Before Namibia goes an extra mile in her pursuit of withdrawing from the International Criminal Court (ICC), caution is necessary, lest she land, lump and mix herself with the strangest of bedfellows and jump on the bandwagon of demagogues.
Except perhaps for South Africa with some semblance of democracy, Burundi and The Gambia cannot by any stretch of any imagination be said to be typical examples of democratic societies. In the case of Burundi any self-respecting African cannot be oblivious to the mechanisms used by Pierre Nkurunziza to change his country’s constitution to run for a third term.
Many citizens have paid for their criticism with their lives – the price resulting from the skirmishes. One may argue that within the context of Burundi, the process may have been transparent and above board, but the public protests which ensued lead to hundreds of deaths. The picture painted is that of a nation that stifles democracy and divergent views.
Regarding The Gambia, it is an open secret that the tiny West African country is and cannot be one of the shining and leading examples of democracy, even an aspiring democratic polity in Africa.
With reference to our southerly neighbour, South Africa, one can also not ignore the apparent erosion of its democratic edifice. The SA government also caused quite a stir earlier this year when they allowed Sudan President Omar Al-Bashir to skip the country, despite a warrant of arrest from the ICC.
This was despite a pending decision of the court whether Al-Bashir should be arrested in terms international law, as a fugitive from the ICC. By such omission, or commission if you will, surely our neighbour’s belief in the rule of law – granting of course its ideological/political convictions, and especially its latter day dissonance in the ICC – cannot imbue anyone with a belief in the rule of law and the institutions thereof, of which the ICC is but one on the global level.
But most instructive, the ICC is a judicial structure of the United Nations, to which many African countries belong. Thus, one cannot but wonder to what extent these African countries and others who feel the burden of the bias of the ICC against them, have exhaustively raised this issue within the UN General Assembly?
Have these countries really and honestly tried everything in their power? Can withdrawal really be the only and last resort? One cannot but wonder how and on whose initiative are charges against any entity, be it a country or person, brought before the ICC?
If any member country of the UN can bring any charges of war crimes against any other member, it is only any wonder whether any of the African countries have ever brought charges against any other country, other than African? And what was the response of the ICC?
One cannot but fear that African countries, inclined to undemocratic tendencies, if not overbearing heavy conduct against their own citizens, cannot but be fearing a Big Brother-style ICC. Some are perhaps fearful that their own excesses against humanity may return to haunt them.
How else can one really understand their inherent suspicion of the ICC? Would it be farfetched to deduce that this is essentially what is fueling fear in the likes Nkurunziza, of ICC bias against African leaders, as prompted and prodded by the invisible hand of the so-called powerful nation-states.
Why has such big powers’ wrath actually been directed against African leaders and not against ordinary Africans? Surely it cannot be because of the African leaders’ goodwill and good nature, nor their humanitarian concern for their citizens, can it be?
If African leaders have in their myriad leaders’ clubs to defend themselves against so-called powerful nation-states, then ordinary African citizens cannot be blamed for wanting the ICC to defend them against the excesses of their own African leaders.
Of course, mindful of the fact that oft such humanitarian defense has been used as a pretence for the ouster of non-compliant nation-states. But can an ordinary African citizen, whose rights and freedoms are trampled upon at will by either, really be expected to choose between either, less so for the ICC?
UN Human Rights Commissioner Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein has just called for the investigation of war crimes against Russia and Syria for war crimes in Aleppo. This surely is an initiative that the Africans must have the courage of their convictions to support.
That is, if their disenchantment and disenfranchisement with the ICC is anything more than just a cloak for their own fears that one day they may be dragged before the ICC. If their interest is to truly restore the ICC’s credibility, this cannot be by running away from it.
Surely no single big nation-state, nor any African nation – let alone all African nations collectively – can be trusted with the noble idea of ensuring universal justice.