Event Report: "Africa in Front of Us" Seminar Series No. 10 "Reconsidering Reconciliation Policy of Society after Conflict: Focusing on South Africa after Post-apartheid"

published: 2014-12-15

On July 11 (Fri.), the Research Center for Ars Vivendi, Ritsumeikan University organized in Room 211, Keigakukan Hall, Kinugasa Campus, the tenth seminar in the “Africa in Front of Us” series entitled “Reconsidering Reconciliation Policy of Society after Conflict: Focusing on South Africa after Post-apartheid”.
In this tenth seminar, we had associate professor Toshihiro Abe of Otani University talk about the endeavor of the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission and the ultimate theoretical conclusions of the reconciliation theories. Later, we had him hold a colloquy with Akira Inoue, political philosopher and associate professor of Ritsumeikan University, regarding the issues of reconciliation and justice.
How can we confront enormous segregation and hatred between people of different ethnic groups, different religions, and races? How can we heal the wounds of an ailing society? And what kinds of systems and norms can help us find the way to achieve social rehabilitation of the perpetrators and ensure support of the victims? For many years, Dr. Toshihiro Abe has been conducting research on the measures of reconciliation implemented in South Africa after apartheid, striving to find answers to these and related questions.
President Nelson Mandela, who died in December of last year, called out for establishment of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (henceforth, TRC) two years after becoming the first black president of the country in 1994, and the Commission was to change the society so that both races can live peacefully together. TRC was hailed across the world as a laudable effort to settle the dispute by forgiving the perpetrators without retaliative measures and to recover the autonomy of the victims, but what was the true situation there? Basing his narrative on the texts written by people, who were related to the Commission and also on records of public hearings, Dr. Abe described the difficulties the TRC had to face at the time. He then proceeded to draw a distinction between the act of social reconciliation and the act of demanding social reconciliation, and pointed out his view regarding the significance of the endeavor by TRC not as a meeting of minds regarding reconciliation or as an ultimate solution, but, rather, as an effort “by making reconciliation a guiding principle of the society thus avoiding a shift to an armed conflict, to induce a new kind of competitive relationship.” In other words, the idea is that the two parties sharing hostile relationships in the past at the very least need to agree that the relationship between them has to be improved, and on that basis create a competitive relationship, in which both sides compete against the other creating more appropriate conditions towards reconciliation and striving to acquire acknowledgment from the other party that would enable them to be in the dominant position.
After the lecture, Akira Inoue, associate professor of Ritsumeikan University made the point that this viewpoint rather than “deliberative democracy” is closer to “agonistic democracy”, and that we need to understand what good can be achieved by temporary agreement in the process of restorative justice that leaves certain aspects of antagonism untouched. A lively discussion ensued. During the question time that was provided after that, the lecturer was asked about how people understand/imagine the society during the shift from reconciliation at the level of individuals to a reconciliation on a social level, and how we should link reconciliation on the level of acts or feelings to that as a phenomenon. As a result of the discussion, the presenter himself felt interested in the idea to rethink the endeavor of the TRC from the viewpoint of game theory, but as for today's presentation, it transcended the merely political aspect of the question of policies after apartheid in South Africa and became an invaluable opportunity to think of diverseness and complexity of frameworks to discuss “reconciliation”.