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War and Reconciliation–Africa’s Dilemma – December (Discussion Series @ Camden Public Library)

December 1, 2015 @ 6:00 pm - 7:30 pm EST

The establishment of South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission was a pioneering international event. Never had any country sought to move forward from despotism to democracy both by exposing the atrocities committed in the past and achieving reconciliation with its former oppressors. What were the goals?

What were the results? We will examine the implementation of this groundbreaking commission while objectively looking at its successes as well as its failures. Can a country consumed by war, injustice and slaughter find a way to not slide into the abyss? It has been said that part of saying “yes” to life and “yes to hope” is to face the wounds which threaten not to heal if they remain unexamined and untreated. The TRC opened a door to squarely face these issues. Was it worth it? Come to the library and join the discussion to find out.

Suggested Readings

The Fate of Africa: A History of the Continent Since Independence; Martin Meredith; Public Affairs Publishers; Revised in 2011

Martin Meredith started his love affair with Africa at the age of 21 when he sailed up the Nile. Since that time he has taken a hard and dispassionate look at the results of centuries of colonial influence in Africa which cut across cultural, linguistic and religious lines. The results of that influence are set out for us in stark terms, but always preserving the humanity of Africa and its people.

Chapter #24; pp.412-440

Background of minority power in South Africa at its apex to the realization that change was inevitable from an economic, political and moral standpoint.

Chapter #34; pp. 653-685

Nelson Mandela and the coming of majority rule facing the hard realities of governance while accepting that the nation could not move forward without confronting the decades of systematic government sanctioned violence against the majority population-and the sometimes violent response of the oppressed.

No Future Without Forgiveness: Desmond Tutu; Doubleday Press; 1999

Desmond Tutu, at the request of President Nelson Mandela, headed up the Truth and Reconciliation Commission which “looked the beast in the eye”. Tutu argues that true reconciliation cannot be achieved by denying the past. He presents a bold view which recognized the horrors people can inflict on one another and yet humanity is still somehow capable of retaining a sense of idealism and reconciliation.

Country of My Skull: Guilt, Sorrow, and the Limits of Forgiveness in the New South Africa: Antije Krog; Broadway Books; Reprint Edition: 2000

In looking at the “crazy quilt” which had become South Africa in the time of apartheid, Antije Krog observed in wonder as the dreaded system collapsed. He was a reporter at the Truth and Reconciliation Commission hearings, listening day after day to the recitation of atrocities and indifference which had ended the lives and the hopes of so many. How could the people of South Africa, black and white, come to terms with its ugly past and live side by side as neighbors? Krog paid a heavy personal price for his time reporting on the TRC but nonetheless examined the triumphs and failures of the Commission with a clear eye as well as a broken heart.

Truth and Lies: Stories From the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in South Africa: Jillian Edelstein; New Press Publishers; 2002

Jillian Edelstein shows us the raw emotion not so much in words but in her photographs of the work of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission which began in 1996. She was in the hearing room and in the streets, recording with her camera that which was lost and the hope a country struggled to find as it proceeded with its look into the mirror of a country which had lost its way in the most brutal fashion. The TRC was complex, contradictory and sometimes confusing. And yet… shed light on the darkest corners of the human conscience as well as illuminating the possibility of a hope for the future which could not be extinguished under the most brutal of circumstances.

A Human Being Died That Night: A South African Woman Confronts the Legacy of Apartheid: Pumla Gobodo-Madikizela: Mariner Books: 2004

Dr. Gobodo-Madikizela’s account of a dialogue between herself and the notorious Eugene de Krock, the commanding officer of state-sanctioned death squads in the apartheid regime. He was serving a 21 years sentence in a maximum security prison when these conversations took place, during which time he underwent a profound reversal of beliefs. The author’s own struggles to understand and forgive are evident on every page….as is her strength.

Truth v Justice: The Morality of Truth Commissions: Robert Rothberg; Dennis Thompson; Princeton University Press: 200

What is the intersection of truth and justice in the aftermath of atrocity? In this collection of essays the contributors critique the contradictions, the potential and the limitations of truth finding commissions


Articles and Documents

Truth and Reconciliation Commission Website

All documents pertaining to the establishment, procedures and execution of the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission are contained in this website. At the bottom of the home page you will find a box in which to type in any questions you may have regarding the TRC, good , bad or indifferent.

Click on Legal Background

Click on Acts of South African Parliament/Promotion of National Unity and Reconciliation Act, No. 34 of 1995


ANC Second Submission to the TRC

Answers from the TRC to the African National Congress regarding structure, activities carried out, armed actions, knowledge of infiltration by the Security Services, concerns for rehabilitation of victims and guidelines for the creation of peoples’ self defense units


Truth and Reconciliation Commission of South Africa Report

Detailed findings of the Commission



Maine Wabanaki-State Child Welfare TRC      

Click on Report

An undertaking to uncover the truth about what happened to Wabanaki children and families involved with the Maine child welfare system, to explore ways to emotionally recover from such an experience and looking at ways to change the state’s approach to its native populations as concerns social service issues.


December 1, 2015
6:00 pm - 7:30 pm EST
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Camden Public Library
55 Main Street
Camden, ME 04843 United States
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(207) 236-3440
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