Wednesday, 17 June 2015

Africans and the International Criminal Court

Sudan president Omar al-Bashir apparently sneaked out of South Africa on 15 June 2015 as a a court was ordering his arrest on an international arrest warrant issued under auspices of the International Criminal Court.

His plane took off from the same Waterkloof military airfield as that which the Gupta family used as a private airstrip in 2013. Are we to understand from South African government disclaimers that they knew northing about his departure that Waterkloof remains a private airstrip, available to any who can afford to pay up?

It is interesting how so many are taking this as standing up to the West. True, ICC has yet to prosecute anyone outside Africa. True, the major powers, US, Russia and China, have neither not signed up for or refuse to ratify the Statute of Rome.

Africa is the one continent where countries with a serious history of human rights abuse have signed up. Most of South America and a large fraction of Asia today no longer has a major human rights problem; same for much of Eastern Europe.

The first map, showing worldwide risk of human rights violation, looks reasonably accurate. Compare it with the second map of parties to the Statute of Rome. Red on the first map (poor human rights) mostly overlaps red on the second map (non-signatories of the Statute of Rome). The biggest exception is in Africa, where a lot of countries with a high risk of human rights transgression are signatories (green on the second map).
World Human Rights (source: Maplecroft)

Signatories (or not: red; yellow=signed, not ratified) to Statute of Rome (source:WikiPedia )
So this explains why Africa has apparently been the main target of the ICC.

In the rest of the world countries with a poor record did not sign up. Why? I strongly suspect it is because aid has been linked to signing up for the ICC.

If Africans do not like this, they have to ask themselves: why are we so dependent on aid? Why do we have so many corrupt, abusive regimes on our continent? Why do we consistently place the “rights” of political leaders above those of ordinary people?

A lot of this arises from a misplaced attempt at recovering lost dignity from the colonial era. Because colonial powers could act with impunity and no regard for justice, our leaders should be able to do so too. That is a terrible reaction to colonialism: it excuses all manner of corrupt and abusive behaviour that would no be tolerable if Africa had never been colonized. How can that liberate us from colonialism? It cannot. And it will not.

What can we as Africans do about it? The answer up to now has been to whinge when outsiders do something. This is our home. About bloody time we fixed it ourselves.