By Bai M. Gbala, Sr.
On October 12, 2013 at the Extraordinary Summit, the African Union (AU) declared that the “ICC should not prosecute sitting African leaders . . . that the indictment of H.E Uhuru Muigai Kenyatta and H.E William Samoei Ruto, the President and Deputy-President of the Republic of Kenya respectively, may pose to the on-going efforts in the promotion of peace, national healing and reconciliation, as well as the rule of law and stability, not only in Kenya, but also in the Region.” Therefore, AU urged the ICC to defer trial of Kenyan president and deputy amid claims that the ICC unfairly targets Africa. The Kenyan president is facing ICC charges for allegedly orchestrating a killing spree.
The Summit called for cases against sitting leaders in the International Criminal Court (ICC) to be deferred, until the politicians leave office. Foreign ministers in the 54-member States of African Union called for the cases of the Kenyan president, Uhuru Kenyatta, and his deputy, William Ruto, to be delayed.
The proposed threat by the African nations to withdraw from the ICC was criticized by the former UN Secretary General, Kofi Annan, but did not gain support at the Summit held in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa. Kofi Annan said that “Withdrawing from the court would be a ‘badge of shame’”, while Archbishop Desmond Tutu voiced support for the court. Amnesty International urged African nations meeting in the Ethiopian capital not to cut ties with the court, saying victims of crimes deserved justice.
But, according to Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Ethiopian Foreign Minister,"sitting Heads of State and Government should not be prosecuted while in office. We have resolved to speak with one voice to make sure that our concerns are heard loud and clear. The ICC was condescending towards the continent and has transformed itself into a political instrument, targeting Africa and Africans. This unfair and unjust treatment is totally unacceptable". He said further that the “AU will ask for the trials of the Kenyan president and his deputy as well as Sudan's president, Omar al-Bashir, to be deferred”.
Group of African Nations urge Withdrawal
Recently, a group of African nations, UN- and ICC-member-states, bolstered by the AU action, announced withdrawal from and questioning the “relevance of the International Criminal Court”. This tiny group of three nations – The Gambia, Burundi and the Republic of South Africa - was led by former President of the tiny Republic of The Gambia, Excellency Yahya Jammeh.
Leading the exit movement was former President Jammeh who was in the fourth term of his 22-year rule as President of the Gambia. The belief of the Gambians, like the AU, is that the ICC targets only African Heads of State. But the decision to withdraw, according to the Gambian Information Minister, “is that the ICC has been used for the persecution of Africans and especially their leaders, while ignoring (war) crimes committed by the West. There are many western countries, at least 30, that have committed heinous war crimes against independent . . . states and their citizens since the creation of the ICC and not a single western war criminal has been indicted. The ICC, despite being called International Criminal Court, is in fact, an ‘International Caucasian Court’ for persecution and humiliation of people of color, especially Africans”.
On the Events and Elections that brought Mr. Alassane Ouattara to power as President of La Cote d’Ivoire in 2010, the fiercely anti-Western Colonial Powers, then President of the Gambia, issued the statement profoundly critical not only of the Western Powers, but also, and particularly, of the Republic of France for its involvement in La Cote d’Ivoire, and declared:
“The Gambian Government will not recognize any President or government in Africa that has been imposed by forces outside of the African Continent for whatever reasons . . . They (outside forces) loot African resources on behalf of the (Western) powers that brought them to power . . . We will not recognize your (such) African puppets . . .”.
“The events in La Cote d’Ivoire have vindicated us on our earlier assertion that Western, neo-colonialist-sponsored agents in Africa that owe allegiance only to themselves and their Western masters are ready to walk on thousands of dead bodies to the Presidency. That is what is happening in La Cote d’Ivoire . . . What is really sinister and dangerous about the neo-colonialist threat is that they (Western colonialist Powers) are ready to use brute force or carry out outrageous massacres to neutralize any form of resistance to Western Powers-selected President, as has happened in La Cote d’Ivoire”.
“ . . . The former (Ivorian) colonial power (the Republic of France) . . . outside of UN mandate . . . bombarded the (Ivorian) Presidential Palace for days and, eventually, stormed the Palace . . . Entire villages . . . were wiped out by . . . (French) Republican Forces fighting for Ouattara”.
“Our position is very clear. The case of Gbagbo is replica of the case of Patrice Lumumba who, as a freedom fighter for the dignity and independence of not only the Congolese people, but the entire black race, was over-thrown by Western Powers, including the UN, and handed over to his enemies almost 50 years ago, are the same (Western neo-colonialist) forces involvd in the Ivory Coast . . .”.
“If justice is to done (in Africa) . . . Africans should not only wake up, but (also) should stand up to the new attempts to re-colonize Africa through so-called elections that are organized just to fool the people, since the true verdict of the people would not be respected, if it does not go in favor of the Western-backed candidates, as has happened in La Cote d’Ivoire” (Africawatch, May 2011).
We argue that Liberia’s sound-breaking silence, one way or the other, is not unexpected.
In his analysis (quoted verbatim above) of the recent Events and “Elections” in La Cote d’Ivoire, the African nation next door to Liberia, Yahya Jammeh says that “our position is very clear” – the position of victim of colonial rule, human servitude and of being a “nothing” in his own land. Mrs. Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf did not, does come close to nor have this historic, colonial experience. On the contrary, Ellen has an American-European mentality or mind-set, socially, economically and politically. She has nothing, in this context, with a Buhari (of Nigeria), Kofi Anan (of Ghana) and the leaders of the AU, including Senegal, La Cote d’Ivoire (though a puppet of the West), Mali, Burkina Faso, Tanzania, Tunisia, Cape Verde, Botswana, Chad and all of many of the 54 African nations who endured and suffered the realities of the indignities of racist colonialism, but expressed “no support” publically for the withdrawal movement.
Mrs. Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf and her Ministry of Foreign Affairs cannot voice public support nor Advise or criticize the withdrawal movement, simply, because she is the successful, political creature of the West. Voicing public support on the one hand will, certainly, undermine her Western solidarity/celebrity built over years, although under tremendous stress and tension, already. To advise or criticize on the other hand, will create suspicion by her newly-found refuge and damage cooperation and political solidarity and celebrity status with African states, in which she is now Chair of ECOWAS Heads of State and Government, a dilemma!!
One may ask, “but where do you stand?” Like Excellency Jammeh, my “position is very clear” – that withdrawal from the ICC by the African states is highly unlikely to resolve the critical socio-cultural, political-economic and legal issues raised by the African States, including the African condition of systematic abuse of political power - civil, political, and human rights violations, with genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity of our own, African Peoples.
We believe, reasonably, as stated elsewhere and repeated hereunder, that the contrary - retaining, maintaining and increasing massive membership in the ICC - is the rational, productive answer to resolution of the issues raised by the African States, for the following reasons:
a. “That in the light of the fact that today’s modern, 21st century World Community is committed to liberal, progressive democracy, dedicated to informed decisions by the majority and, also, the fact that non-white or non-Caucasian states effectively outnumber white or Caucasian states at the UN and other world bodies (including world population), it is reasonable and highly likely that the issues raised by the African states will be resolved by active participation by the informed majority of the non-white states; that the proper, reasonable approach is retaining, increasing membership and using the Rome Statue to expose the hypocrisy of the western and other states and demand Change/Reforms of the ICC; and that the ICC is, indeed, not “a foreign court”, since ratification of the Rome Statute automatically concedes membership and jurisdiction of the ICC, including those who are not members but willingly refer cases to the ICC. Therefore, withdrawal is counter-productive”;
b. “That the Withdrawal Movement is barking at the wrong tree; for, the ICC is a court of law that adjudicates conflicts or disagreements brought before it by parties to the conflicts or disagreements. Courts of law do not go out seeking litigants. The cause(s) of the issues raised are found not in the trial chambers of the ICC, but in the New York, UN Plaza Halls. Consequently, the non-white states must use its majority to reform not only the issues concerned with the ICC, but also, the UN system, itself. Packing bags and leaving the ICC is profound cop-out at the expense of the poor, hungry and sick Africans”.
It is in this respect that we note that it is very, very important that African and other non-white states get on the offensive by use of their majority for change.