Africa, the International Criminal Court and the West.....

U.S. President Barack Obama (not a party to Rome Statute)
By Lazarus Danjuma, Deputy Editor-in-Chief

Leaders of the African Union (AU) are meeting in Addis Ababa, the capital of Ethiopia and the seat of the AU Headquarters, to discuss Africa's relationship with the International Criminal Court (ICC), among other issues of importance.

The ICC was created by the Rome Statute which came into effect on July 1, 2002. It's birth was in response to a growing need (purportedly at the time) to complement existing national judicial systems. The ICC may only exercise its jurisdiction when the said national courts (of member and non-member nations ostensibly) are unwilling or unable to investigate or prosecute alleged war crimes, genocide or crimes against humanity.

There are currently 122 member states (including 34 African countries) that are party to the ICC statute while the United States, Israel, Sudan, Egypt, Libya, China and India have refused to sign on, much less ratify the statute.

Russia has however signed on but refused to ratify the Rome Statute.

In the history of the ICC since its inception in 2002, the crux of the ICC's activities has focused on Africa.

Currently, the Prosecutor has opened investigations into eight situations in Africa - the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Uganda, the Central African Republic, Darfur in Sudan, the Republic of Kenya, the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya; the Republic of Côte d'Ivoire and Mali. 

Of these eight, four were referred to the Court by the concerned states parties themselves (Uganda, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Central African Republic and Mali), two were referred by the United Nations Security Council (Darfur and Libya) and two were begun proprio motu by the Prosecutor (Kenya and Côte d'Ivoire). 

Additionally, by Power of Attorney from the Union of the Comoros, a law firm referred the situation on the Comorian - flagged MV Mavi Marmara vessel to the Court, prompting the Prosecutor to initiate a preliminary examination.

The Court has publicly indicted 32 people (all African) and while 
four have had the charges against them dismissed, three of those indicted have died before trial (including the former Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi who was tortured and then summarily executed by Al Qaeda-backed Libyan rebels).  

A close look at these clearly explains why Africans and African leaders are increasingly wary of the current motives of the ICC. 

There is the belief that it has been hijacked by the United States and Western European nations (namely France and Great Britain) with the egregious acquiescence of an increasingly discredited United Nations (through its Security Council) to ensure developing countries (mostly African countries) toe the line of their (Western) socio-economic and political agenda.

A graphic breakdown of who pays the piper (below) serves to further buttress the point being made by African opponents of the Court.

The European Union accounts for 60% of ICC contributions
According to a recent publication in a journal by the Parliament of Canada, "one recent concern of some significance is the ICC prosecutor’s exclusive focus on sub-Saharan Africa. A number of critics have expressed serious reservations about this practice, and voice fear about bias and the perception that the ICC is yet another instrument of foreign intervention in a long history of Western/Northern interference in African affairs.

Even if various geopolitical pressures have simply made it easier for the prosecutor to begin investigations in Africa rather than elsewhere, commentators contend that this sends a negative signal about how the ICC may continue to work, and they maintain that the ICC cannot investigate African crises alone."

The response by the ICC Prosecutor that some of these cases were actually referred to the Court by the countries in question does not hide the fact that there seems to be a systematic design to humiliate, discredit and embarrass the continent and its leaders, as if Africa is the only place where atrocities are being committed.

Furthermore that the same ICC would argue that Kenya (a country with one of the most sophisticated legal systems in Africa) would be seen as unable to handle the trial of its democratically elected leaders, while Libya (a country where the Premier was recently abducted and armed gangs essentially run the country) is seen as "able to handle" the trial of Qaddafi's former security chief, is at best comical and shows once again the blatant bias of the ICC and its adjacency towards Africa and Africans, south of the Sahara. 

Furthermore that the likes of Kofi Annan and Desmond Dutu were essentially recruited to speak against the legitimate concerns of Africans about the ICC and its imperial backers, is telling, giving the unflattering antecedents of those men.

Kofi Annan should be the one to "wear a badge of shame" for his inglorious and grossly incompetent reign as UN Secretary-General. The once-revered Desmond Tutu, on his part, continues to espouse doctrines and ideas that have no "logical" standing and increasingly portrays himself as a senile and out-of-touch rabble-rouser. 

The ICC has the option of either evolving into the real paragon of law and fairness it was intended to be or face increasing scrutiny and challenges from not just Africans, but people who believe in the true values and ideals of justice and equal treatment, under the law. 

That the United States and at least two other members of the U.N. Security Council are not signatories to the Rome Statute raises serious red flags, more-so when one of the latter (the United States) has had a recent history of leaders (George W. Bush and Barack Obama) who have acted with arrogant impunity and utter disregard for international law, to suit their own agenda. 

Africa's leaders must learn to speak and speak clearly with one voice. It's the only way to ensure that their voices are heard and they must do so with indisputable conviction.

The truth is that the ICC and its sister body, the United Nations, have become caustic tools of imperialism and neo-colonialism of declining and desperate imperial powers hell-bent on imposing their "own way of life" on others. 

That will simply not stand.