Yesterday I was reading an article on the Sudan Tribune website, where again the ruling Sudanese National Congress Party makes claim that the ICC is a form of colonialism and that the government sees any Sudanese participation in the ICC Review Conference as “treason.” The government of Sudan is clearly isolated in its views, as this is certainly not the tone coming out of Africans, including Sudanese, engaging in the ICC Review Conference. In another article published in the New Vision newspaper here in Uganda, President Museveni of Uganda is himself calling on Africa to embrace the court. And in the last week, President Jacob Zuma of South Africa vowing to abide by his country’s obligation to arrest President Bashir, should he step foot in his territory.
Africa is at the forefront of all discussions during the ICC Review Conference. Currently, all country situations coming under the ICC are African: Uganda, Democratic Republic of Congo, Central African Republic, Sudan, and now Kenya. The first three countries were referred to the court by the governments themselves, while Sudan was referred by the United Nations Security Council. Kenya is the first case initiated by the ICC Prosecutor.
In the aftermath of some of the most horrific conflicts in Africa in the 1990s – including Rwanda and Liberia- Africans were at the center of advocacy efforts for an international court to try gross violations of humanitarian law. In fact, of the current 111 states that have ratified the Rome Statute, 30 are African. African civil society has been playing a huge role throughout the development of the ICC. Over 800 African civil society organizations are members of the Coalition for the International Criminal Court, representing approximately one-third of the global membership.
And yet we hear the condemnation of the Sudanese government and lobbying efforts by the African Union to encourage member states to forfeit their commitments.
So how is the Court not for Africans?
As Wangari Maathai has said, “good African leaders have nothing to fear from the ICC.” Impunity still rules across the continent, but the people want their leaders to be held accountable for the crimes perpetrated against them.
Kofi Annan, in his opening remarks to the ICC Review Conference said that the “absence of justice emboldens the perpetrators.” Further, Africans want justice in their own courts, as well as internationally when needed. Annan reflected that he is proud of the African continent’s contributions, as a region that played a large, progressive role in the formation of the court.
The ICC attacks IMPUNITY, not Africa. Justice is a partner, not an impediment to peace. The future of international justice is in the Rome Statute. All to say that, “Africa wants this Court.”