Thursday, May 10, 2012



By Jerry Okungu
Nairobi, Kenya
May 9, 2012

It is yet another season of the usual AU ritual in Addis Ababa. Once more our honorable heads of state are soon meeting to consider their relationship with the much maligned international criminal court at The Hague.

Informed sources intimate that the Council of Minister s have the ICC as an item to be discussed and pass their recommendations for action by the full plenary of the AU heads of state summit.

With disgruntled member states such as Kenya and Sudan and backed by rogue states such as Zimbabwe and a few strong men with no good record of governance, chances of passing a resolution to pull out of the ICC en masse is not a far-fetched idea. This action will be music to the ears of Omar El Bashir, Bob Mugabe and Mwai Kibaki of Kenya.

Though President Kibaki is not a candidate for The Hague court, he has some of his most trusted and close confidantes charged in that court with crimes against humanity arising from the political violence that rocked Kenya in 2008. As it is, President Kibaki has used every trick in the book to get the cases transferred to Kenya with very little success.

With earlier shuttle diplomacy trips to African countries and the UN coming a cropper, several petitions have been lodged with the ICC to get it disqualify itself from hearing the two cases. One by one, these appeals have all failed, culminating in the trials of the four out of six suspects being confirmed.

The last such attempt was to get the EALA parliament to hurriedly debate and pass a motion agitating for the transfer of those cases to the East African Court of Justice. A week later a special summit of the EAC heads of state discussed the EALA motion and appeared to support the idea.

Hardly two weeks later, two developments took place at The Hague. First came the bad news that the appeal by the two accused to make an oral presentation against being tried at The Hague was denied. The court ruled that it had enough evidence to make a decision on the matter without having the accused appearing in person.

A day later, another terse statement came from The Hague ruling out any possibility of having Kenyan cases transferred to Arusha or any other court for that matter. And by that last development, it would appear like the door had been shut on the case.

The Sudan case is different. Omar El Bashir is accused of crimes against humanity based on the Darfur genocide carried out before 2009. He is accused of using his armed forces and Jangaweed militia to exterminate the black natives of Darfur purely on account of their ethnicity.

Bashir is not the only person indicted by the ICC. Some of his generals also stand accused. Bashir should have been tried by now but since 2009, he has continued to defy summons from the ICC. He has since been issued with a warrant of arrest. This development has made it impossible for him to travel outside Africa and even in the continent; his movements have been restricted to a few friendly countries. He can today not travel to Kenya, Malawi and South Africa. In Kenya, a local court has issued a warrant of arrest should he step on Kenyan soil.

It beats logic why the AU should be obsessed with criminal cases at the ICC when there are a myriad problems facing Africa. Here is a war going on between the same Bashir and his former Vice President Salva Kiir over oil fields in the South. That war is already sending thousands of refugees flocking into Kenya and Uganda. And with that renewed war, there already thousands of lives senselessly being lost; mainly helpless villagers with no air cover. Why can’t the AU spend its energies stopping this conflict?

The other nagging problem is the Joseph Kony riddle. Right now we have at least 100 American Special Forces tracking Kony in the forests of Central Africa and the DRC. Why can’t the AU spend its resources tracking down Kony and stop him from killing poor peasants in the forests of Central Africa?

As the AU meets this time, the war in Somalia is yet to be won despite the AMISOM support from the United Nations. AU member states are perennially constrained to contribute meaningful troops and resources to resolve the Somali crisis yet they find time to spend millions of scarce dollars every so often to attend summits with no tangible results for the continent.

As this summit gets under way, there is renewed conflict in DRC Congo sending thousands of refugees into Rwanda. Yet DRC, just like Somalia and South Sudan is a bona fide member of the AU. Don’t these war-torn countries deserve the full attention of the AU?

The world will only respect the decisions of the African body if it starts reigning in on its errant members, got rid of its many wars, fed its own people and decisively dealt with its many avoidable disasters. More importantly, if it started dealing conclusively with institutionalized corruption and kleptocracy in its ranks.