Kelebogile Zvobgo, Ph.D. Candidate

University of Southern California

City: Los Angeles, California

Country: United States

About Me:

I am Provost's Fellow in the Social Sciences and a Ph.D. Candidate in Political Science and International Relations at the University of Southern California. I am also a National Science Foundation (NSF) Graduate Research Fellow. I received my B.A. (with honors) in International Relations & French Language and Literature from Pomona College in 2014. My research is published or forthcoming in the International Studies QuarterlyJournal of Human Rights, and Journal of Political Science Education.

Research Interests

Human Rights

Comparative Political Institutions

International Law & Organization



Specific Areas of Interest

Transitional Justice

Truth Commissions

Accountability Mechanisms

Human Rights Treaties

International Courts

My Research:

My primary research focuses on quasi-judicial bodies that have proliferated across the globe to fill the gaps left by domestic and international law and courts. Like courts, these accountability mechanisms collect statements from individuals who have been harmed by state or non-state actors, conduct an investigation, and enjoin appropriate reparative actions. Thus far, my research has extended to truth commissions and international development banks' compliance mechanisms. My dissertation, Justice Beyond Courts: NGOs, Accountability Politics, and Truth Commissions, develops and tests a theory of how transnational advocates guide the creation, design, and effectiveness of truth commissions following political violence. The cornerstone of this research is a novel dataset that captures (1) patterns across commission mandates and powers, (2) the nature and frequency of commissions’ policy recommendations, and (3) the extent to which policy makers have implemented recommendations.


Journal Articles:

(2019) Smoothing the Pipeline: A Strategy to Match Graduate Training with the Professional Demands of Professorship, Journal of Political Science Education

Faculty recruitment and Ph.D. student placement have become increasingly competitive over the past decade. The emphasis of graduate student training— research above all else—often means a difficult transition into the professoriate, where expectations for faculty are broadened to include teaching and service. In response, we offer a model of an organizational structure for research in which: (1) graduate students gain opportunities to collaborate on research with faculty, (2) teach in their areas of expertise, and (3) begin their mentoring careers. We argue that these structures will help ‘smooth the pipeline’ between graduate school and academic jobs, and will be particularly helpful in supporting graduate students from historically underrepresented groups.

(2019) Designing truth: Facilitating perpetrator testimony at truth commissions, Journal of Human Rights

Tags: Comparative Political Institutions

Truth commissions aim to promote transparency, accountability, and reconciliation by compiling detailed narratives of political violence. To achieve this end, both victims and perpetrators of abuses must testify. Yet, little is known about how commissions can be designed to facilitate perpetrator testimony. This article develops a theory of perpetrator participation in truth commissions, with a focus on institutional design. The article then evaluates the effectiveness of four design features—amnesties, subpoena powers, dual-party agreements, and spiritual frameworks—in facilitating perpetrator testimony in the truth commissions in Sierra Leone, South Africa, and Timor-Leste. The analysis indicates that the theoretical constructs developed are present, functional, and influential for perpetrator participation in the three commissions. And, while no individual design feature is essential, the case studies reveal that perpetrator participation may not be forthcoming without a robust dual-party agreement and/or a resonant spiritual framework. This underscores the importance of normative foundations for perpetrators’ engagement with commissions. Crucially, though advantageous features may be present, the criteria required for them to function may not be met, resulting in no effect or a negative effect on participation.


(2019) The Trump administration opposes the International Criminal Court. Do Americans agree?, The Washington Post

Tags: Human Rights, International Law & Organization, Public Opinion

No. But as my research shows, public support for the ICC is hardly unanimous either, and sensitive to how the ICC’s work is described.

(2019) Human rights workers are getting killed in Colombia. Here's what could help save the peace, The Washington Post

Tags: Human Rights

Colombia already has in place a tribunal that, if used fully, could help salvage the accords.