Home | Comment & Analysis    Wednesday 29 May 2013

Should Africa Withdraw from ICC?

By Mapuor Malual Manguen

May 28, 2013 - On Sunday, African Presidents supported a petition calling on the International Criminal Court to drop crimes against humanity charges facing President Kenyatta and Deputy President William Ruto of Kenya. President Kenyatta and Mr Ruto are charged at the ICC in connection with the 2007 post-election violence in which 1,300 died and over 500,000 others displaced. The leaders want the trials brought back to the national courts.

However, the Western-backed human rights groups considered demand by the African leaders as an attempt to shield Kenyan leaders from justice. Apart from Botswana’s President, 53 presidents supported the motion to send back Kenya cases. Botswana President argues that the ICC should be allowed to handle the case in accordance with its mandate.

The concept that ICC is targeting African leaders is gaining momentum in the continent. ICC has issued arrest warrants for the Sudanese president Omar al-Bashir, two other senior officials in his government, and a militia leader. The Hague based Court is also pursuing cases in DR Congo, Cote D’Ivoire, Uganda, and Libya. Former Ivorian President, Laurent Gbagbo is detained in the Hague on electoral related violence in 2011 during which he refused to concede defeat to his main rival and election winner, Allasane Ouattara. Liberian ex-President Charles Taylor is serving 50-year-jail term after he was found guilty of abating crimes committed in neighboring Sierra Leone. His trial was conducted at the Hague after he was arrested in Nigeria and extradited to Netherlands.

Crimes against humanity committed in other parts of the world such as Iraq, Lebanon and Palestine perpetrated by Israel, America, Britain and their NATO allies did not attract ICC despite the fact that these cases are of the same magnitude or higher than cases investigated in Africa. African leaders use this as justification of the West using ICC to target them. So the question is should Africa withdraw from ICC? If so, are Africa’s local courts capable of trying such cases fairly and independently…?

It is not uncommon in most African states that the ruling elites use judiciary to rubberstamp maladministration cases in their favor. This led to a decayed judiciary in Africa. In any case, electoral related violence is the major challenge for judiciaries in this continent. Apparently, losers do not solve electoral disputes in courts of law; they choose street violence. The government has to send its security squads to clear streets of these rioters. The result is death of civilians and crimes against humanity. And this is how ICC comes in and net African leaders.

Of course, African leaders when they are in their club called African Union can say anything to exert their full authority over affairs of the continent. They can call for mass withdrawal from ICC as Sudan’s Bashir demanded. But will the said withdrawal bring the badly needed independence judiciary lacking in majority African countries?

African leaders are correct to condemn unfair hands and monkey business of the ICC. Their point is genuine as corroborated by facts surrounding ICC dealings with continent vis-à-vis crimes against humanity cases committed in other continents by superpowers. However, if this argument is to carry Africa’s populace weight, African leaders should equally work to ensure respect for independence of judiciary of local national courts in the continent. They should cease using AU as Club for abating bad governance. The AU must be an organization for progress of African people and an avenue where problems facing people of this continent should be discuss for benefits of all.

The author is journalist and columnist based in Juba