Retribution and Reparation in the Transition to Democracy

Afghanistan’s struggle to emerge from nearly three decades of war and establish peace and order is one of the most watched democratic transitions in the world today. Observant onlookers may have noticed something that has the potential to jeopardise this process and undermine democracy for decades to come: the new government’s apparent unwillingness to address the country’s turbulent past. The National Assembly of Afghanistan is in the process of passing legislation providing blanket amnesty for the warlords, communists, and Taliban commanders who terrorised the country for almost a generation. In doing so, the new democratic government may be undermining its own legitimacy and antagonising large parts of the population. By dismissing the expressed wishes for justice and retribution of the Afghan people – who were maimed and abused, whose entire families were killed, and whose homes were destroyed – the new government has created for itself another obstacle in its transition to democracy.

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