Transitional justice and reconciliation are nebulous concepts and pose a lot of challenges for conflict stricken communities in Africa. Firstly, justice is inherently a political concept whose conceptualisation and application is highly contested. Secondly, the application of legal recourse through transitional justice processes has developed contending approaches and policies, which range from Western-centred legal frameworks (focusing on the state) to broader African justice processes that seek to rebuild relationships between community members.
Thirdly, the institutionalisation of transitional justice has facilitated the diversification of its goals and processes for implementation. Critical scholars propose that where official processes of transitional justice and reconciliation at the national or international level are out of reach for the local communities, it is important to promote the local, unofficial processes that exist.
In this research, this aspect was explored in relation to the case of Zimbabwe where the Western-inspired government-led initiatives for transitional justice and reconciliation have inhibited the local population from acquiring justice. Making use of a qualitative ethnographic case study research method in Buhera and Mudzi districts, the research examined how the local communities resolve the conflicts that occur in their place of location, as well as how the context in which these experiences happen influence their understanding of justice.
The research established that various people hold varying meanings of what would count for justice to be served. Therefore, a one-size-fits-all approach to transitional justice and reconciliation is not adequate. An enabling environment that accommodates various views of justice is required for transitional justice to work.