Justice a prerequisite for sustainable Peace?

After several oral interviews on this debate, it boils down to the issue of the chicken and the egg story of who is older than the other. But according to International Center for Transitional Justice (ICTJ) the two goals of justice and peace, rather than being exclusive, are mutually reinforcing. Peace, when understood as enduring and long-term peace, goes beyond the immediate goal of ending a conflict and relies on justice and accountability to ensure sustainability.

Yet, balancing between ‘Justice and Peace’ has been a tricky affair when analyzing the politics of International Criminal Justice (ICJ) and the International Criminal Court (I.C.C) who continue to face the Justice versus Peace dilemma. However, there are in built mechanisms enshrined in the Rome Statute that try to accommodate the demands of justice and peace but the arguments are far from being over.

Honestly, there exist a variety of possible relationships between justice and peace. When considering the troubled interrelationship, one may start with the famous rule or motto of Ferdinand 1, the Holy Roman Emperor: Fiat justitia, et pereat mundus (let justice be done, even though the world perish). But the traditional understanding of delivering justice at all costs (“even if the world should perish”) refers to the ideal. The spectrum of possible scenarios may be extended from the two values being mutually exclusive to “no peace without justice” formula at the other end of the scale (International Comparative Jurisprudence 2 (2016) 81–88).

The question of justice can be treated as relative by every individual because matters of justice are not easy even for philosophers. However, as workers for justice and peace, we must lay a minimum standard of what entails justice and peace otherwise each one of us will have his or her definition of these two terms and end up loosing the crusade for these virtues or ideals.

What basically then should come to our minds when the words justice and peace are mentioned? From the above mentioned interviews and responses that I have gathered over the years in my workshops on Justice and peace, the following attributes constitute justice: Love, fairness, peace, equity, equality, rule of law, truth, respect, God to name but a few. On the other hand, participants have repeatedly told me that the ingredients of peace are: friendship, love, justice, tolerance, respect, solidarity, agreement, tranquility, rule of law, trust, God, happiness, forgiveness etcetera.

Therefore, sampling the components of each we can safely say that justice and peace are two sides of the same coin and hence you cannot deface one and retain the value. In the two ideals we find that they share some key words like justice, peace, respect, God, love and rule of law; all which appear on both sides. In addition, I hasten to say that justice is not only an act but an attitude. In this connection, there are some theoretical and practical aspects of education that can help inculcate a passion for justice and peace in school and parish programs.

Nevertheless, justice must be tampered with love and mercy to achieve reconciliation lest it degenerates into retaliation business. Ironically, punishment is part and parcel of administering justice because society must ensure that those that violate common good or wrong it must account for their wrong-doing by being made to face retribution for their actions. It is my conviction however that although justice and peace are co-joined like Siamese twins, justice is the first among equal as a cornerstone for perpetual peace. In other words justice is a firstborn in a twin birth and that order cannot be interchanged. My parting-shot is summed up by the following quote: “Genuine peace’, the American religious leader, (Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.) said, is based on justice and mutual respect, and these ideals are seldom achieved without arousing the hostility and often the violent response of the profiteers of oppression” (David, 2006, p. 98). I welcome informed counter views if any.

by Mutangili J. Muthama, Kutoka’s Program Officer

Consultant on Conflict management & Peace-building