Africa and the ICC: a vexed relationship

2015-06-15 07:32
Omar al-Bashir. (File: AFP)

Omar al-Bashir. (File: AFP)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Nairobi - A court order blocking the departure from South Africa of Sudan's president Omar al-Bashir, wanted for alleged war crimes by the International Criminal Court, brings to the fore the troubled relationship between Africa and the world tribunal.

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.

Reconciliation and 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.

Domestic investigations

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.

Read more on:    international criminal court  |  omar al-bashir  |  sudan  |  east africa  |  war crimes

Join the conversation! encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.
NEXT ON NEWS24X publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.