundi”

Speaker - Dr Astrid Jamar (FASS, Open University)

Abstract: Building on ethnographic fieldwork in Burundi, this article addresses how colonial continuities are being reproduced in various forms through transitional justice. First, it traces the imperial nature of the field normalisation: as a western-centred ideology promoted to Global South countries - particularly in Africa -that need to 'be repaired' from a (recent) violent past. Second, it engages with the implementation context: a hierarchised and paternalistic environment dominated by expatriate and Burundian elite experts. These experts treat the 'beneficiaries' as vulnerable victims 'whose capacities need to be built' through 'empowering' activities that simultaneously reproduce unequal relations; without addressing issues of ongoing violence and wider structural oppression by the ruling regime. Third, it demonstrates how the Burundian authorities use transitional justice and the colonial past to divert critiques about their authoritarian nature and ongoing human rights violations. Instead of closing down in 2018, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC)'s mandate was extended to look into colonial crimes committed since 1885.  

Engaging with transitional justice debates around colonialism and TWAIL (Third World Approach to International Law), this article aims to clarify the paradoxical and non-linear relationship between accountability of violent pasts, contemporary paternalism of international aid and the instrumentalisation of the colonial critique taking place through the rationale and workings of the Burundian TRC. Finally, the article offers to deconstruct the linear policy discourses built around discursive and physical violence and demonstrates the importance of adopting a decolonial lens onto the analysis of contemporary aid dynamics along the political instrumentalisation of the colonial critique.

Bio: Dr Astrid Jamar is a Lecturer in Development at DPP, Open University. She obtained her PhD in International Development from the University of Sussex in 2016. For the past decade, her research has focused on transitional justice and international aid in the African Great Lakes region. From 2008 to 2011, she worked with several international and local NGOs in Rwanda and Burundi implementing transitional justice processes in the two countries. Reflection on these experiences in academic and policy-orientated research formed the basis of her doctoral research. Prior joining DPP, she was a researcher in the Political Settlements Research Programme, School of Law, University of Edinburgh. For four years, she contributed to the consolidation of the vastest peace agreements database and applied postcolonial theories to transitional justice provisions contained in these thousands peace agreements. She is particularly interested in the professionalisation of peacebuilding from postcolonial, feminist and politico-legal anthropological perspectives.

Seminar is FREE to attend

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International Development Research Office
Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences
The Open University
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