This presentation explores the interplay between transitional justice interventions and ‘everyday’ political economies of survival in post-conflict Acholiland, northern Uganda. Based on field research conducted since 2010, I explore the complexity of justice in transition in a place where ‘transitional justice’ as a set of policy prescriptions is being advanced, but where post-conflict life is regulated by exigent ‘political economies of survival’. These are understood as the range of customs, practices and knowledge that individuals and communities deploy to ensure the basic functioning of meaningful and productive social and economic relations, as well as cosmological and spiritual balance. The argument follows that because of the fundamental centrality of these endeavours in highly strained post-conflict spaces, local experiences and attitudes do not fit neatly with the normative assumptions widely linked to orthodox transitional justice efforts. Findings direct us to think much more carefully about how the ‘local’ is conceptualised in transitional justice discourse (as well as the serious implications of misrepresentation); they also call into question the normative endeavour of propagating liberalist ideals of due process, rule of law and accountability.
Dr Anna Macdonald is a Research Fellow in the International Development department at the London School of Economics (LSE). Her research interests are in the areas of transitional justice, law and social order in Central and East Africa, and community-based responses to wrongdoing. She is currently in receipt of a Leverhulme/British Academy small research grant for a comparative project examining the role of magistrates’ court in South Africa and Uganda. Anna is also a co-investigator on an AHRC/ESRC funded project examining dynamics of displacement, return and re-integration in Central and East Africa. Recent publications include: ‘The Trial of Thomas Kwoyelo: opportunity or spectre? Reflections from the ground on the first LRA prosecution’ in Africa (co-authored with Holly Porter) and ‘Transitional justice and political economies of survival in northern Uganda’ in Development and Change.