Truth Without Reconciliation
A Human Rights History of Ghana
A volume in the series Pennsylvania Studies in Human Rights
Although truth and reconciliation commissions are supposed to generate consensus and unity in the aftermath of political violence, Abena Ampofoa Asare identifies cacophony as the most valuable and overlooked consequence of this process in Ghana. By collecting and preserving the voices of a diverse cross-section of the national population, Ghana’s National Reconciliation Commission (2001-2004) created an unprecedented public archive of postindependence political history as told by the self-described victims of human rights abuse.
The collected voices in the archives of this truth commission expand Ghana’s historic record by describing the state violence that seeped into the crevices of everyday life, shaping how individuals and communities survived the decades after national independence. Here, victims of violence marshal the language of international human rights to assert themselves as experts who both mourn the past and articulate the path toward future justice.
However, there are risks as well as rewards for dredging up this survivors’ history of Ghana. The revealed truth of Ghana’s human rights history is the variety and dissonance of suffering voices. These conflicting and conflicted records make it plain that the pursuit of political reconciliation requires, first, reckoning with a violence that is not past but is preserved in national institutions and individual lives. By exploring the challenge of human rights testimony as both history and politics, Asare charts a new course in evaluating the success and failures of truth and reconciliation commissions in Africa and around the world.
Praise & Reviews
“Through an examination of the National Reconciliation Commission (NRC), Abena Ampofoa Asare paints a nuanced history of Ghana, one in which Ghanaian citizens themselves narrate the violence of the country’s past. These testimonies enlightened me, one or two even made me laugh, and, many times, I had to pause and look away, horrified at the scale of terror people suffered. By presenting the NRC in all its contradictions and in giving voice again to everyday Ghanaians, Asare’s Truth Without Reconciliation makes us critically consider the image of Ghana as a peaceful country and reminds us that there are human rights abuses we as a nation still have to confront.”—Ayesha Harruna Attah, author of The Hundred Wells of Salaga
“The empirical detail is stunning. Abena Ampofoa Asare makes use of the entire NRC archive to bring out stories that often go unheard in the media and in most traditional justice-related publications. Let us hope that Truth Without Reconciliation will inspire more researchers to do the same around the world.”—Onur Bakiner, Seattle University
“A welcome addition to the literature on postindependence Ghana. Abena Ampofoa Asare achieves a thorough historical reconstruction with an emphasis on everyday people, showing the challenges that result from the Ghanian state’s policies and practices. The individual testimonies she presents alone make this book worth the read.”—Benjamin Talton, Temple University
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