The following explanation regarding the raison d’être of the International Criminal Court (ICC) is taken from the court’s home page:
“The International Criminal Court (ICC) is an independent, permanent court that tries persons accused of the most serious crimes of international concern, namely genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes. The ICC is based on a treaty, joined by 122 countries (effective as of 1 May 2013). The ICC is a court of last resort. It will not act if a case is investigated or prosecuted by a national judicial system unless the national proceedings are not genuine, for example if formal proceedings were undertaken solely to shield a person from criminal responsibility. In addition, the ICC only tries those accused of the gravest crimes. In all of its activities, the ICC observes the highest standards of fairness and due process. The jurisdiction and functioning of the ICC are governed by the Rome Statute.”
The claim that the International Criminal Court (ICC) is “targeting Africans on a racial basis” as alleged by the presiding chairman of the African Union (AU) and Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn should prompt the same analysis and review as the proposal that the ICC relinquish adjudication of the crimes against humanity charges facing President Uhuru Kenyatta, his deputy William Ruto and radio presenter Joshua Sang to Kenya’s judiciary. Africa and specifically Kenya should evaluate the two issues – a “racist” ICC and independent and competent local (Kenyan) adjudication of the country’s president and his deputy along with Mr. Sang for crimes against humanity – with the honesty and objectivity they both deserve.
A quick search on the internet rubbishes Mr. Desalgen’s claim that “99 per cent of those indicted by the ICC are Africans”. While the current active listing of suspects contains mostly Africans; from Congo, Sudan/Dafur, Libya and Kenya, there is also an extensive list of individuals, mostly from the former Yugoslavia who are non-Africans, who have been indicted and either convicted or acquitted by the ICC. Similarly, there is an extensive listing of non-Africans who were convicted and punished for war crimes at The Nuremberg Trials, the precursor to the ICC. Interestingly enough, the Africans facing charges at the ICC were referred to the court by their own people including Kenya’s own Uhuru and Ruto who ended up at The Hague because their colleagues in parliament did not want them to be
One can make a compelling argument that in a fair world – and we know how fair and impartial life is – Donald Rumsfeld, George W. Bush, Tony Blair, Dick Cheney and Condoleezza Rice would all be in front of a war crimes tribunal because they invaded a sovereign country (Iraq) on the basis of cherry-picked and wrong information. As a matter of fact, I would argue that it is the fear of being arrested, definitely of being embarrassed by protestors, that prevent the afore-mentioned individuals from traveling abroad as regularly and as freely as they would otherwise do. In his op-ed piece titled Many Africans are coming to believe that international justice is selective, Mr. Mutuma Mathiu argues that the International Criminal Court, indeed international organizations such as the World Bank, International Monetary Fund (IMF) and even the United Nations (UN) and its related branches are slanted towards the west, particularly the US, Gt. Britain, France and the EU. While I agree with the very general thrust of Mr. Mathiu’s argument, I would also point out that Africa’s history is littered with evidence of its leaders colluding with the same dastard western governments and international institutions against their very own subjects and political opponents not to mention using Swiss banks and similar off-shore accounts to hide their ill-gotten gains. Kenya’s “founding father” and the current president’s father Jomo Kenyatta perfected the art of using the likes of Mr. Patrick Shaw, a British policeman, to do his dirty (political) work of planting evidence, intimidating witnesses and worse!
As amply demonstrated by Africa’s history over the last 50+ years, leaders from Idi Amin to Mobutu Seso Sekou via Jean Bidel Bokassa, Said Barre, Jomo Kenyatta, Arap Moi, Charles Taylor and Robert Mugabe have colluded with western countries and western institutions to abuse their subjects and plunder their country’s resources with an impunity that was near-total! Few objective and fair-minded observers can review Africa’s socio-political and economic past and conclude that its leadership has led Africans with the respect and fairness they deserve. One can even argue that most African leaders have failed, miserably, at improving the lives of their people while lining their own pockets and those of their friends, family and tribe, similarly fattening their bellies while behaving worse than the very colonial masters their forefathers fought so hard to defeat! To paraphrase Jaramogi Oginga Odinga from his book Not Yet Uhuru, the average African is still struggling to prevent fellow (black-skinned) African leaders with vested interests from ruling as successors to the administrators of the colonial days i.e. colonialists.
Idi Amin single-handedly destroyed Uganda, a country once referred to as the “pearl of Africa” first by expelling Asians who were the backbone of the country’s economy before embarking on a pogrom that decimated the country’s intelligentsia and brain trust further diminishing its ability to develop economically and socially. Republic of Congo’s Mobutu Seso Sekou, with help from Belgium and the CIA, overthrew the country’s first democratically elected Prime Minister Élias Okit’Asombo aka Patrice Lumumba who was then tortured and ultimately executed by a firing squad. Kuku Ngbendu wa Za Banga, as Mobutu was also known, went on to squander the wealth of the newly-renamed Zaire, a country that was equally blessed and cursed with an insane abundance of natural resources. The sordid doings of Kenyatta Pere and Moi, hitherto discussed in hushed tones, especially during their reigns have finally been made official and public by the recently-released Truth Justice and Reconciliation Commission (TRJC) Report; an accounting of Kenya’s historical record of gross human rights violations perpetrated primarily by and at the behest of the country’s presidents.
I would thus argue that the key difference between the dreaded west – USA, Gt. Britain, France etc. – and say Kenya, Sudan, Congo, Rwanda and former Yugoslavia is the fact that the former have institutions that are mature and comparatively independent enough to handle matters such as crimes against humanity/war crimes involving the rich and powerful without blatant interference and manipulation from said rich and powerful. Can folks at the AU honestly see Hutus and Tutsis dealing with the very genocide they were both victim of? Indeed Kenyans were given the opportunity to set up local institutions and mechanisms to investigate and punish those convicted of fomenting the ethnic violence after the elections of 2007. Both principals – President Kibaki and PM Odinga – were in favor of setting up local institutions and mechanisms to deal with the issue but were shouted down by none other than the sycophants of the current president and his deputy. The country seems to have forgotten the chant “Don’t be vague; go to The Hague”. Its members of parliament (MPs) opted to go to The Hague for a host of reasons including the incredulously self-serving belief that the ICC would take forever to bring charges against those accused or that it, ICC, was a toothless organization, especially when called upon to charge the likes of Uhuru Kenyatta. Finally and most saddening and as evidenced by revelations by the Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission (TJRC), Kenyans were afraid that the accused high and mighty would manipulate and influence the proceedings and resultant outcome as they have done in past high profile cases!
Now that the proverbial chickens have come home to roost, the likes of Kenya’s permanent representative to the UN Mr. Macharia Kamau and the chair of the AU Mr. Hailemariam Desalegn are crying neo-colonialism and racism respectively! It is hypocritical, disingenuous and the height of arrogance. These individuals and the organizations they represent – AU and Kenya – would have some credibility if they had demonstrable track records of actions taken against crimes against humanity and impunity by the rich and powerful. As illustrated above and in a previous posting titled “Be a Sage; Push for The Hague”, neither Africa’s leaders nor Kenya’s have demonstrated an ability to do either – address impunity and crimes against humanity perpetrated by the rich and powerful within them.
It is why the ICC, its shortcomings notwithstanding, is a much-needed and powerful counterweight to the likes of Charles Taylor and Slobodan Milosevic, indeed to Uhuru Kenyatta. Similarly, it is the well-documented history of Africa’s “big men” acting with wanton impunity and the glaring impotence of institutions within their respective countries (including the African Union; the ultimate club for said ”big men”) to hold them in check and accountable that make Mr. Desalegn’s cry of “racism” laughable.
The shoes is finally on the other foot and Africa’s masters of impunity have finally met their Waterloo in the International Criminal Courts and they are now crying foul! I say it is about time they were held accountable.