Truth Without Reconciliation
A Human Rights History of GhanaUniversity of Pennsylvania Press 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.
There are, however, 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.
Chapter 1. Making the NRC Archive
Chapter 2. Human Rights and Ghanaian History
Chapter 3. Kalabule Women
Chapter 4. Family Histories of Political Violence
Chapter 5. The Suffering of Being Developed
Chapter 6. Soldier, Victim, Hero, Survivor
Chapter 7. Time for Suffering / Time for Justice
Conclusion. The Brief Afterlife of Ghana's Truth Commission
"Truth without Reconciliation is a thoughtful, well-written meditation on global truth and reconciliation commissions through the optic of Ghana's postindependence politics. The book pushes us toward a fuller reconsideration of Ghanaian and African postindependence history. By turning our attention to the lived experiences of the multitudes who suffered and who survived state and corporate violence, human rights are less ethereal concepts than victim-filled faces and scarred bodies."—African Studies Review
"[A]n excellent, timely,and timeless addition to scholarship on Ghana's political history, and an important scholarly and policy resource on human rights. Truth Without Reconciliationreveals a true national narrative told in ordinary voices: truth borne in souls, hearts, memories, and on skins of citizens; truth about postcolonial statecraft and nation-building; but, truth that failed to meet the aspirations of and engender true reconciliation for a survivor people."—African Studies Quarterly
"Truth Without Reconciliation is a difficult book; it is also an extremely powerful book . . . a must-read for any student of Ghanaian history, as well as those interested in the history of human rights. It is one of those rare books whose theoretical and methodological interventions are equally matched by their empirical rigor."—Africa Today
"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