The Role of Ubuntu in South African Truth Reconciliation Commission and Nigeria's Oputa Panel Revisited

Olu Ojedokun, Mary-Ann Ajayi



This paper laid out a limited summary of the history of South Africa's Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) and engaged in a re-visitation of the Nigeria's Judicial Commission for the Investigation of Human Rights Violations (Oputa Panel) in the light of the cultural approach found in Ubuntu. In the review, it sought to re-examine the South African Truth Commission, its implications as a political and cultural instrument for mending a fractured society. It sought to understand the cultural leadership role played by Archbishop Tutu using the traditional African principle of Ubuntu, which affirms an organic wholeness of humanity, as the driving philosophy behind the TRC as posited by Du Boulay. It reviewed the limitations of the Justice Oputa Panel and examined how it attempted to address the same fractures that have continued to present itself in Nigeria's governance and how the renewing of the truth and reconciliation process with some emphasis on the traditional African notion of Ubuntu can enhance the democratic culture and resolve some age long conflicts. The relative success of the South African transition process, rooted in Ubuntu in its modelling to other commissions invited a comparison with the Oputa Panel. The paper also raised the possibility of re-instituting another commission in Nigeria better patterned after South Africa's. How could a better use of it lead to an improved process which addressed issues arising out of a country that appears to have a distorted but legalised distribution of power brought about by a fractured society? Are there lessons we can draw from the significant implementation of the truth and reconciliation process in South Africa? The paper goes on to highlight areas of departure between the two Commissions. It reflected the South African template within the Nigerian context and concluded by making policy recommendations that may be applied to it in the face of the particular fractures it faces.

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