To African leaders, the International Criminal Court is just a vampire
Posted Monday, October 21 2013 at 01:00
In the article titled “Shoot-to-kill order may improve public safety but caution is crucial” of September 26,
your columnist referred to the Baganda saying that: Atali mubbi tatya muserikale. The meaning is that one who
is not a thief is never scared of a law-enforcing officer. Funny enough, hardly three weeks later, on October
12, African leaders convened in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, to collectively decide, among other things, to withdraw
from the International Criminal Court (ICC).
Uganda was reported to be rallying the African countries to make the move. According to Uganda’s Minister of
State for International Affairs Okello-Oryem, Africa’s reasons for withdrawing are the ICC’s practice of
‘selective justice’ and the West’s arrogance and patronising attitude. The ICC’s failure to treat elected
African leaders with respect had become an ‘irritant’ that had engineered the move by the African countries to
seek to withdraw collectively, he added.
The events that preceded the decision would make the Baganda saying relevant, because they started when
Sudan’s President Omar Bashir started to play ‘hide and seek’ with the ICC to avoid being arrested for the
crimes against humanity that he allegedly committed in Darfur. Many of his African and Arab counterparts went
to his aid, probably because they are convinced that the way they conduct themselves, their future too has
become a ‘today it is me, tomorrow it is someone else’ reality.
Their latest reason for seeking to withdraw collectively was occasioned by the ICC’s handling of the case
against President Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya and his deputy. The two leaders had been summoned and agreed to
appear before the ICC on charges of crimes against humanity that they allegedly committed during a previous
election, but now that they had taken power in their country, some of their counterparts felt, albeit
mistakenly, that the charges against them should be dropped.
The ICC has not dropped the charges however and, worse still, it denied the vice president permission (he was
already at The Hague where the ICC sits) to return to Kenya and keep fort at a time when his boss was supposed
to be making his maiden speech at the United Nations. The Kenya constitution provides that the two men cannot
be out of the country at the same time.
The African leaders now view the ICC as a vampire and see no difference between it and the Special Court for
Sierra Leone, which convicted former president Charles Taylor of Liberia of war crimes and jailed him for 50
years. Taylor hence became the first head of state to be convicted of such crimes by an international court
since the Nuremberg trials of Nazi leaders after World War Two. The sentence no doubt sent chills down the
spines of some current African leaders who are terrorising people they are supposed to be serving.
On perhaps a happy note, the international courts don’t pass death sentences. Men like Taylor whose crimes
included murder, rape, terrorism and using child soldiers are jailed in countries like Britain where they
enjoy eggs and sausages for breakfast and even undertake degree courses if they so wish. In Africa, one could
face a firing squad.
The ICC is not the only international court that has been set up in contemporary times by the way. Apart from
the Special Court for Sierra Leone on which Justice Julia Ssebutinde of Uganda served, there were other
international tribunals for former Yugoslavia and Rwanda. Former President of Yugoslavia, Slobodan Milosevic,
died during his trial, and Bosnian-Serbian generals were tried and convicted by the same court.
Mr Kiwanuka is a journalist and retired Foreign Service Officer. firstname.lastname@example.org