BY UHURU KENYATTA
Chair of the African Union, Prime Minister Hailemariam Dessalegn, Chair of the Commission of the African Union, Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, Colleagues Head of State and Government, Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,
It gives me special pleasure to join your Excellencies at this Special Summit, where we have assembled to reflect on very significant matters relating to the welfare and destiny of our nations and peoples. I thank you for the honour of addressing you today, because as it happens, I crave my brother and sister Excellencies’ views on some issues.
We are privileged to lead the nations of a continent on the rise. Africa rests at the centre of global focus as the continent of the future.
Although we have been relentlessly exploited in the past, we remain with sufficient resources to invest in a prosperous future.
Whilst we have been divided and incited against one another before, we are now united and more peaceful. Even as we grapple with a few regional conflicts, as Africans, we are taking proactive measures to ensure that all our people move together in the journey to prosperity in a peaceful home.
Even though we were dominated and controlled by imperialists and colonial interests in years gone by, we are now proud, independent and sovereign nations and people. We are looking to the future with hope, marching towards the horizon with confidence and working in unity. This is the self evident promise that Africa holds for its people today.
As leaders, we are the heirs of freedom fighters, and our founding fathers. These liberation heroes founded the Organisation of African Unity, which was dedicated to the eradication of ALL FORMS OF COLONIALSM.
Towards this end, the OAU defended the interests of independent nations and helped the cause of those that were still colonised.
It sought to prevent member states from being controlled once again by outsider powers.
The founding fathers of African Unity were conscious that structural colonialism takes many forms, some blatant and extreme, like apartheid, while others are subtler and deceptively innocuous, like some forms of development assistance. It has been necessary, therefore, for African leaders to constantly watch out against threats to our peoples’sovereignty and unity.
In our generation, we have honoured our fathers’ legacies by guaranteeing that through the African Union, our countries and our people shall achieve greater unity, and that the sovereignty, territorial integrity and independence of our States shall not be trifled with. More than ever, our destiny is in our hands. Yet at the same time, more than ever, it is imperative for us to be vigilant against the persistent machinations of outsiders who desire to control that destiny. We know what this does to our nations and people: subjugation and suffering.
The philosophies, ideologies, structures and institutions that visited misery upon millions for centuries ultimately harm their perpetrators.
Thus the imperial exploiter crashes into the pits of penury. The arrogant world police is crippled by shambolic domestic dysfunction. These are the spectacles of Western decline we are witnessing today.
At the same time, other nations and continents rise and prosper. Africa and Asia continue to thrive, with their promise growing every passing day.
As our strength multiplies, and our unity gets deeper, those who want to control and exploit us become more desperate. Therefore, they abuse whatever power remains in their control.
The Swahili people say that one ascending a ladder cannot hold hands with one descending. The force of gravity will be compounded and the one going up only loses. The International Criminal Court was mandated to accomplish these objectives by bringing to justice those criminal perpetrators who bear greatest responsibility for crimes.
Looking at the world in the past, at that time and even now, it was clear that there have always been instances of unconscionable impunity and atrocity that demand a concerted international response, and that there are vulnerable, helpless victims of these crimes who require justice as a matter of right. This is the understanding, and the expectation of most signatories to the Rome Statute.
The most active global powers of the time declined to ratify the Treaty, or withdrew somewhere along the way, citing several compelling grounds.
The British foreign secretary Robin Cook said at the time, that the International Criminal Court was not set up to bring to book Prime Ministers of the United Kingdom or Presidents of the United States. Had someone other than a Western leader said those fateful words, the word ‘impunity’ would have been thrown at them with an emphatic alacrity.
An American senator serving on the foreign relations committee echoed the British sentiments and said, “Our concern is that this is a court that is irreparably flawed, that is created with an independent prosecutor, with no checks and balances on his power, answerable to no state institution, and that this court is going to be used for politicized prosecutions.”
The understanding of the States which subscribed to the Treaty in good faith was two-fold.
First, that world powers were hesitant to a process that might make them accountable for such spectacularly criminal international adventures as the wars in Iraq, Syria, Libya, Afghanistan and other places, and such hideous enterprises as renditions and torture. Such states did not, therefore, consider such warnings as applicable to pacific and friendly parties.
Secondly, it was the understanding of good-faith subscribers that the ICC would administer and secure justice in a fair, impartial and independent manner and, as an international court, bring accountability to situations and perpetrators everywhere in the world. As well, it was hoped that the ICC would set the highest standards of justice and judicial processes.