A host of African nations led by South Africa, a one-time apartheid engrossed nation, are said to be turning away from the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court (ICC) for what African heads of states and several political activists referred to as a selective prosecution of Africans and African leaders. The callous behavior of these African presidents seems to be supported by the toothless African Union.
Kenya, Sudan, The Gambia, South Sudan and Burundi, all of which have leaders and politicians who have been accused of civil and human rights abuses against their citizens, are said to push for the eradication of the ICC.
Apart from South Africa which disgracefully seems to be leading the chorus of anti-international accountability and transparency, the West African state of Gambia and Burundi, an East African nation with an autocratic and ruthless leader, has gone far into the departure process from the ICC by submitting its official position to the Secretary General of the United Nations Ban Ki-Moon during the just ended United Nations General Assembly.
Per reliable sources, Burundi’s decision to withdraw from the court may be related to allegations of ongoing abuses in the country since President Pierre Nkurunziza’s controversial bid for a third term last year.
It can be recalled that the ICC’s chief prosecutor Tatou Bandoura announced in April 2016 that she was opening a preliminary investigation into Burundi after receiving information “detailing acts of killing, imprisonment, torture, rape and other forms of sexual violence.”
Countering these assertions, the Burundi’s government says it is exercising its right as a sovereign nation to withdraw from the Rome Statute.
“We believe that it is too much fabrication to say that the government of Burundi has withdrawn from the ICC because it was accused of crimes against humanity,” Foreign Minister Alain Dynamite said. “I challenge you, and I challenge that lawyer. I think one has to be clear that the ICC has not indicted anybody in Burundi of crimes against human humanity, of genocide or any other crimes that fall within the court’s jurisdiction.”
Elise Kepler, the associate director of the international justice program at Human Rights Watch and others disagreed.
“There has been a spiraling of abuses in Burundi’s political situation and the issue of term limit and its president,” Kepler told several international organizations. “In fact, there was a commission of inquiry there and investigators, as I understand it, who were expelled from the country documented abuses. So, I think we can see Burundi clearly has a kind of callous interest in trying to remove itself from the International Criminal Court.”
Earlier, the Burundi’s parliament passed legislation earlier this month to withdraw from the ICC. Two other African nations, South Africa and Gambia, have since announced they will also withdraw. South Africa notified the U.N. of its decision October 19.
While the positions of these African nations may seem irrational and unnecessary considering the degree of abuses and political violence carried out by rogue African politicians against their people, there is an honest need to acknowledge their stances with some degree of sincerity and fairness as argued by Burundi’s foreign minister Alain Nya mite.
“I believe that there are some other politically motivated reasons which have pushed the ICC to act on African cases. How many times have you heard about the ICC investigating crimes committed in Iraq? How many times have you heard the ICC investigating crimes committed in Afghanistan? Or let me go further, which group has been under investigation for crimes committed in Libya?” Nyamitwe said.
Several international observers point out that the unfortunate aspect of the African stance and condemnation against the ICC is that of the Gambia given that the ICC’s chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda is a Gambian and “a champion of international justice and the fight against global impunity,” per Amnesty International Research and Advocacy Director for Africa Netsanet Belay.
Not moved by these facts, the Gambia’s information minister, Sheriff Bojang, argued: “the ICC, despite being called the International Criminal Court, is, in fact, an International Caucasian Court for the persecution and humiliation of people of color, especially Africans.”