Africa and the ICC: A vexed relationship

The ICC indicted the Sudanese leader in 2009 for war crimes and crimes against humanity and later genocide in Darfur. But despite that, Bashir has travelled to numerous African countries – including Chad, Kenya and Nigeria – where anger at the ICC’s perceived bias against Africa meant calls for his arrest were ignored.

“The process the ICC is conducting in Africa has a flaw,” Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn told the African Union (AU) in 2013. “The intention was to avoid any kind of impunity, but now the process has degenerated into some kind of race hunting.”

And last December Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni called the ICC a “tool to target” Africa, but he failed in his effort to orchestrate a mass withdrawal by African states.

Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame has accused the ICC of “selective” justice.

“This world is divided into categories. There are people who have the power to use international justice or international law to judge others and it does not apply to them,” Kagame said in late 2013.

Established in 2002 as the world’s only permanent independent body to try war crimes, the Hague-based ICC has opened nine cases in eight countries, all in Africa.

Kenya’s then ICC-indicted presidential ticket running-mates, Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto, cast their election-winning 2013 campaign as a patriotic struggle against imperialism.

AU commission chair Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma has also spoken out against Bashir’s arrest warrant, urging the balancing of reconciliation and justice. Her home country of South Africa pioneered such an approach with its post-apartheid Truth and Reconciliation Commission that offered amnesty for honesty.

Africa backed ICC founding
African states were early adopters of the Rome Statute that established the ICC, and around one-third of its member states are in Africa. 

African states have also played key roles in facilitating the ICC cases.


Of the eight countries where ICC investigations are under way or arrest warrants issued, four – Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of Congo, Mali and Uganda – are ICC member states which invited the prosecution to open investigations.

The UN Security Council had requested the investigation in Darfur – leading to Bashir’s arrest warrants for war crimes and crimes against humanity in 2009 and for genocide in 2010 – and also in Libya.

Benin and Tanzania were among 11 countries that voted in favour of the Darfur referral in 2005 while Gabon, Nigeria and South Africa were among those that voted unanimously for the Libya referral in 2011.

In both Ivory Coast and Kenya the ICC itself opened the investigations. The government of Ivorian President Alassane Ouattara welcomed the probe and arrest of former leader Laurent Gbagbo in 2011. In Kenya the ICC stepped in after domestic investigations stalled.

And now South Africa has responded to the ICC’s call and temporarily barred Bashir from leaving the country while scheduling a hearing on the arrest warrant against him.

The ICC however has faced criticism over its record so far. It has brought just two convictions, both against Congolese warlords. Another Congolese militia leader was acquitted while the case against Kenya President Kenyatta collapsed in December, although his deputy Ruto’s trial continues.

Aware of the criticisms ICC Chief Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda, a Gambian lawyer, is proving less Africa-focused in her investigations than her predecessor, Argentinian Luis Moreno Ocampo.

Bensouda is conducting preliminary investigations into alleged crimes in Afghanistan, Colombia, Georgia, Honduras, Iraq, Palestine and Ukraine, as well as in Guinea and Nigeria. – AFP

These are unprecedented times, and the role of media to tell and record the story of South Africa as it develops is more important than ever. But it comes at a cost. Advertisers are cancelling campaigns, and our live events have come to an abrupt halt. Our income has been slashed.

The Mail & Guardian is a proud news publisher with roots stretching back 35 years. We’ve survived thanks to the support of our readers, we will need you to help us get through this.

To help us ensure another 35 future years of fiercely independent journalism, please subscribe.

Tristan Mcconnell
Guest Author
Advertising

ConCourt settles the law on the public protector and interim...

The Constitutional Court said it welcomed robust debate but criticised the populist rhetoric in the battle between Busisiwe Mkhwebane and Minister Pravin Gordhan

Small towns not ready for level 3

Officials in Beaufort West, which is on a route that links the Cape with the rest of the country, are worried relaxed lockdown regulations mean residents are now at risk of contracting Covid-19
Advertising

Press Releases

Covid-19 and Back to School Webinar

If our educators can take care of themselves, they can take care of the children they teach

5G technology is the future

Besides a healthcare problem Covid-19 is also a data issue and 5G technology, with its lightning speed, can help to curb its spread

JTI off to court for tobacco ban: Government not listening to industry or consumers

The tobacco ban places 109 000 jobs and 179 000 wholesalers and retailers at risk — including the livelihood of emerging farmers

Holistic Financial Planning for Professionals Webinar

Our lives are constantly in flux, so it makes sense that your financial planning must be reviewed frequently — preferably on an annual basis

Undeterred by Covid-19 pandemic, China and Africa hold hands, building a community of a shared future for mankind

It is clear that building a community with a shared future for all mankind has become a more pressing task than ever before

Wills, Estate Administration and Succession Planning Webinar

Capital Legacy has had no slowdown in lockdown regarding turnaround with clients, in storing or retrieving wills and in answering their questions

Call for Expression of Interest: Training supply and needs assessment to support the energy transition in South Africa

GIZ invites eligible and professional companies with local presence in South Africa to participate in this tender to support the energy transition

Obituary: Mohammed Tikly

His legacy will live on in the vision he shared for a brighter more socially just future, in which racism and discrimination are things of the past

The best local and international journalism

handpicked and in your inbox every weekday