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How The Truth Commission got its reconciliation

Holbrook, Rosalind (2011) How The Truth Commission got its reconciliation. Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) thesis, University of Kent. (doi:10.22024/UniKent/01.02.94421) (KAR id:94421)

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This thesis explains how the truth commission got its reconciliation. Truth commissions are one of the most popular mechanisms used to foster reconciliation in the aftermath of violent conflict (Hauss 2003, Borer 2006, Daly and Sarkin 2007, Moon 2008). It is increasingly accepted that for peace to be sustained, a culture of reconciliation must be promoted (Lederach 1997, Montville 2006, Volkan 2006, Daly and Sarkin 2007). To assess the contribution made by truth commissions to reconciliation is thus critical. However, such an assessment is currently stalled by an impasse in the literature, which finds determining reconciliation’s meaning complex and operationalising conceptions of reconciliation difficult at the empirical or theoretical level (Daly and Sarkin 2007, Borer 2006). This thesis offers no argument on the general claim that truth commissions reconcile. Instead, explains the insertion of reconciliation within the truth commission model in order to increase future truth commissions’ potential for reconciliation.

This thesis argues that South Africa was the first truth commission to be perceived as reconciliation centric. This, it argues, was the result of two things. First, that a politically aware ANC used the word ‘reconciliation’ to ameliorate feelings of injustice regarding the Commission’s amnesty provision and fears of the Commission revealing a painful or dangerous truth. Although its legislators did not intend it to promote reconciliation, the language of the Commission’s founding Act was thus softened with a clause instructing that its tasks be carried out with the overarching aim of promoting reconciliation. Second, the Commission was given to Archbishop Desmond Tutu to run. Tutu used his position as Chair of the Commission to propagate his understanding of the Commission’s role: to promote reconciliation. This thesis concludes that a Commission not designed to promote reconciliation is not as well suited to promoting reconciliation as one that was.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctor of Philosophy (PhD))
Thesis advisor: Miall, Hugh
Thesis advisor: Blakeley, Ruth
DOI/Identification number: 10.22024/UniKent/01.02.94421
Additional information: This thesis has been digitised by EThOS, the British Library digitisation service, for purposes of preservation and dissemination. It was uploaded to KAR on 25 April 2022 in order to hold its content and record within University of Kent systems. It is available Open Access using a Creative Commons Attribution, Non-commercial, No Derivatives ( licence so that the thesis and its author, can benefit from opportunities for increased readership and citation. This was done in line with University of Kent policies ( If you feel that your rights are compromised by open access to this thesis, or if you would like more information about its availability, please contact us at and we will seriously consider your claim under the terms of our Take-Down Policy (
Subjects: J Political Science
Divisions: Divisions > Division of Human and Social Sciences > School of Politics and International Relations
SWORD Depositor: SWORD Copy
Depositing User: SWORD Copy
Date Deposited: 02 Sep 2022 14:48 UTC
Last Modified: 02 Sep 2022 14:48 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)
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