Africa’s Push Back from the ICC, By Owei Lakemfa
This is not to say there are no crimes against humanity in Africa, but this holds true for the entire world, and Africa must be allowed to bring its criminals to justice. African institutions, including our courts, might be weak, but we cannot strengthen them by ‘out sourcing’ justice to Europe.
There are heated debates in Africa and in diplomatic circles across the globe over the January 31, African Union (AU) Assembly decision that African countries carry out a collective withdrawal from the Hague-based International Criminal Court (ICC). Although the decision is technically non-binding, it still carries a lot of weight and may sound the death knell for an international body that is essentially a neo-colonial institution with 34 African countries as members.
The courts are theoretically objective, but in reality can be used to pursue political ends. In the case of the ICC, since its inception in 2002, all the ten cases under investigation/trial and the three under preliminary investigations are on Africa, except the preliminary investigation on Georgia. The Georgian case is a fight back by the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) to get Russia indicted for the August, 2008 nine-day war with Georgia.
The ICC, even when in a tokenist manner it drew its two Chief Prosecutors, Luis Morano Ocampo from Argentina, and his successor, Fatou Bensouda from Gambia, it remains essentially a Western Court, run, funded and controlled by Europeans. The Europeans provide the logistics, the prisons and 63 percent, or about two thirds of the ICC budget. In fact, five European countries; Germany, United Kingdom, Italy, France and Spain provide 44 percent of the funds. The ICC also receives money from unnamed international corporations, individuals and other entities which are most probably European and American.
Ten of the twenty two judges in the ICC from 2003 to 2009 were Europeans. Africa had four judges, Asia and Latin America/Caribbean had three each, while Oceania and Canada had one each. From 2015 till date, eight of the eighteen ICC judges are European, four Africans, while Asia and Latin America/Caribbean have three each. Four of the eight Presiding Judges in the on-going cases involving African countries, are European. This includes Italian Justice Cuno Jakob Tarfusser, who is sitting in judgment over former President Laurent Gbagbo of Cote d’Voire.
It is indeed difficult to fathom how Africa could have put its faith in the hands of the inheritors of those who wiped out the Aborigines in Australia, the Indigenous Indians in America; exterminated Latinos to get at their gold; and carried out genocides in Namibia, Congo, Algeria and Kenya.
Also, while the ICC is a court of last recourse; after the national, regional and continental courts, it is used as the first. There is also the fact the United Nations Security Council has never referred to the ICC, cases of crimes against humanity, war crimes and genocide by non-Africans, such as the Western crimes perpetuated against Iraq. That war led by Britain and United States was predicated on the falsehood that Iraq not only had weapons of mass destruction, but was also on the verge of using them, and that it was a supporter of AL Qaeda. Based on this, over 165,000 Iraqi civilians were directly killed and over 230,000 other civilians have died due to indirect effects of the war, including starvation, lack of water and healthcare.
If President Walker Bush cannot be dragged before the ICC because Washington does not sign such international treaties like the Rome Statute, at least former British Prime Minister, Tony Blair, who led that conspiracy with Bush should have been in prison in the Hague. But all those involved in those crimes are non-African. This is also the reason why those who destroyed, and carried out war crimes in Afghanistan and Libya, and are today bombing civilian areas including social engagements in Yemen, are not investigated.
It is indeed difficult to fathom how Africa could have put its faith in the hands of the inheritors of those who wiped out the Aborigines in Australia, the Indigenous Indians in America; exterminated Latinos to get at their gold; and carried out genocides in Namibia, Congo, Algeria and Kenya. How can people who carried out massacres in Guernica, Spain, and in June 1999, deliberately bombed civilian areas including television and radio stations, bridges and factories in Serbia, killing 528 civilians, preach to us about war crimes?
The White supremacists in South Africa were intelligent enough to spare the lives of Nelson Mandela and his comrades and kept them in prisons under their control. When they needed dialogue, they turned to them for negotiations. In the case of Africa, our leaders are so myopic that we deliver our presidents like Laurent Gbagbo to European jails over which we have no control. If tomorrow, Cote d’Voire needs Gbagbo to assist in the peace process, it will have no way of returning him to Abidjan. They did worse with former President Charles Taylor of Liberia whom Africa pleaded with to forgo his mandate and go to exile in Nigeria, only for them to betray and hand him over to Europeans in a contrived trial over the war in Sierra Leone. Taylor, no matter the evidence he produces, is already adjudged guilty.
…rather than build neo-colonial institutions like the ICC, the world should assist Africa build strong institutions that can guarantee social justice. For African countries who lost the debate on ICC at the AU, they should abide by collective decisions rather than break ranks. It must be Africa first!
The ICC has also tried to destabilise African countries; its indictment and international hunt for Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir is nothing but an attempt at regime change. In the process, it has sought to destabilise Africa by aborting the AU Assembly in Malawi after pressurising pliant President Joyce Banda to attempt arresting a sitting African president. It tried it again in the 2015 AU Assembly in Johannesburg. But rather than again abort an AU Assembly, the South African government told the EU and its ICC contraption to go to hell; it ensured the Assembly held, accorded President Bashir the customary African protection and saw him safely back home.
The ICC also tried a coup in Kenya by seeking to try and convict incumbent Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta and Vice President William Ruto. This was over the 2007 to 2008 post-election violence, after then incumbent President Mwai Kibaki was declared winner over challenger, Raila Odinga, a Luo. What was intriguing is that Kenyatta and Kibaki were in the same party as former President Arap Moi from the Kalenjins whom they are accused of killing in the Rift Valley. All these show that the ICC and such Western-influenced tribunals essentially undermine the sovereignty of Africans and are new tools for re-colonisation.
This is not to say there are no crimes against humanity in Africa, but this holds true for the entire world, and Africa must be allowed to bring its criminals to justice. African institutions, including our courts, might be weak, but we cannot strengthen them by ‘out sourcing’ justice to Europe. The AU Hybrid Court in Senegal tried and convicted former Chadian President Hissen Habre for war crimes, demonstrating it can bring the strong to justice. We have the African Court of Justice and Human Rights whose jurisdiction the AU is striving to expand to cover crimes against humanity; rather than build neo-colonial institutions like the ICC, the world should assist Africa build strong institutions that can guarantee social justice. For African countries who lost the debate on ICC at the AU, they should abide by collective decisions rather than break ranks. It must be Africa first!
Owei Lakemfa, former Secretary General of African Workers is a Human Rights activist, journalist and author.