Africa and the ICC: a vexed relationship

June 15, 2015 4:20 am
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Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir attends the opening session at the 25th African Union Summit in Sandton, Johannesburg on June 14, 2015/AFP
Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir attends the opening session at the 25th African Union Summit in Sandton, Johannesburg on June 14, 2015/AFP
NAIROBI, Kenya, Jun 15 – 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.

“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. READ: Bashir banned from leaving S.Africa until arrest ruling.

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.

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