For the first month while I was in Cape Town, I really could not tell it was winter. The weather was warm and sunny nearly every day. However, over the past two weeks I have finally come to understand why everyone told me to bring a good raincoat! The temperature is still quite comfortable, but the rain definitely makes walking everywhere a little dreary.
I am finally feeling like I am actually on the mend from whatever illness I managed to come down with the last couple weeks. I spent quite a bit of time isolating in my apartment, but I am starting to venture back outside to enjoy the city again. I went back to my favorite café this morning for breakfast for the first time since being sick, and it was an enjoyable moment because the staff recognized me and said they had been worried I had not come in for food or even a coffee in a while! I’m still adventuring and learning about new places, but I love when I get to the point in a longer travel period where I have started to find a few favorite spots and I am able to make some relationships with the locals there.
I thought since I did not take any trips while recovering this week, I would use this blog to explain in a bit more detail some of what I have been doing at work each day. As I have shared in previous blogs, I am predominantly working virtually while in Cape Town since CSVR does not have a physical office. Each week I attend a few pre-scheduled Microsoft Teams meetings, usually on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and then one or two meeting invites usually pop-up unplanned throughout the week. During these meetings the research team gets together to go over updates on individual progress and address any questions team members have. Each person on the research team has a country on which they are assigned to do research/data collection and a country note. Some of the other team members had done a few countries prior to me joining the team, but there wasn’t a set template that everyone was trying to match until midway through June. Even that might change as the team considers a move from using excel to google forms.
Regardless, I have been researching and doing data collection on Ghana’s National Reconciliation Commission (NRC). The project as a whole is a subsection of the transitional justice research at CSVR and focuses on Conflict-Related Sexual Violence (CRSV). I started by reading the mandate that was passed through legislation in Ghana that set up the commission. I then quickly realized that I needed more context on the conflict periods that the mandate period was covering as well as just general background information. I spent some time reading journal articles and archived news articles to try and build a better understanding of the time period. After that, I then moved over to filling in the data set for Ghana that dealt with specifically the mandate and some general background questions.
Just to give a general overview, Ghana’s mandate that established the NRC tasked the commission with investigating human rights violations that occurred during three different conflict periods in Ghana’s history. It’s somewhat of an anomaly because usually truth commissions are established during the transition out of the conflict period it is set to investigate, but Ghana had already moved into an arguably stable democratic period for multiple years before establishing the NRC. There are a few interesting theories about political motivations regarding the NRC’s establishment, but my task is to focus on researching the mandate, the NRC’s final report, and the implementation of any recommendations from the final report.
Ghana’s mandate entirely ignores CRSV and unlike many truth commission final reports, there is no set section to address CRSV. Sources have suggested that it was an intentional choice to not create a committee to address sexual and gender-based violence and CRSV with the goal that it would be addressed in a more natural/cohesive way throughout each time period rather than limited to one section. However, the general consensus among scholars is that CRSV got mostly overlooked and fell through the cracks in the final report. The version of the final report I am working with is a pdf that is over 1600 pages. For the purpose of the project, it would be considered a waste of research time to read the entire document word for word, so I’ve been trying to use command-F to target parts that address CRSV to gather the required data. However, I’ve ended up reading a large majority of the report because there is not a clear organization to the report at times and I want to ensure I don’t miss anything that would impact the dataset. The NRC’s final report includes statistics on the number of individuals who came forward to report incidents of sexual violence to the commission as well as a few longer detailed accounts of individual experiences. Reading the detailed accounts and the excerpts that contain quotes from the live testimony of victims of CRSV is really challenging. Each account is riddled with human rights violations, including intimate details of CRSV against men, women, and children.
In terms of data collection, the majority of what I have left is to address implementation of the recommendations and reparations mentioned in the final report. I am having trouble finding information on some of the more symbolic recommendations, but my boss has a contact who is an expert on transitional justice and Ghana, so I will likely ask for a meeting with him to ensure I have the most update and accurate information. I’m planning on sending the draft of the dataset I have created to the research team for feedback next week to allow time for them to look it over and to give me enough time to make edits before my internship is over.
My last large task will be to write the Country Note. This is intended to be a narrative version of the dataset and I’ve been working on an outline as I researched and worked through the dataset. I'm sure I'll need to do additional research to fill in narrative gaps, but I feel confident I can complete it with enough time to get feedback from the team as well. My internship is sadly coming to a close much faster than I’d like, but I am extremely grateful to have gotten the chance to work with this team and I’m hopeful that my work over the three months will be useful for the future.