Sunday, June 6, 2010



By Jerry Okungu

Nairobi, Kenya

June 3, 2010

Since the International Criminal Court was established eight years ago in Rome, the Kampala meeting currently in progress is significant in so many ways. Apart from evaluating the record of performance for this important international institution, it is equally important that it happens on an African soil.

For those governments and individuals that have doubted its significance and role the ICC will continue to play in international crime control, the Kampala conference must have set them thinking again. The sheer number and caliber of delegates must have been a pointer to them that this institution has come to stay and may not be wished away that easily.

In the run up to the Kampala meeting that opened early this week, there were rumors in Nairobi that the Kenyan delegation had gone there specifically to scuttle the ICC operations currently in progress in the country. Rumor mills had it that their brief was to go and lobby African member states that form the bulk of signatories to the ICC to drastically whittle down the Court’s mandate and authority to commence any investigations in cases of any alleged crimes against humanity. There were allegations that they would push for this role to be given to the United Nations General Assembly, failing which, they would ask the ICC to suspend its ongoing investigations in Kenya until after the referendum that is due here in August this year.

However, looking at the media reports emerging out of Kampala later this week, it is slowly becoming apparent that these rumors were not entirely baseless. The United States delegation, a nation that is not even a signatory to the Rome Statutes has openly been lobbying for the ICC mandate to be curtailed and made to take orders from an unwieldy beaurocracy such as the United Nations, an organization that stood by as the Rwandans slaughtered themselves in their thousands just sixteen years ago.

The American interest in watering down the ICC authority is well known. Considering that the World’s only super power fears that if she signs the Rome Statutes, her soldiers in expeditions in many parts of the globe may be tried in foreign lands is obvious. Coupled with its awareness that the Court has been a source of discomfort to many murderous regimes in Africa, the USA delegation obviously realized that she would get ready allies at the Kampala meeting to achieve this objective.

The choice of the Kampala meeting for the ICC evaluation meeting could not have been better. It is in Uganda where one ICC candidate is still on the run. Joseph Kony of the Lord’s Resistance Army is still hiding in the jungles of the Congo Forest after his indictment following years of butchering innocent civilians in Northern Uganda. To the West of Uganda, the Rwanda 1994 genocide is still very fresh in the minds of the world community. Though trials of some masterminds and actual killers of the Rwanda massacres are still in progress in Arusha, Tanzania, the wounds of our minds have been slow to heal.

Further West in the DRC, more candidates for the ICC trials are still on the run while a few have been nabbed and are awaiting trial in The Netherlands.

To the East of Kampala is neighboring Kenya that may see six prominent personalities being dragged to the Hague should the ongoing investigations confirm that indeed they were the masterminds and financiers of the 2007-2008 massacres that rocked Kenya following the flawed 2007 general elections.

Next door in Sudan, we have the first sitting president that is wanted in The Hague for his crimes against humanity committed in Darfur a few years ago. Though he is still evading arrest, President Omar El Bashir is a besieged man. He cannot travel freely around the world like a normal Head of State.

Further in West Africa, we have former Liberian president already in The Hague facing charges of Crimes against Humanity he committed in Liberia and Sierra Leone during his years in office.

The fact that the United Nations Secretary General personally attended the Kampala meeting and gave the ICC clear backing should be a warning to those rogue nations that may want to use the UN to derail the ICC operations.

It was equally gratifying that the two East African Heads of State; Presidents Kikwete and Museveni stood firm and reaffirmed their unconditional support for the ICC operations in Africa. Talking to journalists and other delegates attending the Kampala meeting, they made it clear that the region would fully support the Court and that it was crucial in strengthening democracy and good governance in Africa.

Yes, ordinary Kenyans, especially victims of the 2008 violence must have breathed a sigh of relief when the Kenyan delegation reaffirmed that the ICC operations would not be derailed or postponed and that the government of Kenya would fully support the investigations and possible arrests.

That is the way it should be if impunity is to be dealt a blow in this part of the world.,ke