AFRICANGLOBE – The International Criminal Court (ICC), also derided as the “International Circus Court”, is having a field day. In the days of former chief prosecutor Luis Moreno Ocampo, there would be so much drama for the ICC has finally had its way regarding Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta. He is at The Hague right now.
The ICC had to use some legal jargon to compel President Kenyatta, becoming the first sitting head of state and government to appear before The Hague-based court. They summoned President Kenyatta to appear at the ICC “status conference” arguing that its prosecution did not have enough evidence to go ahead with a trial and also that the Kenyan authorities had not availed them the requisite documents.
However, this is a sad day for Africa.
When such a precedent is set, there is nothing that will stop the ICC in future from dragging other African sitting heads of state and government.
So desperate is the ICC to ensure that it arraigns African leaders that it recently asked Saudi Arabia to arrest Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, who was on a pilgrimage to Mecca and send him to The Hague.
The African Union’s attempts at averting such a scenario are well documented. In 2013 it seemed so certain that AU member-states who are signatories of the Rome Statute would pull out, but it was just wishful thinking or sound and fury signifying nothing, because the ICC has emerged the winner in this battle of the minds where Africa appends signatures on documents before consulting the people and before reading the fine print, for it is this fine print that matters when it comes to legal issues.
In a democratic dispensation, every accused person is innocent until they are found guilty. This applies to President Kenyatta, his deputy William Ruto and all the African nationals that are already at the ICC or those the ICC is keen to arraign so that they become test cases on whether the ICC works or not. After all, Africa has always supplied the guinea pigs for the West’s many deadly experiments including viruses such as HIV, anthrax and now the Ebola virus disease.
But we ask, whose justice is being served, and who determines this? Will the Gambian-born chief prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, sincerely say that she is presiding over an independent international crimes court, or she is presiding over a Western criminal court whose motive is to haul African leaders before it, while it turns a blind eye on Western leaders that are equally guilty of crimes against humanity? Their criminal footprints are in all the troubled spots across the globe: Libya, Palestine, Syria, Yemen, Iraq, Mali, Central African Republic, Afghanistan and more.
Is it so difficult for Bensouda to have Tony Blair, George W. Bush, Nicolas Sarkozy, Francois Hollande, David Cameron and Barack Obama appear before the court?
How about the terrorist groups who are killing innocent people with impunity and giving the West reason to wage wars against sovereign nations?
President Kenyatta had to briefly hand over power to his deputy in order for him to appear before the ICC as a private citizen. This is how saddening this whole saga is and this is why this writer feels that President Kenyatta’s appearance at The Hague is not just a Kenyan affair, but an indictment of the African continent by the ICC.
It is also a challenge to African states’ hard won independence, sovereignty and self-determination.
Addressing the Kenyan parliament before leaving for the Netherlands on Monday, President Kenyatta said: “I wish to reiterate that my conscience is clear, has been clear and will remain forever clear that I am innocent of all the accusations that have been levelled against me.”
He added: “The prosecutor has, since last December, and as recently as last month, admitted to the judges that the available evidence is insufficient to prove alleged criminal responsibility beyond reasonable doubt… The prosecution failed to investigate the case in accordance with the statutory obligations.”
Let’s not fool ourselves because it’s not yet “uhuru” in Africa. And how poignant that the Kenyattas had named their son Uhuru, a kiSwahili word that means “freedom” because Kenya had just attained independence from Britain in 1963.
President Kenyatta’s predicament also becomes a cause for concern. The 2007 post-election violence involved major political players. People have before asked why former premier Raila Odinga is not part of the pack going to The Hague. His direct or indirect involvement in the deadly events has also been well documented and critiqued.
However, as Uhuru Kenyatta left for The Hague, Odinga was on his way to the United States of America, after which he will proceed to Mozambique to observe their October 15 elections.
What will it take for Africa to get out of this rut? This writer’s hopes were uplifted when Namibia’s Prime Minister who is also Swapo’s presidential candidate Hage Geingob recently echoed President Mugabe’s sentiments about foreign observers in Africa’s elections.
Premier Geingob said he looked forward to the day when Africa will not require “foreigners” to observe and validate its electoral process as free, fair and credible.
Premier Geingob was quoted by the Namibian media as saying: “I have a problem with this election monitoring . . . for somebody to come and supervise me when they locked us up when we demanded our rights. I want Namibians to be the final judges of whether elections are free or not. We fought for our democracy and the right to vote and to be voted for,” he said, stressing that Namibia did not fight for democracy in order to please the Western countries or to receive some sort of validation from them.
“We are democratic because we fought for it and because it is for the benefit of our country. Nobody must think we hold elections democratically to please them, in the West especially,” Premier Geingob said.
Premier Geingob’s sentiments have a bearing on the ICC’s shenanigans. Elections are held periodically in order to choose men and women who will enact laws in line with international best practices.
When Africa is not confident of its electoral processes and judiciary systems it is indirectly validating the existence of the ICC and their meddling in their governance issues.
It will take Africa to take away that validation just as Western election observer missions can unilaterally decide not to validate an election process for reasons best known to them.
The West saw a loophole and is exploiting it to the maximum, while Africa remains divided on issues of common interest. Africa’s independence was not fought in order for the West to use the back door to dictate who they think is a “good African” or a “bad African”. It was a fight for a rule of law suitable for Africa, in line with international laws.
As Premier Geingob concluded: “We all have a role to play. (Iwe neni tine basa.) Let us once again show the world that Africa can police itself and that we can take charge of our own electoral process and determine the destiny of our own countries.”
By: Hildegade Manzvanzvike