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ICC isn’t anti-African – but its detractors are


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ICC isn’t anti-African – but its detractors are

OPINION / 5 February 2017, 08:52am

 

With th kind of mob psychology that Kenya's President Uhuru Kenyatta appears to be fanning against the ICC scapegoat, he risks taking the entire continent with him, unless sense prevails, says the writer. Picture: Tiksa Negeri/Reuters

 

Let us not begrudge fellow Africans for running to The Hague with our domestic problems, of which we have many, writes Victor Kgomoeswana.

 

If the reports that African leaders backed a mass exodus out of the International Criminal Court (ICC) at their recent summit in Ethiopia are true, they are on the verge of a continental blunder. 

 

This was at the very event where they elected Moussa Faki Mahamat of Chad as the new chair of the African Union (AU) Commission.

The rumour startled even former UN secretary-general Kofi Annan out of his media sabbatical to call for the collective exit to be stopped.

And he is right. In one such report the leaders are said to have “adopted a strategy calling for a collective withdrawal from the international criminal court.

“The non-binding decision came behind closed doors near the end of an AU summit.”

Non-binding? Behind closed doors? “Collective withdrawal” from the ICC? They each signed the Rome Statute as individual states; they certainly cannot leave en bloc.

This is the culmination of a sustained campaign by countries such as South Africa, The Gambia, Burundi and Kenya to quit the Hague-based ICC as it is “focused too narrowly on Africa while pursuing cases of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity”.

Opponents of the ICC claim that it almost exclusively prosecutes African heads of state, letting characters like ex-US president George W Bush or the UK’s former prime minister Tony Blair off the hook for having waged a baseless war against imaginary weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, for example.

They also ask why European countries, mainly former colonial powers, are not forced to compensate African countries against which they perpetrated immeasurable atrocities or where they sponsored deadly conflict.

Somebody, please tell Their Excellencies that although they are entitled to question the credibility of any court in the world, finger-pointing and duplicity will not help while they often do not prioritise serving the masses who vote them into power.

Finger-pointing erodes our strength to effect change when we believe that everything is the world’s fault. Unisa Constitutional Law expert Professor Shadrack Gutto was not impressed by our leaders’ duplicity.

He recalled being one of the constitutional law experts who recommended to African leaders that another court over and above the ICC was required to avoid the very risk of being perceived as an anti-African institution.

He also pointed out that most of the charges facing African leaders were laid by other Africans, and the fact that the Chief Prosecutor of the ICC is Fatou Bensouda, a woman from The Gambia.

Simply, the ICC is not anti-African; the perpetrators of malfeasance and atrocities against fellow-Africans are.

Withdrawing from the ICC would only make sense if the AU first established an African Criminal Court and built the capacity of respective African countries to prosecute anyone accused of any violation of human rights. Once this capacity is there, the ICC will be irrelevant. It will be the very essence of what we blithely call “African solutions to African problems”.

However, if Burundi and The Gambia, among others, still face leaders who insist on staying in power despite public dissent, or if advanced democracies such as South Africa have to rely on a Constitutional Court to get their president to comply with what should be common sense, then let us not begrudge fellow Africans for running to The Hague with our domestic problems.

President Uhuru Kenyatta is a reasonably respectable leader, as is the country he leads.

His ability to maintain Kenya’s momentum as the hub of technological innovation to improve the quality of life for all is admirable.

He presides over the powerhouse of a critical regional economic bloc, the East African Community.

He is key to the unification of Africa and might be re-elected in the forthcoming elections later this year.

However, with this kind of mob psychology that he appears to be fanning against the ICC scapegoat, he is downright tripping and he risks taking the entire continent with him, unless sense prevails.

Populism does not build winning nations or continents.

* Kgomoeswana is author of Africa is Open for Business and host of Power Hour from Monday to Thursday on Power FM. Twitter handle: @VictorAfrica

** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Media.

The Sunday Independent



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