Friday, July 6, 2012



The AU Headquarters in Addis Ababa

By Jerry Okungu
Nairobi, Kenya
July 4, 2012

Africa cannot afford to be a copy cat this time with human rights violations.
It will be a disaster if out of anger and frustrations with the ICC, our leaders in this continent went ahead to set up a rival court in Arusha or elsewhere in the continent.

The last time radicals such as Kwame Nkrumah tried to set a United States of Africa on the model of the United States of America, the plan flopped badly. The American model is unique to the Americans. It cannot be replicated elsewhere. It is the reason the European Union is on the brink of collapse even before it realizes a political federation.

The American federation was born out of two bloody wars. First the British colonies had to revolt against the crown in England and fought a protracted American War of Independence. However, soon after the anti-colonial war was over, Americans turned their guns against each other and fought an even more vicious Civil War that pitted the Northerners against Southerners. These were the major conflicts that created the world’s super power. When the pro unionists emerged victorious, the great American nation was born.

The reason the Soviet Empire collapsed was because the Russian satellite states in Eastern Europe and parts of Asia did not enter into federal treaties with the Russian central state after the Second World War. They were merely annexed by the mightier neighbor next door. Had Russia negotiated a federal system with Eastern European states it was keen on forming a federation with soon after Second World War, the USSR would probably still exist.

Forming voluntary unions during peace time is an uphill task. It is the reason the European States have been toying with the idea for more than half a century without much success. If the world does not watch, a chance of having no European Union two decades from now is a real possibility.

In Africa, we say that if you see your polygamous neighbour in a happy union with his many wives and children; don’t go out and marry the same number of women expecting the same happiness. If you do; you will leave to regret it for the rest of your life. This is because you will never know the formula for his happiness.

The African Union has been having a go at the ICC for the better part of three years since Sudanese warlord was charged with crimes against humanity over the Darfur massacres. This development sent shivers down the spines of many autocratic leaders still ruling their states with iron fists. In Omar El Bashir they saw their future in a crystal ball. If Omar went to The Hague and got convicted, chances were The Hague beast would come back to claim more victims from the continent.

As things stand now, over 32 states in Africa that had signed The Rome Statute are having second thoughts. They are beginning to see the ICC as a colonial court designed to recolonize and punish the natives of this continent and in the process humiliate their distinguished leaders.

Therefore in their wisdom; if they can set up a court to rival the ICC, there will be no need for African criminal leaders to be humiliated at the ICC which is the white man’s court. Other than this emotional outburst, there is no other compelling reason why Africa needs to set up its own ICC.

The quest for an African ICC gained momentum when six Kenyans were arraigned in court at the ICC to face charges of crimes against humanity following the 2008 post election violence. The President of Kenya together with a section of the coalition government was hell bent on derailing their trials through elaborate shuttle diplomacy among the AU and UN member states. When all attempts to transfer the cases back to Kenya failed, some clever genius lobbied the East Africa states to suggest the idea of an Arusha ICC to the AU summit. The resolution was quickly adopted.

There is nothing wrong with Africa having its own regional court to try crimes against humanity. What is wrong is to set it up simply because leaders in the continent have some gripe with an international court at The Hague. They must have better and compelling reasons to set it up. It has to be carefully thought out with funding and human resource carefully planned and acquired.

As it is, most African states are banana republics. Their national budgets still depend on the same colonial masters that must bridge the gaping gaps in their national budgets. Regional blocs like the COMESA, EAC and even the AU itself cannot even build their own headquarters without support from friendly countries.

How will it sound if after embarking on the African ICC project, the AU turns around and asks the EU, Canada, Japan, China and the USA to help fund the operations of the African ICC?

Yes, the ICC may have its faults. Indeed it is not perfect. However it would make more sense if the African states set out to reform its operations, infrastructure, policies and management for the good of all humanity.