By Ruth Ratidazi Murambadoro, Zimbabwe

Being one of the four people that have attended both symposiums offered by IPSI, l feel overwhelmed by the Ruth-232x300amount of knowledge l am acquiring from these courses. The two courses offer very different outcomes and learning opportunities.

When l went for the Hague symposium l was a bit reserved because l did not know any one of the participants personally. But, at the Bologna Symposium I feel like am attending a family reunion, because l have been re-united with three of my Hague Symposium friends and also some IPSI staff whom l already knew. I also met new faces, whom l know will be my friends by the time the symposium ends.

My favourite topics and presenters from the Hague Symposium were Prof Dov Jacobs and Mr Charles Villa Vicencio. Prof Jacobs (Assistant Professor of International Law at the Grotius Centre for International Studies) gave us a lecture entitled “Puzzling over amnesties: defragmenting the debate for international criminal tribunals”, which dissected the role of transitional justice in conflict studies. He highlighted that it is often assumed that justice will bring deterrence and legitimacy to the society whereas reality shows no correlation between a deterring measure and respect for the measure by the receiving society. On the other hand legitimacy is problematic because it is a context based phenomena which cannot be generalized to all conflict situations. Henceforth international justice can be limiting because it does not set a policy consideration for revenging the acts of the perpetrators whereas most members of the society would be keen to see the perpetrator suffer the same way they did.

Mr Villa-Vicencio (Former National Director for the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission), deliberated on his experience with transitioning South Africa through the 1997 Truth and Reconciliation Commission. He gave clear illustrations of how South Africa’s case was unique and its model for transition should not be taken as a  “copy and paste” mechanism for other societies in transition. Therefore transitional justice mechanisms should focus on inclusivity, acknowledging past wrongs, and the role of truth and reconciliation in rebuilding broken nations.

On the other hand my favourite topics and presenters at the Bologna Symposium so far are Betty Bigombe and Joyce Neu. Ms Bigombe is a brave woman, her work in Uganda is a source of inspiration to many women in the Conflict Management field, myself included. She gave us a narration of her Face –to- Face encounter with Joseph Kony in one of thick bushes of Uganda, an experience she reckons was beyond her own abilities. Her best moments in the negotiation process with Joseph Kony was learning more about her character, which enabled her to identify features that make a good mediator:

  • Be a good listener. Through listening she managed to identify why the war would not end, e.g. corruption within the army (senior officials of the army where profiteering from the resources donated to aid ending the war).
  • To have sustainable peace one has to bring the conflicting parties to the table, negotiated settlement.
  • Watch out for infiltrators and spoilers.
  • Mediation is a personality about the person, be patient and don’t be assertive or forceful on the parties.

Prof Neu substantiated Ms Bigombe’s presentation identifying the code of conduct a good mediator must follow:

You are responsible:

  • To those you are working with on the ground i.e. relationships that you build on the ground and the implications they have on the rest of the society in that area.
  • You ought to be conscientious about consequences of your involvement.
  • To partner organisations
  • Ethical behaviour
  • Humility,and respect.

I should end by saying the classes at Bologna are still as intriguing as l had at the Hague. However, the Bologna symposium is more fascinating, because of the various simulations we do almost every day. Overall, the combination of speakers in both symposiums, is  amazing. The speakers are friendly and well knowledgeable, l still look forward to Prof Zartman and Robi Damelin.

The IPSI symposiums are the best place one can learn so much, quickly and freely. The staff at both symposiums are friendly and participants are amazing people. I am glad to have attended both symposiums. At the Hague symposium my field of study was clarified and as of now l am working on my masters project looking at the role of CSOs in post-conflict reconciliation. At the Bologna symposium my career has been consolidated, because l am getting all the practical skills l need to use when conducting my field work and anytime l am appointed a mediator.