Columbia International Affairs Online: Working Papers

CIAO DATE: 03/2013

Peace, Justice, and Reconciliation in Africa: Opportunities and Challenges in the Fight Against Impunity

February 2013

International Peace Institute


Justice and reconciliation are antidotes to impunity, the condition where powerful individuals and institutions act as they desire without fear of reprisals, reproach, retribution, or recrimination. Impunity inheres where there is a deficit of democratic structures of accountability, fairness, and impartiality. Egregious crimes against humanity are in part the result of perceptions of impunity, hence the momentous global efforts against impunity and its manifestations. Justice, peace, good governance, and reconciliation, on the other hand, thrive where sturdy and stable democratic values and impulses prevail, and where there is a culture of constitutionalism to constrain arbitrariness and abuse of power. Africa has contributed significantly to global ideas and norms that have informed international practices to end impunity and promote justice and reconciliation. Africa has also witnessed efforts to incorporate these norms and ideals into national, regional, and continental structures, but there is a need for more efforts to domesticate, monitor, and implement them.