Africa’s Stunning Victory Against the International Criminal Court, By Owei Lakemfa
It was a sweet victory against the neo-colonial powers who tried to humiliate the continent by hurling an African president on trumped up charges of murder, rape, inhumane acts, and persecution. But the painful aspect is that an innocent man was abducted in his country, imprisoned without trial for five years and tried for another three years, before being set free.
Africa this Tuesday, January 15, scored a stunning victory at the Hague against the International Criminal Court (ICC), a contraption of the West to maintain a neo-colonial stranglehold on the continent. On that day, the ICC, like hot potatoes, dropped the contrived charges against Laurent Gbagbo, the anti-imperialist politician and immediate past president of Cote d’Voire, and ordered his immediate release.
It was a sweet victory against the neo-colonial powers who tried to humiliate the continent by hurling an African president on trumped up charges of murder, rape, inhumane acts, and persecution. But the painful aspect is that an innocent man was abducted in his country, imprisoned without trial for five years and tried for another three years, before being set free. Seventy three-year old Gbagbo lost eight years of his productive life locked up in Europe and deprived of family life. Additionally, he had to sit in prison while his supporters and family were persecuted; his wife, Simone, who was the country’s First Lady, was publicly humiliated and harassed before being sentenced to twenty years imprisonment, while his son, Michel, was sentenced to five years. Mrs. Gbagbo spent seven years in prison before being released.
All these were attempts to pulverise a man who stood up to France and its centuries of exploiting Cote d’Voire. It was also, giving a helping hand to puppets of the West, like incumbent President Alhassan Quattara and their errand boys who are tools in the recolonisation of Africa.
When the ICC ‘trial’ of Gbagbo and co-accussed, Blé Goudé began, I wrote in my Vanguard newspapers column of February 12, 2016: “The fact is that this is essentially a political case and Gbagbo is a Prisoner of War who was captured on April 11, 2011 by the combined forces of rebels, French and United Nations troops…how will the ICC realise that jailing him will hurt national reconciliation in Cote d’Voire? What the country needs is national reconciliation, not a show trial.”
Gbagbo, the then Ivorian president had been captured, following an avoidable civil war that broke out after the controversial 2010 presidential election that pitched him against his former jailor, Quattara. The latter had been prime minister in 1992 when the radical Gbagbo was arrested for allegedly supporting a national students protest, and sent to prison.
The ICC case was built on shaky foundations. First, its investigations were one-sided; the rebel Quattara forces, who massacred people and were reported to have wiped out some 800 Ivorians in two days, were neither investigated, nor charged. Secondly, some of the ‘evidence’ it produced against Gbagbo were exposed as fake or fraudulent.
The election was designed to unify the country after rebels from the north, where Quattara comes from, had seized half of the country. The president of the Electoral Commission had gone to the opposition headquarters to announce the results, which gave Quattara 54 per cent of the votes, while Gbagbo, who was the incumbent president, approached the Constitutional Court, which declared him victorious by 51 per cent. Both were sworn in as president, with the United Nations and the West recognising the opposition, which was emboldened to take up arms. I thought what was needed was for the African Union to take the initiative for a recount of the disputed votes. In my January 7, 2011 column in Vanguard titled, “Military Option Won’t Work In Abidjan”, I had argued against a resort to armed conflict. I wrote: “I do not have any doubt that a military intervention will result in a dreadful bloodbath of Africans. Another danger is that the military option is likely to result in the dissolution of the Ivorian armed forces and the police; the security implications for the country will be quite immense. If this happens, the core of the new armed forces is likely to be made up of the rebel Army. This means that there will be serious ethnic and religious schism in the new military whose officer corps will be northern and Muslim.”
But the UN, France and the rebels preferred the military option, and over 3,000 Ivorians were killed. The country’s armed forces was defeated. Gbagbo was captured and paraded shirtless before being flown to the Hague jail. He and his supporters were persecuted, while the rebel forces and their political bosses were not just left free, but emboldened to bring the southern part of the country to its knees. But this could not go on for long as national reconciliation and development was impossible without the input of the leaders in the south, and the people who saw Gbagbo as their leader.
The ICC case was built on shaky foundations. First, its investigations were one-sided; the rebel Quattara forces, who massacred people and were reported to have wiped out some 800 Ivorians in two days, were neither investigated, nor charged. Secondly, some of the ‘evidence’ it produced against Gbagbo were exposed as fake or fraudulent. For instance, a video footage allegedly showing pro-Gbagbo supporters committing crimes, turned out to have been shot in Kenya. Thirdly, it was preposterous that the ICC seized Gbagbo and imprisoned him before spending years ‘investigating’ when there should have been investigations before arrest. Fourthly, the political pressures on the ICC by France could not be concealed.
South African columnist on foreign affairs, Shannon Ebrahim, in her November 25, 2018 column titled, “Time for the ICC to release Laurent Gbagbo” argued that the trial was a political backlash, as: “Gbagbo (as Ivorian president) was determined to relax France’s control over banking, insurance, transport, cocoa trading and energy policy, and had invited companies from other countries to tender for government projects.
…the ICC had made a show of hurling African leaders like Gbagbo, incumbent Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta and Vice President William Ruto before it, while Western leaders who carried out crimes against humanity in Iraq, Libya, Afghanistan and Yemen are free to continue perpetrating their crimes.
Gbagbo was appalled by the gross overspending on French projects, such as the bridge France was to build in the capital Abidjan for 200 billion CFA francs, a contract he cancelled when the Chinese said they could build the bridge for 60 billion CFA francs in 2002.”
In my February 10, 2017 column titled, “Africa’s push back from the ICC”, I had pointed out that: “since its inception in 2002, all the ten cases under investigation/trial and the three under preliminary investigation are on Africa except the preliminary investigation in Georgia.”
Also, that the ICC had made a show of hurling African leaders like Gbagbo, incumbent Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta and Vice President William Ruto before it, while Western leaders who carried out crimes against humanity in Iraq, Libya, Afghanistan and Yemen are free to continue perpetrating their crimes. I pointed out that the ICC is an European Court made for Africans “The Europeans provide the logistics, the prisons and 63 per cent, or about two thirds of the ICC budget.”
My conclusion was that: “the ICC and such Western-influenced tribunals essentially undermine the sovereignty of Africans and are new tools for re-colonisation.” I had also pointed out that Africans are capable of bringing their leaders to book as the African Union did in its investigation, prosecution and conviction in Senegal of former Chadian president, Hissen Habre.
Africans should no longer be treated as colonial subjects.
Owei Lakemfa, former secretary general of African workers is a human rights activist, journalist and author.
Picture credit: Sunday Alamba, Associated Press.