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How the proposed African court may change into a tool for impunity

Updated on February 6, 2015

The proposal

On February 3, Africa opened her ears to one new development in the circles of news. It was caged and packaged in a way that would promise a bright future for Africans as far as war crimes are concerned, but judging from the intentions of the proponents, this may be Africa’s downfall.

The African Union was at it again proposing for the establishment of the African Court of Justice which the proponents allege could be a step towards trying war suspects in Africa. According to Kenya’s cabinet Secretary for foreign Affairs, Amina Mohammed, there are 11 countries that have signed the Malabo Protocol that will help in establishing the court. This means that there are only three more countries left for that (14) threshold to be met.

This court however will come at additional cost to the African taxpayers. “Kenya is not the only country that has pledged support. For this court to operate, resources are needed and hence the pledges from different countries”, said Mohamed as quoted in ShanghaiDaily .com

Kenya already through the Head of state president Uhuru Kenyatta, who was recently acquitted of war crimes by the International Criminal Court, has pledged funds to the tune of approximately Kshs 200 million ( $ 2.4 million).

“I urge you brothers and sisters to join me in ensuring that the necessary ratifications are in place and that the resulting court is fully owned, financed and driven by Africa. This is an urgent and historic task that cannot wait”, said President Kenyatta, as reported by Kenya’s Capital News.

This move comes after what can be termed as frequent criticism on the way ICC has been conducting its cases, where opponents of the court and mainly African leaders like—Kenyatta of Kenya, Museveni of Uganda and Mugabe of Zimbabwe—have spoken in chorus that the court is witch-hunting on Africans.

What throws the credibility of the proposed African court is the likelihood of African powerful leaders being granted immunity to evade trials against heinous war crimes chasing them. Such intention is not new. In 2014, the 23rd assembly saw the leaders vote on the Amendments to the protocol that established the African Court of Justice to shield sitting heads of states from being tried against against crimes against humanity, genocide, rape and forceful eviction e.t.c.

South African president, Jacob Zuma addressing the AU meeting in Addis Ababa early this  year.
South African president, Jacob Zuma addressing the AU meeting in Addis Ababa early this year. | Source


The call for the establishment of this court enjoys its backing from those who may have tasted the judicial process at the Hague-based court. The president of Kenya, Uhuru Kenyatta being at the forefront can never be something surprising.

While talking at the AU convention at Addis Ababa on February 3 he said: “I urge you brothers and sisters to join me in ensuring that the necessary ratifications are in place and that the resulting court is fully owned, financed and driven by Africa. This is an urgent and historic task that cannot wait….We look forward to its conclusion so that my Deputy can join me in focusing exclusively on transforming Kenya and serving our people”, as reported by Capital News.

It is clear from the statement that the establishment of this court is not based on the pursuant for justice for victims of war crimes. This court will serve the interest of the few and the elite to be precise. It could form a breeding ground for impunity for cases maybe frequently dismissed for “lack of evidence”.

Come to think of this, Kenya is to donate some funds to support the court and it is obvious that other stakeholders will. Can this court try successfully a Kenyan president owing to that conflict of interest?That is a pipe dream.

Reading through “African Leaders Vote to Give Themselves Immunity from Violent Crimes” by Sarah Morgan found in it is open that the proponents of this court are looking for escape routes from the ICC.

It will not be astonishing enough to see that the proposed African Court of Justice will be reserved for militant groups like the “Joseph Kony-led Lords Resistance Army’ that is terrorizing people in central Africa. Or to try sugar coating it, some opposition leaders like Kizza Besigye of Uganda may be thrown to rot their on false allegations confirmed by flawed judicial system where conflict of interest is the order of the day.

Dirty campaign and double standards

Some African leaders have constantly criticized the ICC claiming that the court pursues no justice and is used to subdue Africans. These people include Ugandan president Yoweri Museveni, Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenyatta and Sudan’s president Omar-Al Bashir, who has a warrant of arrest from the ICC for war crimes.Where the double standards lexist are in the fact that Museveni has always urged the ICC to try to capture Joseph Kony, the rebel leader and try so that he can be tried.

This is funny for someone who has lashed out and shown little or no faith on the same court. They only complain about the cases facing President Kenyatta and his deputy plus that of Bashir.However, there are many Africans being tried at the court where most of them committed same crimes and have since been convicted. They include: Dominic Ong’wen one of the LRA rebel leaders who surrendered for the US security persons late last year, Thomas Lubanga, Bosco Ntaganda, Sylvestre Mudacumura (all of DRC) among others like former Ivorian leader Laurent Gbagbo.

This list is large. One wonders what is so special in others that when it comes to their trials, they claim Africa is being witch-hunted. For someone to be tried at the Hague-based court, the process must be endorsed by that country’s leadership and these Africans are tried by the virtue that their mother states are signatories of the Rome statute.The proposed court will just perpetuate the impunity and denial of victims from assessing the full justice.


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