Exploring ways of including human rights narratives of refugees in transitional justice and peacebuilding processes through storytelling: narratives from Dukwi refugee camp
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Post-violence periods present sub-Saharan African countries emerging from violence with the challenges of social reconstruction, the rebuilding of peace and the redressing of legacies of human rights violations. To respond to these challenges, these countries are increasingly utilising truth and reconciliation commissions. To date ten truth commissions have been established in the sub-Saharan African region. With varying mandates, the truth commissions have in their specific contexts provided public spaces to survivors of human rights violations to give voice to their personal narratives, and shed light on the forms of persecution they faced. Often missing from the work of these commissions are stories of refugees living in camps. This is an unfortunate exclusion by a transitional justice process because refugees represent a group adversely affected by rights violations. So far in sub-Saharan Africa only the Kenyan, Liberian and Sierra Leonean commissions have incorporated some of their refugee populations in their proceedings. Driven away from their homes and countries by armed strife and other forms of persecution, the stories of sub-Saharan African refugees continue to bear witness to their human rights plight. Their exclusion in the proceedings of most truth commissions is a glaring omission in the work set to champion human rights and consolidate post-violence peace and justice initiatives. Therefore, working with 33 male and female adult refugees living in Dukwi Refugee Camp in Botswana, this narrative study sought to find answers to this exclusion by exploring avenues of inclusion of refugees’ voices, perspectives and lived human rights experiences in the work of truth commissions. Participants came from sub-Saharan African countries which included DR Congo, Somalia and Zimbabwe. An analysis of the interview narratives revealed several key findings. Among others, these findings included the importance of recognising refugees as co-partners in peacebuilding. They also underscored the importance of having responsible democratic leadership promote a culture of peace and human rights and combat perpetrators impunity in post-violence African countries. The study demonstrated that future truth commissions can create opportunities to incorporate refugees’ human rights narratives and give refugees the space to offer solutions for the redress of rights violations and suggestions for promoting durable peace.