Saving African dictators from the ICC

Published on Pambazuka News, by Alemayehu G. Mariam, Oct 10, 2013.

Africa’s anti-ICC crusaders who are threatening mass withdrawal from the Rome Statute are in a desperate last-ditch effort to rescue their brethren Kenyatta and Ruto from the ICC hook and simultaneously immunize themselves against any future legal accountability for crimes against international law. 

I defend the International Criminal Court ICC not because it is a perfect judicial institution or system but because it is an imperfect one that can be perfected over time with the support and cooperation of the community of nations. I also defend the ICC because cunning race-baiters have used their poison-tipped spear of “race hunting” accusations to disarm, impale and render it defenseless. It is conventional wisdom that a well-timed unsubstantiated accusation of racism has the power to devastatingly incapacitate a targeted individual or institution and wickedly debase the truth. That is the plot of the political theatre to be staged at the African Union extraordinary assembly on October 11-12, 2013 … //


  • Hailemariam’s provocative and inflammatory accusations suggest that he wants to vanquish the ICC in Africa and cast himself as Africa’s “Jack the Giant Slayer”. (His predecessor, dubbed one of the “new breed of African leaders”, also suffered from an incurable case of delusions of grandeur.) Hailemariam and his comrades, including Thabo Mbeki of South Africa, Jakaya Kikwete of Tanzania, Yoweri Museveni of Uganda and others are trying hard to resurrect and parade in the African and international media colonial and imperialist boogeymen robed in ICC regalia. The Rwandan dictator Paul Kagame contemptuously characterized the ICC as a form of “imperialism” that “seeks to undermine African countries”. These African “leaders” have mounted a slick propaganda campaign to depict the ICC as a racist institution that has “contempt” for Africans. They seek to portray themselves as innocent lambs relentlessly hounded by the vicious ICC wolf.
  • The fact of the matter is that Hailemariam and the other anti-ICC crusaders are threatening mass withdrawal from the Rome Statute in a desperate last-ditch effort to rescue their brethren Kenyatta and Ruto from the ICC hook and simultaneously immunize themselves against any future legal accountability for crimes against international humanitarian law. They aim to perpetuate and preserve their culture of impunity and criminality by demonizing, scandalizing, discrediting and threatening the ICC. They seek to cloak and disseminate their self-serving propaganda in a race-tinged narrative of a righteous moral struggle of an ascendant Africa (an Africa in Renaissance) against the wicked witchhunting West which stealthily and nefariously uses the ICC to keep Africa in its place.


We have a very good idea of the game plan African “leaders” will use when they gather for their anti-ICC orgy at the AU this Friday. Their talking points and strategies to emasculate and incapacitate the ICC have already been laid out by Ambassador/ Permanent Representative Macharia Kamau of the Permanent Mission of Kenya in a 13-page CONFIDENTIAL (secret) letter to Menan Kodjo, President of the Security Council for in May 2013.

Kamau’s secret letter – poorly crafted and edited, incoherently argued, logically disjointed, and embarrassingly convoluted — is nothing less than a counter-indictment of the ICC and the Office of the Prosecutor (OTP) (a branch of the ICC that investigates and prosecutes genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes currently headed by Gambian lawyer Fatou Bensouda). Kamau’s essential message to the U.N. Security Council (UNSC) in his secret letter is straightforward: The ICC and OTP have become a double-headed Frankenstein poised to devour Kenyatta and Ruto. The U.N. Security Council must urgently intervene and get Kenyatta and Ruto off the ICC hook by “immediately terminat[ing] [their] cases at the Hague without much further ado”. Kamau desperately pleads with the UNSC to create a situation where bygones will be bygones and the alleged crimes committed by Kenyatta and Ruto will be quietly consigned to the dustbin of history. In making such bizarre and ludicrously outlandish plea and demands, Kamau presents at least nine separate arguments.

1. Kenyatta and Ruto should be let off the ICC hook because prosecuting them violates Kenyan sovereignty:

  • Kamau claims the prosecution of Kenyatta and Ruto is “an affront to the domestic policy and internal affairs of our sovereign Republic of Kenya.” He argues Kenya’s sovereignty is “being undermined and manipulated using different actors from within and without the territory of Kenya. As in the past, civil society bodies are currently being used by dark forces to espouse their own policies using the Rome Statute as a conduit and the ICC as the manifestation of this interference.”
  • Sovereignty is the first refuge of scoundrel African dictators. The African “leaders” who are now swaggering to defend the sovereignty of Kenya were silent as a church mouse when France directly intervened in the fighting in the Ivory Coast following that country’s November 2010 election and reasserted full control over its former colony. The AU sat on its duff twiddling its thumbs and watching from the sidelines. When France intervened to “liberate” northern Mali from terrorist insurgents in January 2013, African leaders did not invoke the principle of sovereignty to keep French troops out. Once again the AU sat on its duff twiddling its thumbs and watching from the sidelines.
  • Sovereignty is neither a legal defense nor a political argument against accusations of crimes against humanity, war crimes and genocide. The sovereignty argument made by African leaders today to invalidate ICC jurisdiction is indistinguishable from the sovereign immunity assertions made long ago by monarchs and kings who believed that they were subject to no earthly authority, deriving the right to rule directly from the will of God. Only God can judge an unjust king. Only an African dictator can judge an unjust African dictator!
  • African “leaders” want to use the shield of sovereignty to avoid accountability and perpetuate their culture of impunity and human rights abuses. St. Augustine said, “In the absence of justice, what is sovereignty but organized robbery?” Or organized extortion by threat of mass withdrawal from the Rome Statute? The bogus sovereignty argument must be rejected.

2. Kenyatta and Ruto are entitled to immunity from prosecution because they were found “innocent” in the March 2013 election: … //


… 9. The ICC prosecution of Kenyatta and Ruto is pointless:

  • Kamau claims it is pointless to prosecute a “supreme head of state and his deputy by a prosecutor of the very institution to which the state is a party” in “an off shore trail (sic) that has no popular resonance and that serves no national or international purpose.” If it is pointless to prosecute heads of state for gross abuses of human rights, it becomes equally pointless to prosecute rebel and militia leaders who commit similar abuses. The pursuit of justice is never pointless, particularly to the powerless, helpless, defenseless and voiceless innocent victims of injustice. It was H.I.M. Haile Selassie, the first chairman of the organization of African Unity (AU’s predecessor) who made that point crystal clear over one-half century ago: “Throughout history, it has been the inaction of those who could have acted, the indifference of those who should have known better, the silence of the voice of justice when it mattered most, that has made it possible for evil to triumph.” To silence justice in the International Criminal Court because the defendants are heads of state is to make “possible for evil to triumph”.



  • Articles 4(m) and 4(o) of the Constitutive Act of the African Union impose upon African countries the affirmative duty of upholding “human rights, the rule of law and good governance” and “reject[ing] impunity for crimes”. AU’s threatened mass withdrawal from the Rome Statute on October 13 is in itself a flagrant violation of this core principle of the Act. Ironically, the AU will bury the Rome Statute along with its own core principle on October 13.
  • There is a simple and unavoidable moral choice — rather a moral imperative to be reckoned with — to be made in the face of the threatened mass exodus of African countries from the Rome Statute: Stand up to those who sneer at the rule of law or stand with those who at least make an effort to uphold it. Standing up for the International Criminal Court is standing up against African war criminals, criminals against humanity and perpetrators of genocide!
  • The time to defend the ICC is NOW!

(full long text).

Link: ICC on en.wikipedia and it’s External Links.

(see also: Welcome to our new blog: politics for the 99%).

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