‘Sinister motive’ behind threat of ICC pull-out

THE frosty relations between the International Criminal Court (ICC), which came into force on July 1 2002, and African leaders show signs of further deterioration with African leaders accusing The Hague of employing double standards against Africans.

Elias Mambo

The conflict was sparked in July 2008 when the then prosecutor Moreno Ocampo applied for a warrant of arrest for Omar Al-Bashir, the sitting President of the Republic of Sudan.

Al-Bashir was charged with war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide in the Darfur region of South Sudan.

Since establishment, the office of the prosecutor (OTP) of the ICC has investigated eight cases involving alleged violations of international criminal law. Each of these investigations is related to situations in African countries, namely the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Uganda, the Central African Republic (CAR), Darfur/Sudan, Kenya, Libya, Ivory Coast and Mali.

The stand-off worsened with the recent indictment of Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta and his deputy William Ruto by the ICC for crimes against humanity in the violent 2007 elections which left more than 1 000 dead.

The African Union (AU) charges that the ICC seems to be only targeting African leaders while ignoring transgressions of other countries, especially the West.

Armed with that argument the AU extraordinary summit in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, last Saturday stopped short of withdrawing from the ICC, demanding the immediate deferral of the cases against Kenyatta and Ruto.

The weekend summit also ignited debate on the role of the ICC in as far as its global approach on dealing with issues of gross human rights abuses is concerned.

While the OTP has received information on alleged abuses in other parts of the world such as Iraq, Venezuela, Palestine, Colombia and Afghanistan, it has decided not to open investigations or kept them under preliminary examination in order to determine whether or not to proceed.

All situations and cases under current investigation or prosecution by the ICC are in Africa. Critics claim that the OTP’s focus on Africa has been inappropriate and biased because it has been targeting African leaders, resulting in the international court being viewed as a reflection of the global balance of power.

The US is not a signatory to the Rome Statute, but has the power to dictate where the ICC casts its eyes through its permanent seat on the UN Security Council.

Aside from Africa, the other indictees include Slobodan Milosevic and Ratko Mladic, from the former Yugoslavia.

University of Zimbabwe lecturer CharityManyeruke said African leaders are to blame for believing that justice can only come from The Hague.

“At last African leaders are realising that their belief that justice only comes from the West-oriented Hague was an error of judgment,” Manyeruke said.

“Africa must have confidence in itself and build institutions which deal with African problems with regards to human rights. What Africa has done is to fire warning shots at the ICC that time has come for Africans to speak for themselves,” she said.

President Robert Mugabe last Saturday advised Kenyatta not to go to The Hague to answer to charges of crimes against humanity which he faces together with his deputy.

Presidential spokesperson George Charamba said Mugabe did not mince his words over the ICC’s alleged intransigence, saying it was heavily biased against African leaders and Kenyatta could not reduce himself by appearing before it when no Western leader had been subjected to such treatment.

Several nations in the 54-member AU have demanded that the court drop its cases against Kenya’s leadership. African states have also repeatedly ignored ICC orders to hand over indicted Sudanese leader al-Bashir.

In 2012, the venue of the AU summit was changed from Malawi to Addis Ababa, after Malawian President Joyce Banda said she had asked the AU to prevent Al-Bashir from attending the summit in her country, saying his visit would have “implications” for the economy since he was wanted by the ICC.

However, some analysts claim the view being pushed by the AU is only meant to serve the interests of “African leaders’ culture of impunity”.

Dewa Mavhinga, a senior researcher in the Africa division of Human Rights Watch, said the impunity enjoyed by African leaders means they would be very happy to push for the withdrawal from the international court.

“The ICC is certainly not beyond criticism, and should seek a more balanced approach to ensuring global justice,” Mavhinga said.

“However, the AU leaders, by seeking to pull out of the ICC, are exposing their hypocrisy and undermining their own charter which enshrines promotion and protection of the rule of law, good governance, justice and human rights respect,” he said. “It appears the AU leaders have a sinister motive to prioritise insulating their predominantly ‘old boys’ club’ from justice and accountability while ignoring Africa’s pressing needs including ending multiple wars, ensuring development and respect for basic rights.”

Mavhinga also said those countries with something to hide, that are concerned that they may be called to account for abuses in their own backyards are most vocal in trying to stop the activities of the ICC.

“This would put the rule of law in the African continent in jeopardy. It is time for Africa to strengthen the institutions that stand for good governance, the rule of law and democracy,” Mavhinga said.

Another analyst and lawyer, Gabriel Shumba, who is director of Zimbabwe Exiles Forum based in South Africa, bemoaned the move by African leaders to threaten the ICC.

Shumba, who alleged he was a victim of torture in Zimbabwe, managed to take his complaint before the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR) which later found the Zimbabwe government responsible for his torture and ill-treatment.

The decision also alluded to the impunity with which torture is being committed in Zimbabwe which made it impossible for Shumba to seek justice before Zimbabwean courts.

“It (the possible decision to pull out of the ICC) is tragic because ordinary citizens will have no meaningful recourse and succour for serious crimes committed by their own governments,” said Shumba.

“African leaders would rather have a docile court that panders to their whims, while sanitising atrocities. It is an unforgivable shame and African civil society is called upon to unite and fight any attempt to destroy the court as happened to the Sadc Tribunal.”

The tribunal, which incensed Zimbabwe due to its judgment in favour of white commercial farmers, was dissolved in 2011 after leaders from the regional bloc tasked the justice ministers to reconstitute the body and give it a new mandate.

However, while there are allegations the ICC reflects the balance of global power politics, there are hopes the push by the AU to have a greater say in the investigations at The Hague will not disadvantage African victims of misgovernance.


  1. Who laid these complaints against Kenyatta? It was Kofi Annai, former UN Secretary-General and Nobel Peace Laureate as the Chair of The Elders, together with Graca Machel, the wife or Nelson Madela and Demond Tutu. This was not the West! They had a very good reason to believe Kenyatta have a few questions to answer.

  2. And those who laid the charges were send by the West. ICC is a kangaroo court and Africa wld be very justfied to exit this sham court. By the way whats Dewa Mavhinga’s portfolio, it seems ths guy is everywhere and nowhere. At one time he is in diamonds lobby,then he is in Crisis whatever coaliation,can go on and on? Why cnt media scrutinise ths opportunist?

    1. @Mac whoever comments here is immaterial what matters are the points raised by that person be it on football, oranges, diamonds or politics; is he/she raising valid points should be the question. Charity Manyeruke is also everywhere mind you but we not worried by that but only her points like now I am going to remind her and you that we had our SADC court here in Africa and it is no secrete what happened to that African court of ours. Thus if we have African justice then let us not destroy it like what happened to the SADC Tribunal. Guess who is more vocal in this ICC withdrawal thing again the same big brother who killed our own court that was stationed in one of our friendliest countries to our South West (Namibia) and I tell you it had nothing to do with the Westerners but it was made to crumble; saka moda kudini, mongoponda nekuuraya pasina anokubvunzayi?

    2. pathetic fool who believes africans can never think for themselves.who influenced you to write this comment since you believe that for a black man to do anything, there gas to be a master elsewhere?
      foolish animal imbwa

      1. Musangohumana zvisina basa kani vana vepasi.The bottom line is,perpetrating gargantuan crimes against your people, you are entitled to protect as a leader is a criminal offence that falls under common law.Any country in this world is mandated to arrest these killers.But because our African leaders are not honest and don’t have respect to human life,yes,the ICC will come and get them.Let us be honest here,If we really believe that Africa is capable of dealing with these issues,What and where was SADC’s position before the ICC raised question against Giene Pierre Bemba of the DRC?What is the AU doing about Al-Bashir of Sudan?What did these two bodies say to condemn the killings in Kenya and who are these African leaders blaming for that? what are they going to do with the perpetrators?Can you really trust Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma that she will ask Robert Mugabe about what really happened in Matabeleland?Are you really sure that any of these African leaders can ask Robert Mugabe about what happened in 2005 when thousands of Zimbabweans were left homeless,and or in 2008 when hundreds were being killed and where it took almost two months for the country wondering where their vote was??If they are really honest,then they must ask Robert Mugabe about Gukurahundi,Hondo yeminda,Murambatsvina and the 2008 violence and eventually the two months election results delay.I can only support them and or advice them to push the ICC to do something about Tony Blair and George Bush because the world don’t know why they invaded Iraq and Afghanistan.

  3. @Mac- Very good and may we ask, can you pray tell us who sent you to write this slanted opinion of yours on Dewa Mavhunga? We all prayed and hoped that at youthful 51 Kenyatta as the son of Kenya’s founder would do the right thing and put the sea between himself and the dinosaurs who make the AU leadership. We piled all our hopes in him to do the right thing, but what does he do to reward our faith in putting him in office? Kick us with both feet in the seed pack, No? If he was really keen on the pursuit of justice why did he not ask the ICC to move his court sessions to Kenya? This way he can continue with his duties while attending the court closer to him. This addled twaddle about non prosecution of erring murderous heads of state is the nonsense that drove us to the doors of the ICC in the first place..flowing from this will be even worse atrocities since most of those indicted will kill more people (in the eyes of the AU we are not people) to stay in office thus ensuring that they are tried posthumously and this is Justice???

  4. Blame lies with the AU members who joined the ICC in the first place.it is high time African leaders focus on continental bodies that improve and protect the rule of law as well as promote the African development agenda.

    The AU should use its resources to establish its own mechanisms that ensure good governance among its member countries rather than joining these so called international conventions like ICC,which are fraught with western colonial bias at every turn.
    The quest for international recognition by some African leaders is the cause of this debacle.
    It is also true that some African leaders would not want to see the establishment of such a court within the African Union,since they also have a lot to answer to in terms of human rights abuses.Nevertheless. Efforts should be made to create such a body within Africa itself,if it is to be recognised as a pro-democracy continent.

    The United States has itself refused to join the ICC because they are aware that they are guilty of the majority of cases that would come under the ICC.
    It is the use of power and influence that makes the US vocal about what transpires at The Hague through the use of its Security Council seat at the UN.

    Many so called researchers have blown megaphone voices in an effort to castigate the AU for taking a stance against the ICC. It is appalling in my opinion that these researchers and political scientists still think from inside the box created by their funders,who happen to be the West.In as much as they would want to create the idea that the AU is bend on protecting its membership from prosecution, I worry when the same researchers and political scientists turn a blind eye on voicing concerns about the intransigence of the West in countries like Iraq,Afghanistan,Libya Egypt etc.
    This to me clearly indicates that, theirs is not a quest for the rule of law across the globe, but they are singing for their supper.Objective research should be able to outline without bias, the breach of civil rights in every corner and not focusing on denigrating the weaker party because they won’t hit back.

  5. it sounds as if African leaders are against the ICC because it has only brought African leaders before it and never the western leaders.

    i understand they are accepting the evil they have done but want to be tried together with their western counterparts….

    ndozvandanzwa panyaya iyi.. varikuti ngatitongwe tese nema british nema americans nekuti tose tine mhosva dzatakaita. …

  6. ICC is not tribal I understand and no one is forced to join, but lets revamp our own justice systems to the exent that we all have confidence in them (its not gonna be esay). But I am quite sure the African court in Arusha Tanzania which presided the Rwandan genocide is sound enough for Africans

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