Africa has for too long been fertile ground for dictators, anarchists and warlords. That is until 2003 when a majority of countries signed the Rome Statute the established the International Criminal Court (ICC). The presence of the ICC made the lives of the aforementioned characters uncomfortable. By withdrawing from the ICC, South Africa and others are taking the continent back to the dark ages of anarchy, chaos and no accountability, writes, BAME PIET
The African history is littered with examples of leaders who had no respect for human rights, rule of law, and the international community. Since the winds of change that swept through Africa in the 1960s, when many African states got their independence from their former European colonial masters, the continent has not enjoyed political stability.
Dictatorships, civil wars, cross border conflicts, as well as rebel movements have dominated the continent’s features. Angola, Mozambique, Great Lakes conflicts, the 1994 Rwandan genocide, Egypt’s one-man rule, military rule in Nigeria in the 1980s and 1990s, and fraudulent elections were some of the things that made Africa a great continent for despots.
Although it has never been scientifically tested, the presence of the ICC in the early 2000s played a role of deterrent and accountability. It presented hope for victims of these dictators and some of them are serving time in prison, among them Charles Taylor, Laurent Gbagbo of Côte d’Ivoire and several of Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) warlords.
South Africa, led by President Jacob Zuma who ascended to power in 2008, is currently in a state of chaos and anarchy.
His predecessor Thabo Mbeki embarked on a number of initiatives to unite Africa such as New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) and African Renaissance. Nowhere were these institutions suggestive of isolating Africa from the international community, but were simply calling for fair trade conditions with the West.
South Africa’s withdrawal from the ICC coincided with the country’s Public Protector’s report that revealed widespread corruption implicating Zuma and some of his cabinet ministers. It is such a bad coincidence with irreparable damage to both Zuma’s image and that of his ruling party.
In a nutshell, he is not prepared to support the rule of law in and outside his country. When he was chairman of the region, Zuma did very little to resuscitate the SADC Tribunal that could resolve State-to-State conflicts, or individual vs State disputes. The tribunal is dead. Lesotho, Democratic Republic of Congo, and Zimbabwe are still a headache and South Africa has failed to provide leadership.
Pierre Nkurunziza has defied all written laws and fought his way to stand for a third term in office. He did that despite protests from his own people and the international community. Burundi has not enjoyed peace in many decades since its independence from Belgium in 1962.
According to BBC, the private media, operating in a turbulent political climate, are subject to self-censorship and occasional government censorship. In June 2013 President Nkurunziza approved a new media law, which critics condemned as an attack on press freedom.
“The law forbids reporting on matters that could undermine national security, public order or the economy,” BBC reported.
The African Union (AU) has neither condemned these laws nor has it directly condemned Nkurunziza for his third term bid. Thousands have lost their lives, and hundreds of thousands more displaced because of his bid for a third term.
Very little is known about this country, which is believed to be the smallest country in Africa. Its President, Yahya Jammeh seized power in a military coup in 1994, then as an army lieutenant has won four widely criticised multi-party elections. He ousted Sir Dauda Jawara and has also had a fair share of coup attempts.
Jammeh is a controversial figure who is believed to possess superstitious powers, and in 2007 he claimed that he could cure AIDS with herbs and bananas. He has attracted international criticism for his attitude towards civil liberties. He has recently been accused of carrying out a brutal crackdown on opposition parties ahead of the December 2016 presidential election.
The BBC reported recently that Jammeh called homosexuals ‘vermin’ in 2014 and said “the government would deal with them as it would malaria-carrying mosquitoes”.
What is surprising about the country’s walk out of ICC Rome Statute is the fact that the ICC chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda is originally from Gambia where she served in many capacities including as Attorney General. Perhaps Jammeh is just trying to show his ‘home-girl’ that under no circumstances will he account to her.
“I don’t believe in killing people. I believe in locking you up for the rest of your life.”
“I will develop the areas that vote for me, but if you don’t vote for me, don’t expect anything.”
The Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) is still struggling to establish its tribunal as promised by President Ian Khama when he took over as its Chairman from Robert Mugabe in 2015.
Whilst it is a process to establish such an important institution, with legal implications on sovereignty of other states, there seems to be no progress in that regard.
So far, Khama has left the SADC chairmanship and he has not reported anything to the citizens of this region. He has handed the chairmanship to King Mswati II whose democratic credentials are very questionable.
According to the SADC website, the Tribunal was suspended in 2010.
“After several judgements ruling against the Zimbabwean government, the Tribunal was de facto suspended at the 2010 SADC Summit. On August 17, 2012 in Maputo, Mozambique, the SADC Summit addressed the issue of the suspended SADC Tribunal.
The SADC Summit resolved that a new Tribunal should be negotiated and that its mandate should be confined to interpretation of the SADC Treaty and Protocols relating to disputes between Member States.” No update as to what progress has been made in this regard.
While US Republican presidential nominee, Donald Trump argues that he wants to make his country great again, the withdrawal of South Africa from the ICC is akin to making Africa great again for dictators and despots.
SA is now playing at the lowest league…ko leroleng… with small countries like Burundi, Gambia and others. Perhaps our candidate for AU Commissioner Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi should not bank on the SA vote.