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ICC: Time for Africa to assert itself

ON October 12 the extraordinary session of the African Union in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, sought to review Africa’s relationship with the International Criminal Court (ICC).

Wisdom Katungu Social Analyst

This decision was not only long overdue but is very plausible and it should be the first of several measures the continental body needs to take in order to promote the continent’s self-reliance both politically and economically, in order to ensure that Africa takes its rightful place in the global village.

Although the AU did not unilaterally call for the mass pull-out of its members from the ICC, a clear message was sent to the west and the world that Africa would not continue to tolerate abuse and humiliation through the biased application of international law.

I firmly believe that African countries should unanimously pull out of the ICC for the following reasons: It is no secret that the ICC is being used by the West, through their financial influence, to become a political organ targeting Africa. The AU has at some point described the ICC as racist — justifiably so.

The reason for that pronouncement was based on the fact that since its inception 12 years ago, the ICC has unashamedly targeted Africans. This is despite the fact that since its birth we have witnessed the most atrocious war crimes of our generation in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The masters of those war crimes continue to walk freely. Since the inception of the ICC the world has witnessed wanton breach of international law and disregard of the UN Security Council by the so-called superpowers without any consequences.

On a daily basis, the (US President Barack) Obama regime murders innocent women and children in Pakistan through drone attacks. Where is the ICC? The ICC only becomes visible when Kenyans fight in post-election violence!

Surely the domestic courts can handle those cases effectively and the perpetrators of such violence can be brought to book through the Kenyan justice system. The ICC is clearly a political organ and it has deviated from the good intentions it was created for.

When it was created, many in Africa welcomed it as a solution to unabated conflict and impunity, a cancer that is slowing down the continent’s development. This explains why a number of cases have been brought to the court by the African countries themselves.

However, it is worrying that the court itself seems to be paying its attention only to Africa and giving a blind eye to the warmongers in the west.

To underline that the ICC cannot be taken seriously, Robin Cook, the former British Foreign Secretary, once said the ICC was not set up to bring the British prime ministers or the United States presidents to book. So the question is if the ICC is not meant for the British and American leaders, then for whom was it set up? Its practice shows that it was meant for African leaders.

The ICC was purportedly created to promote security, peace, justice and reconciliation. However it has become a joke because of the way it selectively targets Africans. If the ICC could charge Sudanese President Omar al Bashir with war crimes for his role in the Darfur genocide and recently Uhuru Kenyatta and his deputy for their role in the Kenyan post election violence of 2007, then surely former US President George Bush and former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair should face war crimes for their role in the Iraq war.

These two leaders attacked a sovereign state without mandate from the UN Security Council and we are still waiting for them to show us the weapons of mass destruction they were looking for. All we see is unabated bloodshed and looting of oil in Iraq yet the two continue to live in luxury, with no justice in sight for the victims. As long as Bush and Blair roam the streets freely, the ICC remains a mirage.

When the AU announced its intention to debate its relationship with the Hague-based ICC, some eminent African figures raised objections. Of note were Koffi Annan, the former UN Secretary General and Archbishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa.

Annan said it would be shameful if African nations were to pull out of the ICC. Tutu stated that African countries should stop Sudan and Kenya from trying to drag Africa out of the ICC.

I am particularly interested in Tutu’s comments because he has at some point called for the arrest of Blair for his role in the Iraqi conflict. However, what the 1984 Nobel Peace prize laureate fails to realise is that the same ICC which has failed to bring Blair to book has indicted 28 Africans for far lesser crimes than Blair and Bush.

What Tutu is again failing to appreciate is that former Liberian president Charles Taylor is to serve a lengthy term in jail a couple of miles from where Bush lives in comfort.

The legal principles underlying the creation of the ICC leave a lot to be desired and that is why countries like America have enacted laws that protect their citizens from prosecution by the ICC.

The Americans have actually gone a step further declaring their right to invade The Hague to free Americans citizens who might have been indicted and facing prosecution. The Australians have also unwittingly taken similar measures.

Africans are however expected to send their citizens, including sitting presidents, to face humiliation in this sham of a court. In the recent past, the discord surrounding the court’s affairs is so humiliating from an African perspective.

An example is that of Al Bashir’s case when countries like South Africa declared that they would hand him over to the ICC if he sets foot on their territory while others welcomed him with both hands.

It is important now that the AU has taken a bold step in dealing with the ICC and from now onwards, African countries must speak with one voice and condemn the manner in which the court operates.

Both Luis Moreno Ocampo, the first prosecutor of the ICC and Fatou Bensouda, his successor, are legal minds of great repute. Their achievements in international law should enable them to take the necessary steps to ensure that the court operates freely, fairly and consistently.

As long as the court continues its bias against Africans, Africa should pull out and rightly so. As the current ICC prosecutor, Bensouda should spruce up the court’s damaged reputation by revisiting the conflicts in Iraq, Afghanistan, Kosovo, Libya, as well as the current drone war by the Obama regime and bring all those who have killed innocent women and children to book.

The AU has not resolved to pull out of the ICC but that still remains an option if the court’s conduct does not change drastically. The Addis Ababa summit laid a foundation for the AU to demand respect from the West and the world at large.

The next step by the AU should now focus on the reform of the United Nations, especially the long overdue permanent seat for Africa in the Security Council. That Africa deserves a permanent seat on the Security Council is not debatable. Africa cannot continue to look to Russia and China for decisions that affect the continent. The AU should build from the Addis Ababa summit and begin to take drastic decisions aimed at uprooting poverty on the continent.

With the vast amount of mineral and other resources on the continent, Africa cannot continue to rely on aid from nations which can barely survive without resources from the same African countries.

Africa needs a united voice on issues affecting the continent. This includes unity in stopping aggression against African countries, be it overt in the form of economic sanctions and political measures, or covert in the form of pseudo international law through the ICC.

To underline that the ICC cannot be taken seriously, Robin Cook, the former British Foreign Secretary, once said the ICC was not set up to bring the British prime ministers or the United States presidents to book. So the question is if the ICC is not meant for the British and American leaders, then for whom was it set up? Its practice shows that it was meant for African leaders.

Katungu is a social analyst and independent political thinker based in Johannesburg. He can be followed on twitter @ wizzieat

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  1. Please tell us which independent local court tried the culprits for the crimes in Darfur, Liberia, Rwanda and Kenya..and when you find time, you could include the verdicts. Perhaps you could also tell us whether it was Bush or Blair who we saw on television pulling down the statue of Saddam who incidentally ‘terminally inconvinienced’ thousands of Kurds. If one were to compare and contrast the number of murders before the ICC came on the scene and before, you will see we now have fewer murders committed on citizens by their own rulers not Americans or other foreigners..now a social analyst and independent political thinker might take time to reflect on this..no? Talking local courts what became of the fate of the SADC tribunal..was it Bush or Blair who “bombed “it?

  2. Oh the way, it might be quite sexy to sound anti-imperialist and all, it is sexier to back this with sellable facts, no?

  3. The independent would do itself a lot of good by reading through some of these articles before publishing them. Katungu tried to find relevance but he is completely lost. Has absolutely no understanding of international law let alone the principle of complementarity that underpinnes functions of this court. He is so foolish that he has no knowledge of Waki Commission and the recommendations by the Kenyan Parliament to approach the ICC for redress. He has never read the Mbeki Panel on Darfur and the recommendation thereof. It is consequential to point that all cases currently before the ICC involve African states. Uganda, DRC and the Central African Republic are all ICC members who unilaterally referred their situations to the ICC. So Katungu go and read first before you lie that you are a thinker.

  4. Before the ICC leaves Africa…the people of Africa need the African Union out of Africa..

    Nothing less!

  5. What nationality is this guy? Seems to me to be an economic or political refugee hiding in ‘safer’ South Africa. Why he can’t be in his country is the reason ICC is essential. Which court in say Zimbabwe can prosecute the big guns there and while there its worth remembering that Kenya invited ICC through the Waki report. If Bush commits a crime in America I can bet my last money that he will be brought to court without fear or favour but Uhuru will never be hauled before a Kenyan court!

  6. I forecast that African leaders will leave the ICC because most of them are criminals and the way they are going, they could end up in a very long queue behind Taylor. So I suggest they get out while they can.

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