Posts by: Bridget Conley

Joshua Oppenheimer’s film, The Look of Silence, seems to argue that the kind of speech capable of social change shares much with silence. The film provides a companion reflection to how post-conflict or transitional justice is often conceived of as official speech. In transitional justice, the power of change is envisioned as working its […]

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Twenty years ago today the policy of the “safe havens” in Bosnia’s war collapsed, not in the hills of eastern Bosnia, but in a meeting in London.While it is more important to mark the anniversary of genocide at Srebrenica, today should not be forgotten. Nor should the shift be simplified into a redemption story for […]

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The real dilemma concerns what must be excised from international genocide and mass atrocities agendas in order to produce the kind of lessons learned that are palatable to powerful international actors. When truth telling aligns with the interests of power, it invariably softens its demands. If you bring together people from key international decision-making institutions to discuss a historical event that can only be deemed a colossal failure, the lessons will inevitably be focused on how the different actors did not coordinate their efforts behind a single, guiding ethos or policy. This is invariably true and it evenly distributes blame. It is also invariably true of many international failures, mistakes and faux-pas: it may even describe the “international community” rather than a problem within it.

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But in the circumstance of deaths at sea, too often the “perpetrator” is able to masquerade as natural phenomenon–it is storms, waves and rocks that cause death. Mass atrocities, we assume, require intent, focused violence, and usually a gun. When the seas become mass graves, the trail back to a source of violence or outrageous inequity is frequently an abstraction. “Traffickers” or “immigration policies” are to blame–a “perpetrator” as nameless as its victims.

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For Burundi today, however, the question is, how to engage to defuse the violence and help Burundians forge a stronger path out of crisis than the one that led them into it. Without doubt, this will require a unified and resolute international mediation, and subsequent commitment to evaluating how longer-term commitments can participate in Burundian efforts to build resilience.

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I would like to introduce you to Sylvain Mbiye (Mushiba) Saluseke. He is the husband of a friend of mine, and a Congolese civil society activist. I introduce you to him because he has been detained without charges by Congolese security services in Kinshasa since March 17. His plight is both personal and historic. It is, of course, deeply painful for his family and loved ones, and it is also a small thread in the unraveling political story in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The longer he is detained, the worse is the fate of the country’s future. This is true not because of anything that Saluseke himself might have done or might yet do; rather, it is true because his continued detention serves as warning of how the government will act as the elections of 2016 approach.

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