African Union (AU) Chairman’s accusations that the International Criminal Court (ICC) is conducting a “kind of racial hunt against Africans’” are simplistic, damaging and ridicules. Ethiopian Prime Minister Desalegn’s statement asking The ICC “not pursue Africans" reinforces the image of an irrelevant AU with little influence on African and world events.
While the AU has the right to question the merits of the ICC cases against Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta and his Vice President William Ruto, Hailemariam Desalegn oversimplification of the ICC role portrays the Pan-African organization as insensitive to the plight of hundreds of thousands of African killed by war criminals in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Sudan and Uganda.
Calling the ICC a racist institution chasing African leaders is naïve. Ethiopia’s Prime Minster need to recognize that the DRC, Central Africa Republic, Uganda and recently Mali solicited the International Court to investigate war crimes since the indigenous legal systems are incapable to render justice to the countless African victims killed at the hands of their follow countrymen.
The AU allegation that International court is targeting Africans based on their race while overlooking war crimes suspects in other parts of the world is dubious. The Pan-African organizations assertion implies impunity for human rights abusers
Although since its inception, the ICC has indicted thirty people, all Africans, most of the investigations came at the demand of the concerned countries. In the case of Kenya, however, the ICC prosecutor self-initiated an inquiry in the aftermath of the communal violence following the 2007 presidential election in that country.
The ICC case against Kenyatta materialized only after the failure of Kenyan courts to investigate reported cases of gross human rights violations. Asking the ICC to back off gives the impression of a cover up and show little regard to the victims. If African leaders have nothing to hide, then let the ICC do its job.
Aside from limited success in securing Somalia, the AU has been incapable to resolve major crisis plaguing the continent notably in Libya, Cote d’ivoire and Mali. The specter of an ICC indictment is one of the few deterrents that may persuade warlords and militia leaders in Africa to think twice before committing atrocities.
The AU and Mr. Desalegn positions sound indifferent and self-serving. The truth is, African leaders need international help to solve African conflicts and Africans need the ICC to get justice.
As Amnesty International wrote in a statement that encapsulates the feelings of many Africans, “The Organization of African Unity, the AU’s predecessor organization, was founded to end the innumerable human rights violations meted out on Africans through the yoke of colonialism. Today, the AU must stand firm with the victims of human rights violations allegedly perpetrated by their own leaders.”
The African Union fifth Anniversary went unnoticed outside Africa. In fact, only few independent African media outlet bothered to report on this supposedly historic event. For African activists in Europe, this Western media snub is yet another sign of European indifference to African affairs, However, a closer look at the summit final communiqué, the quality of the debate and the decisions made by the head of state and theirrepresentatives reveals a mediocre performance not fitting for Africa and Africans.
By Hassan Masiky