The proponents of international justice are up in arms over the AU’s (African Union) Sunday decision to support a resolution tabled by Uganda to drop the ICC (International Criminal Court) crimes against
humanity charges against Kenyan president, Uhuru Kenyatta and his deputy, William Ruto. Other than Botswanan opposition, the 53 African heads of state present in Addis Ababa unanimously supported the petition. They urged the ICC to let the local courts deal with the issues emanating from the bouts of post-election violence in Kenya that killed over 1000 people in 2007-2008.
As AU Chairman and Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn told reporters at the closing of the two-day summit, “African leaders have come to a consensus that the process that has been conducted in Africa has a flaw…The intention was to avoid any kind of impunity… but now the process has degenerated to some kind of race hunting”.
The ICC’s Field Outreach Coordinator, Maria Kamara, while on a Kenyan radio show described the resolution as “political”. “The AU resolution is a political resolution and the ICC is purely a judicial decision that is governed by the Rome Statute. So the two institutions are completely different. Political decisions will not influence the ICC judicial processes. The trials will proceed as the judges have already indicated. They have not decided otherwise. The judges are the only authority that will determine whether the case will proceed or not”.
As expected human rights groups threw their two cents in. In a press release Amnesty International’s Africa Programme Director Netsanet Belay called on the AU to reject the resolution saying that Kenya’s leadership was attempting to “shield its leaders from being held to account for the human rights violations that took place in Kenya in 2007-2008”.
I am not going to argue either for or against the ICC as an instrument of international justice. What we need to examine is the manner in which African leadership surrendered their nation’s sovereignty to sign the Rome Statutes that established the ICC in the first place. The argument that the ICC is launching a racist campaign against Africans makes for great headlines; however it should be taken with a pinch of salt.
Sure Muammar Mohammed Abu Minyar Gaddafi, Saif Al-Islam Gaddafi, Abdullah Al-Senussi, William Samoei Ruto, Joshua Arap Sang, Francis Kirimi Muthaura, Uhuru Muigai Kenyatta,Laurent Gbagbo,Jean-Pierre Bemba Gombo,Ahmad Muhammad Harun, Ali Muhammad Ali Abd-Al-Rahman Omar Hassan Ahmad Al Bashir, Bahar Idriss Abu Garda, Abdallah Banda Abakaer Nourain, Saleh Mohammed Jerbo Jamus, Abdel Raheem Muhammad Hussein, Thomas Lubanga Dyilo,Bosco Ntaganda, Germain Katanga,Mathieu Ngudjolo Chui, Callixte Mbarushimana, Sylvestre Mudacumura, Thomas Lubanga Dyilo, Germain Katanga, Bosco Ntaganda, Joseph Kony, Vincent Otti, Okot Odhiambo and Dominic Ongwen are all Africans. But no one forced these African nations to sign the very legal document that they are now crying foul about. What did they think would happen?
The ICC can only investigate and prosecute genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes and the crime of aggression in situations where states are “unable” or “unwilling” to do so themselves. So, I must ask, why weren’t these member states refuse to try the various cases? Africa doesn’t have a monopoly of horrific acts. Not by a long shot. The US treatment of prisoners in Guantanamo Bay, Abu Ghraib and the drone attacks killing civilians in Afghanistan and Pakistan are some crimes that could potentially fall within the ICC’s mandate but they wont. First of all because the United States refused to become a signatory of the Rome Statute (as did Rwanda). And secondly because, even if it was, it would have gone through the motions of a trial of some sorts.
Remember the outrage caused by the torture of prisoners in Abu Ghraib? Well, only two lowly soldiers were eventually imprisoned for three and ten years respectively. The rest were either demoted or discharged from the army. Was that truly justice? I doubt that the Iraqi men who were electrocuted, beaten and treated like dogs would think so. But there were ‘trials’ so ‘justice was served’.
African nations weren’t forced to sign the Rome Statute. Instead of signing it willy-nilly they should have foreseen the potential damage that the ICC would unleash. That would have nipped the ICC-issue in the bud. Secondly, why did African leaders allow their domestic cases to go to The Hague? Even today I’m still flummoxed Kenya’s relinquishment of the post-election violence investigation and prosecution.
Honestly, there is no two ways about it. The only reason that the ICC is still a player in African affairs is because we let it. We are the ones who signed in and ratified it. Now is the time we sign out. We cannot have our cake and eat it. We need to get out now. If we don’t we cant complain about the manner it operates.