Bold steps taken by three African na­tions

Chronicle (Zimbabwe) - - National News -

WITHIN 20 days, three African coun­tries have left the In­ter­na­tional Crim­i­nal Court (ICC), the much­hated Nether­lands-based tri­bunal whose pre­oc­cu­pa­tion over the past 14 years has been to hu­mil­i­ate Africans. Bu­rundi made his­tory early on Oc­to­ber 6 when it an­nounced its with­drawal. It was fol­lowed by South Africa last week and The Gam­bia on Tues­day.

The with­drawals fol­low years of com­plaints by Africans over the dis­pro­por­tion­ate man­ner in which the court dis­charged its man­date. Formed in 2002 to in­ves­ti­gate and pros­e­cute peo­ple in­volved in geno­cide, war crimes and crimes against hu­man­ity, the ICC has 122 mem­ber coun­tries, 34 of which are African. The United States, China, Ja­pan, In­dia, Pak­istan, Is­rael, and Turkey have not rat­i­fied the Rome Statute that es­tab­lishes the ICC and thus are not un­der the ju­ris­dic­tion of the court.

But the Hague-based court has only tar­geted Africans, six of them on charges of war crimes and crimes against hu­man­ity. It is in­ves­ti­gat­ing nine cases in the Demo­cratic Repub­lic of Congo, Mali, Su­dan (Dar­fur), Uganda, Cen­tral African Repub­lic (two), Côte d’Ivoire, Kenya and Libya.

Top African lead­ers, in­clud­ing sit­ting heads of state and gov­ern­ment have been tar­geted — Su­dan’s Omar Has­san Al Bashir and Uhuru Keny­atta of Kenya and his deputy Wil­liam Ruto.

Yet dozens of Amer­i­can and Eu­ro­pean ci­ti­zens and for­mer lead­ers who, in the eyes of the world, com­mit­ted com­pa­ra­ble and crimes against hu­man­ity are walk­ing free. Ob­vi­ous ex­am­ples in­clude for­mer Amer­i­can Pres­i­dent, Ge­orge W Bush and ex-Bri­tish Prime Min­is­ter Tony Blair who started a war in Iraq in March 2003, al­leg­ing its then Pres­i­dent, Sad­dam Hus­sein pos­sessed weapons of mass de­struc­tion. In­ves­ti­ga­tions car­ried out later showed that Hus­sein had no such lethal weapons but the in­vad­ing An­glo-Amer­i­can forces had al­ready mur­dered him in the most hu­mil­i­at­ing fash­ion. Be­tween 151 000 and 600 000 Iraqis were killed in the four-year con­flict and the coun­try has not achieved peace to this day.

Two years be­fore the Iraqi in­va­sion, Mr Bush had sent forces into Afghanistan sup­pos­edly to pur­sue al-Qaeda whom he ac­cused of cham­pi­oning at­tacks on New York. More than 26 000 civil­ians died in the war.

In March 2011, Nato-led forces in­vaded Libya, os­ten­si­bly to im­ple­ment a UN res­o­lu­tion for a no-fly zone over the North African coun­try. Nato ex­ceeded the UN man­date to hunt down Libya Pres­i­dent, Muam­mar Gaddafi. As they did with Hus­sein, they killed Gaddafi in the most an­i­mal­is­tic man­ner. Libya, like Iraq, has not known peace since the Nato in­va­sion.

Al­though Zim­babwe is not a mem­ber of the ICC, Pres­i­dent Mu­gabe has led the African charge against the court with much courage that some African lead­ers re­gret­tably lack, or lacked, be­fore Bu­rundi’s with­drawal.

“They com­mit­ted crimes, colo­nial crimes ga­lore — the slaugh­ter of our peo­ple and all that im­pris­on­ment. I have a case,” the Pres­i­dent said a few months ago. “Why was I im­pris­oned for 11 years? We for­gave them, but per­haps we have not done our­selves jus­tice. You set up the ICC; we set our ICC to try Euro­peans, to try Ge­orge Bush and Tony Blair.”

Mr Sher­iff Bo­jang, The Gam­bia’s Min­is­ter of In­for­ma­tion was also very bru­tal in his as­sess­ment of the ICC track record. He said Mr Blair should have been in­dicted over the Iraq war but the ICC re­fused.

“There are many Western coun­tries, at least 30, that have com­mit­ted heinous war crimes against in­de­pen­dent sov­er­eign states and their ci­ti­zens since the cre­ation of the ICC and not a sin­gle Western war crim­i­nal has been in­dicted. . . . The with­drawal is war­ranted by the fact that the ICC, de­spite be­ing called the In­ter­na­tional Crim­i­nal Court, is in fact an In­ter­na­tional Cau­casian Court for the pros­e­cu­tion and hu­mil­i­a­tion of peo­ple of colour, es­pe­cially Africans.”

We have to make it clear that we are not de­fend­ing African lead­ers who com­mit crimes against hu­man­ity. What we are ar­gu­ing is that ev­ery­one who com­mits th­ese crimes must face the con­se­quences of their ac­tions, whether they are African, Amer­i­can, Asian or Eu­ro­pean. If the ICC was an honourable in­sti­tu­tion com­mit­ted to fair ap­pli­ca­tion of in­ter­na­tional law, it would have brought Messrs Bush and Blair be­fore it and sent them to jail for the self-ev­i­dent crimes against hu­man­ity they com­mit­ted. But we learn a few lessons from the ICC ex­pe­ri­ence. First, Africans must al­ways think through all con­ven­tions put for­ward for them to sign and rat­ify. They must not sign them sim­ply be­cause Amer­ica con­vinces them to yet in the case of the Rome Statute, Amer­ica it­self iron­i­cally sees no rea­son for it to. This ap­plies to trade agree­ments as well, most of which are drafted in the West in flow­ery lan­guage but are de­signed to per­pet­u­ate the lowly po­si­tion of the mother con­ti­nent as a sup­plier of cheap raw ma­te­ri­als for pro­cess­ing in Europe and Amer­ica.

Sec­ond, Africans must al­ways seek do­mes­tic reme­dies to their dif­fer­ences. We are say­ing this be­cause most of the cases be­fore the ICC were re­ferred to that tri­bunal by Africans them­selves. This sug­gests that we lack con­fi­dence in our jus­tice de­liv­ery sys­tems, which must not be the case.

Third, Africans and their lead­ers must be dis­ci­plined in their pol­i­tics. This busi­ness of fight­ing among our­selves all the time will not take us any­where. It is th­ese con­flicts that the Western-con­trolled ICC will take ad­van­tage of to jus­tify their tar­get­ing of some among us.

Bu­rundi, The Gam­bia and South Africa have shown the way. We now urge all African coun­tries who are party to the Rome Statute to fol­low suit.

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