Sunday February 28 2016

No leader should enjoy impunity, says Obasanjo

 Former Nigerian president Olusegun Obasanjo during an

Former Nigerian president Olusegun Obasanjo during an interview with Sunday Monitor at Kampala Serena Hotel. PHOTO BY ERIC DOMINIC BUKENYA 

By Frederic Musisi

Kampala- Former Nigerian president Olusegun Obasanjo has scoffed at the talk by African leaders threatening to freeze their membership with The Hague-based International Criminal Court (ICC).

Mr Obasanjo said whatever the African leaders’ argument is, no leader should be left to walk away scot free after messing up their countries during their term in office.

The former Nigeria military leader from 1976 to 1979, who was later democratically elected president for two terms from 1999 to 2007, was in Uganda last week as head of the Commonwealth election observer mission.

“When I was president, I was among the first people who signed the Rome Statute; we believed there is a way of dealing with the issues of impunity, and that nobody should go away with it. Whether they pull out, which is wrong, there must be a mechanism for ensuring justice,” Mr Obasanjo told Sunday Monitor during an interview last week.

Mr Obasanjo said the bigger picture should be that every leader answers for their actions while still in power.

He cited former Chadian president Hissène Habré who was tried at the Palais de Justice in the Senegalese capital Dakar for crimes against humanity, war crimes and torture committed during his brutal eight-year rule from 1982 to 1990.

President Museveni is one of the celebrated critics of the ICC and accuses it of being a “tool” for Western countries to target weak African nations. However, Uganda was among the first countries to take a case to the ICC against the Lord’s Resistance Army rebel leader Joseph Kony and his five deputies.

The ICC focuses on four major international crimes; war crimes, genocide, aggression and crimes against humanity.
Early this month, African leaders meeting at their AU summit backed a Kenyan proposal to push for withdrawal from the ICC, repeating claims that it unfairly targets the continent leaders.
The ICC has attempted trying sitting heads of state such as Kenya’s Uhuru Kenyatta and his deputy William Ruto, Sudanese president Omar-al-Bashir, but hit a dead end.

However, the ongoing war crimes trial of the former Ivory Coast president Laurent Gbagbo, rekindled the African strongmen’s bad taste for the international justice system.