The ICC and Africa
The outcome of the emergency meeting of the African Union is scarcely surprising. The AU agreed on a deferral of the Hague trial in the case of Kenyan President, Uhuru Kenyatta, till the end of his term. They also stated emphatically that no sitting African head of state should appear before any International Court.
These resolutions spring forth from the belief that African heads of State are being targeted unfairly.
To be fair, I have some sympathy for a head of state who is required to appear before a court to face trial for atrocities committed in the course of a post-electoral violence. This was after the 2007 elections were bitterly contested. More than 1,100 people were killed as a result.
Presidents are generally busy people- I suppose. Every visitor with considerable clout- from rock stars to business magnates and of course government officials from other countries scarcely pass through the shores of that country (if they do have one) without paying courtesy calls on the President.
Diverse interests within the state would equally want to have audience with the President for assurances, expressions of concerns and probably for some initiative to be given some quick response as a result of a President’s push.
Presidents have now taken on the new role of cajoling and coaxing footballers of national teams who are threatening to withdraw their services to have not only a change of mind but a change of heart as well, all in the nation’s interest.
Further, the President belongs to a party and there are party businesses for that matter to be taken care of- lest he risks being spewed out by ‘his own’.
As I have said, it is an utterly tough job and this is not made any easier when one considers the important symbolic role a president plays in addition to his core mandate. The last thing many would want to see is television images of their president in a dock, pleading either guilty or not guilty, being subjected to hours and probably months of intense questioning from a prosecutor somewhere in a far off land.
That’s not tall: how high can the flag of a nation fly where its president appears before a forum either responding either angrily or uncertainly or even engaged in a scuffle with an attorney over questions of facts are all issues that would be engaging the minds of many.
There is no doubt that the AU must have taken into consideration this and more of the above scenario before arriving at its conclusion.
In as much as I understand this view and arguments in favour of a deferral, the plain truth is that those who deserve sympathy the most are those who lost their lives, families and properties during the political turmoil. Besides, Kenyans should be made to live with the decision of electing individuals who were prior to the elections billed to appear before the court.
When he had the opportunity to speak, President Kenyatta conveniently accused the ICC of being engaged in ‘race hunting.’
Aside the fact that this is one of the overly recycled arguments that have been thrown at the ICC; one wonders the vitality and essence of this criticism. Advocates of this view would simply say ‘oh, all those who have been tried or are being tried are from the African continent.’ What they do not conveniently say is the association or involvement of those standing trial before the ICC in some of the heinous crimes on the continent.
They certainly cannot be ordinary men or heads of state minding their own businesses. What these apostles of the neocolonialism argument further conveniently fail to recognise is the fact that the ICC does not exist to oust the criminal jurisdictions of the various national courts.
Rather the ICC exists to play a complementary role in the event where for a host of reasons national courts are unable to prosecute or try a case. This clearly answers the concerns of those who ask the question ‘why can’t we put on trial those accused in Africa.’ Besides, there have been a number of ICC proceedings instigated by African states themselves.
Another leg of the racial hunting argument is that there are worst crimes being committed in other parts like Pakistan and Afghanistan- where the use of unpiloted drones have resulted in the uncountable instances of loss of lives. The question posed usually is ‘why is the ICC not pursuing the US government?’ Others have even asked why the ICC does not even have an eye on the former British Prime Tony Blair and former US President George Bush.
These are certainly strong arguments about the quest for global justice being fair and balanced. But the question worth asking in return is: Does the inability of the ICC to prosecute those crimes elsewhere negate the factual existence and commission of crimes in Africa?
It certainly cannot be!
By Samuel Alesu-Dordzi
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