Africa speaks with one voice

Calls for the reform of the International Criminal Court of Justice grew louder this week with African countries expressing their disapproval of the way the court is currently operating.

The calls were made in comments to the order by the South African High Court for Pretoria to arrest Sudanese President Omar al Bashir who was attending the 25th African Union Assembly in Johannesburg recently.

Al-Bashir was indicted in 2009 on against humanity and war crimes in Darfur although his government denies the allegations.

Some African countries have threatened to pull out of the ICC if the proposed amendments by the AU are not implemented while others said Africa should abandon the body.

Namibia’s International Relations Minister Netumbo Nandi-Ndaitwah made it clear that Windhoek would not hesitate to withdraw from the ICC should the proposed amendments not be considered.

The AU has over the years been calling for the Rome Statute to be amended so that cases against sitting leaders in the ICC can be deferred until their terms end.

“Sitting presidents should not be subject to prosecution because they were democratically elected by the masses to lead them and now out of nowhere you have an international instrument that interferes with the will of the people,” charged Nandi-Ndaitwah who is also the Namibian Deputy Prime Minister.     

She said Namibia would have done exactly what South Africa did by allowing al-Bashir to leave the country despite the court order if it had hosted the AU summit.

She said the AU is primarily irked by the ICC’s practice of indicting sitting statesmen.

In South Africa, African National Congress secretary general Gwede Mantashe was brutal when he described the ICC as dangerous and urged SA to withdraw from it.

“If I was in government, I would say: ‘Give notice, get out of that, it was not what was envisioned. 

It is a tool in the hands of the powerful to destroy the weak and it is a court that is focusing on Africa, Eastern Europe and Middle East’,” Mantashe said on Talk Radio 702.

The unity being shown by African governments in denouncing the actions of the ICC is welcome because The Hague-based court has allowed itself to be used by powerful states, some of which are not even signatories to the Rome Statute establishing the court.  

All the 36 people that have been indicted by the ICC since 2005 are from Africa giving the impression that it is only Africa where crimes against humanity are being committed when that is not the case. 

South African Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Deputy Minister Obed Bapela added that “as the ANC, we would like to make the following pronouncements that we call on the reform of the ICC”.

Deputy Minister Bapela said the ICC has never targeted any President when they attended other meetings like the United Nations.

“As a result, the ICC is losing its direction, its credibility is being undermined because not everybody wants to go into it.”

Africa has indeed spoken. 

It is high time the continent stood its ground against unfair treatment in multilateral and bilateral issues.

June 2015
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