International Participant Bios
Jan Wesseler, Germany – Lead International Participant
Jan Wesseler is dedicated to changing society for the better. With his background in organizational psychology, he connects his understanding of human psychology with social systems. Jan graduated from Radboud University in the Netherland with a Master’s Degree in organizational psychology. He then joined international development cooperation. His first assignment with GIZ, the German development cooperation agency was with the Global Leadership Academy. During this time, he organized multi stakeholder dialogue processes for leaders on international level. Processes he designed focused on societal memory work, diversity & inclusion and urban development. During this time, he was also active in GIZ’s staff representation.
Currently, Jan is working in Kigali, Rwanda. He is contributing to a project on promoting economy and employment in the country. Inclusiveness is a very big issue in Rwanda’s way forward. Next to his work in German development cooperation, Jan has been active in designing different project ideas on societal memory work. These projects focused on including social media in commemoration and societal healing. To maintain his passion for his work, Jan regularly retreats out of the everyday hustle into nature. Through this practice, he focuses on his vision of a future worth living.
Claudia Apel – Germany
At GIZ’s Global Leadership Academy, Claudia is part of a team that conceptualizes, manages and facilitates international dialogue, innovation and leadership programs focusing on complex social challenges. Among her foci arememory work and dealing with the past (with the Nelson Mandela Foundation) and diversity and power relations (with the Deep Democracy Institute).
Claudia’s interest is in continuously learning how toenable awareness for how our mindsets, communication and behaviour shape the world we live in, and about the different means and circumstances that enable people to see each other’s humanity – across all differences.
Claudia is a psychologist by education and brings to her work the expertise from both of her degrees, in Organizational Psychology and in Neuroscience. Claudia has published on the scientific impact evaluation of human capacity development programmes, she is a trainer for Nonviolent Communication and currently pursuing training in Process Work and Deep Democracy.
Sabine Bode- Germany
Sabine Bodes bestselling books on the aftermath of war in the age group of German war children and especially in the next generation, called “war grandchildren”, fortifies to ask questions about the Nazi past – a search to reveal family secrets and to work towards individual and societal healing. We talk about a time in Western Germany when research and education concentrated on victims and perpetrators of Nazi regime, a process started in the seventies, leaving behind an era when most Germans assured “We did not know anything” and “We were all victims”, no matter how strongly they had been involved in Hitler Germany. But refusing guilt and shame did not end the case. The feelings changed over to the following generation. This assumed guilt was very common in Germany.
The crucial burden of the war children was not the violence of war but the holocaust. Shame and the feeling of being guilty blocked the access to their own trauma and mental disorders. What we have to consider: Germany especially West Germany was extremely busy in the process of coming to terms with the past for 30 years. But it was done academically – mainly the work of historians and publicists. In most families a voiceless past still reigned. Guilt and shame hindered even the perception of feelings and the dealing with own traumatic experiences. It appears like a late awakening. Due to the silence about family past and the lack of emotions how memories were passed over to the next generation the children of war children had been far away from measuring their parent’s childhood drama. But 70 years after the end of the World War II quite a number of media presentation focussed the group of “war grandchildren” and pushed the issue of the aftermath of war in contemporary family relationships. Depotismen, oppression and war do not stop when the weapons are laid aside.
The legacy of violence are to a large extend non-functional family-relationships. But this is not the end of it. Social and cultural factors – and very much so knowing the truth of the past – can help to reduce stress symptoms, overcome a health crisis and may lead to a healing of intergenerational conflicts.
Emina Bužinkić- Croatia
Emina Buzinkic is a political activist from Croatia. She works with the Centre for Peace Studies as a political analyst and campaigner in fields of political education, welcoming and hospitable social an political praxis towards refugees and migrants, and civil society development. Recently she was elected (independent) President of the Council for Civil Society Development to the Government of the Republic of Croatia.
In past years she worked as a Program Director of Documenta – Centre for Dealing with the Past and as a President of the Croatian Youth Network. Her fields of work encompass empowerment of social groups such as refugees, youth, civilian victims of war. She combines teaching and learning, writing and analysis, direct actions and activism.
Valerie Coombs – Australia – Bio to come.
Maria Eleonora Cristina- Argentina
María Cristina works in the Provincial Memory Archive, where first she was the secretary of the Memory Commission and now is part of the Investigation Area. She works with documents mainly produced by security forces during the State Terrorism, searching for proofs for judicial processes or allowing the access to that material for externals investigators.
Her lines of interest are Memory, Justice and Identity. María Cristina, who holds a degree in Social Communication, has been a member of H.I.J.O.S. (Sons and daughters for Identity, Justice against Oblivion and Silence) Regional Córdoba since 2003, and integrated the Communication, Reception, Education and Memory commissions. All the commissions are intersected by strong lines of reflection and work: Identity, Memory, Human Rights, Justice, Transmission, and Organization, always related to the revision of the recent past of dictatorships and State Terrorism. Her current line of work is justice’s process: She develops investigations and legal accompaniment for more than a hundred victims of state terrorism. After a lot of years of work, the organization has finally arrived at the Federal Trials with a first court process.
Khalil Goga- South Africa
Khalil Goga currently serves as an analyst at the Nelson Mandela Foundation (NMF) in Johannesburg. The NMF conducts dialogues on critical social issues in South Africa. Prior to his he was a researcher in the ISS Transnational Threats and International Crime Division. He previously lectured at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, from where he received both his undergraduate and Master’s degrees.
Shirley Gunn- South Africa
Shirley Gunn joined the African National Congress (ANC) when she was doing community work for her degree in social work at the University of Cape Town. She was recruited into the Umkhonto we Sizwe, the armed wing of the ANC. As a result of her anti-apartheid activities, she was arrested and tortured several times. She was accused of the bombing of the South African Council of Churches, being pregnant. After the birth of her son, she was arrested and detained with her son in appalling conditions. Her complaint resulted in the police in court taking her son away. Records of the baby’s weeping were used as a means of forcing her to confess. Later it was discovered that the security forces were responsible for the bombing. They were granted amnesty by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
To the present day, Shirley Gunn is advancing human rights through her work at the Human Rights Media Centre and as a board member of Khulumani Support Group. As participant of the Mandela Dialogues, she has initiated new debates in South Africa by screening the Cambodia production “The missing picture” and is interested in transferring methods of victim-perpetrator dialogues from the Balkan states to South Africa.
Vannak Hang – Cambodia
Mr. Hang Vannak is a Chief of Victims Support Section (VSS) of the Extraordinary Chambers in the Court of Cambodia. The main function is to make sure that the participation of victims of Khmer Rouge regime in the ECCC’s proceedings is meaningful, and they benefits from reparation programme and non-judicial measures. His current work enables him to work directly with victims and governmental and non-governmental organizations, especially with regard to justice, accountability and reconciliation.
Mr. Vannak was a former National Coordinator of UN Project against Human Trafficking in the Mekong Sub-Region (UNIAP), and a former Human Right Lecturer at the University of Pannasastra. With regard to education and training, Mr. Vannak holds a Master’s Degree in International Human Rights (LL.M) and a Bachelor’s Degree in Englis (B. Ed). He received training on general laws from University of San Francisco (Cambodia-based Programme).
Mr. Vannak has also attended various international training and workshops on development and human trafficking such as International Relation; Workshop on Combatting Child Trafficking in Yokohama; Project Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation in New York; and Memory Work in South Africa.
Shane Houston – Australia
Professor Shane Houston is a Gangulu man from Central Queensland. He has worked in Aboriginal Affairs for more than 35 years holding many roles at local, state, national levels. Shane has worked intensely in the community sector over a number of decades including as a CEO of an Aboriginal Medical Service and National Coordinator of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Organisation. He has also held senior executive positions in the public sector for more than 17 years.
Professor Shane Houston took up his current position at the University of Sydney as Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Indigenous Strategy and Services) and is the first Aboriginal person to be appointed to such a senior role at any Australian university.
The former health administrator brought this unfailingly positive attitude with him when he arrived at Sydney in April 2011, tasked with making the University a central national player in bridging the social divide that confronts Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
Professor Houston completed his PhD at Curtin University in 2003 graduating with a Chancellor’s Commendation. Shane was appointed Adjunct Professor of Health Sciences at Curtin University in 2006 and Professor in the School of Medicine University of Note Dame, Sydney in 2008. In 2009 Shane was awarded the Chief Minister’s Public Service Medal for meritorious and outstanding public service for his contributions aimed at improving the cultural security of services in the health sector.
Dr. Anna Kaminsky – Germany
Anna Kaminsky was born and raised in the former GDR. She has worked as researcher on memory politics and as expert in different functions for German historic institutions and commissions. She is a member in advisory boards of different memorials (e.g. Gedenkstätte Hohenschönhausen). In her current position she promotes a comprehensive reappraisal of the causes, history, and impact of the dictatorship in the Soviet zone of occupation in East Germany and the former GDR.
The foundation also supports the process of German unity, as well as the reappraisal of communist dictatorships in international contexts. The foundation’s measures contribute to knowledge transfers, communication, and consultation, all elements in society’s ongoing appraisal of the past. Anna Kaminsky is hosting the international group of the Mandela Dialogues in Berlin prior to the official Berlin encounter. As participant of the Mandela Dialogues, she furthermore initiated an international book project on the Dialogues.
Panhavuth Long- Cambodia
Panhavuth Long has a degree in law and supports and monitors the work of the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia through the Cambodia Justice Initiative. He is also a member of the Cambodia Working Group and Regional Working Group for regional and national human rights mechanisms (AICHR). Since 2001 he has additionally been working as National Consultant/Legal Expert for monitoring teams on good governance, democratic governance and legal and judiciary reform in Cambodia, funded by UNDP, EU and USAID.
Before his current assignment, he was working for the Human Rights Unit of the United Nations Transitional Administration in East Timor. Half of his time was allocated to assist the Office of the Serious Crimes Unit of the Special Panel of East Timor to classify the cases jurisdiction and work closely with prison authorities and lawyers on legal and physical conditions of the suspects and accused. As participant of the Mandela Dialogues, Panhavuth Long is very interested in models of integrating perpetrators and victims in professional settings to foster societal healing.
Bongani Mgijima – South Africa
Bongani Mgijima has worked in various capacities in the rich field of memory work for almost 15 years, specializing in museology, heritage and responsible tourism. His main interest is on how historically divided pasts can be recovered in order to create inclusive futures. In 1998 he was instrumental in the establishment of the Lwandle Migrant Labour Museum, which remains the first township based museum in the Province of the Western Cape. Bongani holds a Bachelor and a Post Graduate Diploma in Museum and Heritage Studies from the University of the Western Cape, an Honours degree in Public and Development Management and a Master’s degree in Futures Studies from the University of Stellenbosch.
Shane Perdue – Australia
Director, Strategic Indigenous Collaborations & Innovation Indigenous Strategy and Services, University of Sydney.
Shane is a senior university leader responsible for the flagship initiatives that operate as beacons, guiding the University’s ongoing reform in the Indigenous Strategy and Services space.
These flagship initiatives include among others, the ground-breaking Service Learning in Indigenous Communities program, Indigenous Global Partnerships and the Indigenous Policy Laboratory.
These initiatives provide a demonstration of the ‘art of the possible’ in a complex higher education reform environment. Shane is a member of the University’s Executive Sub Committee on Indigenous Strategy and Services, and member of the Indigenous Strategy and Services executive team.
He has worked in a number of countries over his career and has many years’ experience in the not for profit, government, community and corporate sectors services delivery innovative solutions in reform, transformation, marketing, communications, core business management and digital strategies.
Shane is of Native American decent from the Cherokee people, and is from the land of the Quahadi Indians and great Comanche Chief, Quanah Parker. He has worked with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in various capacities throughout his 16-year career in Australia. His relationships with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, and personal intrinsic Indigeneity has afforded him with a unique point of view and appreciation of Indigenous affairs that guides all his endeavors.
Dr. Daniel Rafecas – Argentina
Daniel Rafecas and his team have been researching the biggest investigation about crimes against humanity known as the “First Body of Army” (Primer Cuerpo de Ejército), with thousands of victims, hundreds of perpetrators and several dozens of clandestine centers of kidnapping and torture. In his judiciary work, he deals with crimes such as illegal detentions, tortures, kidnapping, persecution and forced disappearances.
He also works on the recovery of victims’ corpses and their identification as well as on the protection of witnesses and survivors and the preservation of the historical places and buildings where mass atrocities took place. Besides, Daniel Rafecas is also an academic advisor at the Holocaust Museum in Buenos Aires and a permanent collaborator to several memory institutions. As participant of the Mandela Dialogues, one of his main interests lies in the importance of emotional openness to victims and perpetrators in memory work, especially in judiciary settings.
Dr. Mariana Tello Weiss- Argentina
In 1976, during the last dictatorship in Mariana’s country, her mother was assassinated by the regime. 21 years later Mariana became a member of the human rights organization called H.I.J.O.S. (Hijas e hijos por la Identidad y la Justicia contra el Olvido y el Silencio – Sons and daughters for the identity and justice against oblivion and the silence); an organization in which she still participates today. Obtaining her Psychology degree in 2001, Masters in 2006 and a PhD degree in social anthropology in 2012. Her entire professional trajectory as a researcher was oriented to analyzing the relationship between violence and suffering in the construction of social identities.
The focus of her work has been on the relationships between political violence, memory and identities among the militants of the political organizations which became the principal targets of political repression during the dictatorship. Since 2008 she has worked as a researcher in “La Perla”, a Memory Center located in the same building which used to be a concentration camp during the 1970s. Her work comprises research on survivors’ memories and identities in order to generate an objective narrative about repression in the camp; contribute to the realization of justice; and disseminate to the general public explorations of concentration camp experience. In 2002, she received the Anthropology and Human Rights’ Award (Brazilian Association of Anthropology and Ford Foundation) for the piece “The strength of the given thing. Money, politics and Human Rights in the economical reparation to the victims of the State terrorism in Argentina”.
Since 2010 she has taught Anthropology at the University of Cordoba, doing a public examination to the post of professor for the course of “fieldwork in social anthropology” (2015). Also teaching at the post-graduation level in many Doctorates and Master programs, always about anthropological research, and especially in the field of memory and human rights.
Wachira Waheire- Kenya
Wachira Waheire is a Survivor of the infamous former Nyayo House Torture Chambers and an ex-prisoner of the 1980s in Kenya and has been a leading advocate for victims of state violence and impunity for more than 15 years. He worked for two and a half years with the Kenya Truth Justice and Reconciliation Commission (TJRC) as Human Rights Officer between 2010 and 2012. He is the National Coordinator of the National Victims and Survivors Network (NVSN) which is an umbrella body for more than 10 victim and survivor groups. Some of the groups in the network include, Torture victims, Wagalla Massacre survivors, kin of victims of political assassinations and Extra-Judicial Killings, Ex- political detainees, victims from minorities and marginalized communities, Members of the Mau Mau war veterans Association, Victim soldiers of the 1982 attempted coup (VOCA), Victims of Sexual and gender based violence, victims of extra Judicial killings, victims from Internal displacements.
He coordinates a public interest litigation process for torture cases against the Kenyan government that so far has won over US$5.1 million in court awards to victims of torture in Kenya. He has worked with most of Kenya’s leading voices and institutions focusing on transitional justice issues. Waheire is a member of the Kenyans for Truth and Justice Network (KTJN) which brings together individuals and civil society organizations working around issues of transitional justice. He has recently established a Centre for Memory (CEMED)in Nairobi with which he hopes to advance efforts to help in coping with legacies of past societal human rights violations and violence in order to build future peaceful and democratic Kenya.