I was in Khartoum a couple of weeks ago. A sweltering heat of over 40 degrees welcomed us as we descended the gangway from a matatu-like Kenya Airways flight from Nairobi. I was not in town to help the ICC arrest Sudan’s indicted President, General Hassan Al Bashir, who travels to carefully selected friendly countries these days as an IDP (internally displaced person) giving a new Presidential meaning to those initials (in his new role as an Internationally Displaced President) taunting the ICC to get him if they can. We will know how brave he is and how much braver Zuma’s South Africa will be should Al Bashir decide to go for his inauguration this Saturday!
Even if I had any delusions that I could become stupidly rich or win a Nobel Peace Prize, or both, for cornering General Bashir on his own turf, the thought soon evaporated because the President was away in a ‘friendly’ non-ICC compliant Ethiopia. The previous weeks he had been in another friendly country with whom his Addis new best friends do not talk, Eritrea. It is obvious that while the ICC sees Bashir as a villain, his neighbours see him as a bridge (to where do not ask me!), proving yet again that ‘one man’s terrorist’ could well be another man’s good friend, or even freedom fighter.
Needless to say, none of the countries the Sudanese President had ‘defiantly’ visited so far has ratified the ICC. The true test of his ‘defiance’ will be for him to go to a country that has ratified the ICC treaty.
I am one of those who actually believe that General Bashir’s regime and his cohorts are guilty of many of the charges against them and should face justice, but I am also not persuaded that the ICC approach is the best course for now. The ICC is not about justice, but the triumph of politics without principle at the international level. It denigrates international law and wins support for dictators because of its selective nature.
How can the US, which has refused to sign up to the ICC, be one of those states that used their undemocratic powers and privilege in the Security Council to secure Bashir’s indictment? The ICC will gain universal credibility the day it indicts Former President George W. Bush and his British poodle and former Prime Minister, Tony Blair and their generals for illegally waging a war of aggression against another country based on lies and disregard for international law and the UN, killing and maiming millions of innocent Iraqis and Afghans. It would be perceived as a credible / neutral arbiter for injured parties when it indicts Israeli generals and politicians for deliberately targeting and killing civilians and destroying civilian property and facilities, including refugee camps and UN buildings in Palestine. Until then the ICC will always be perceived as an instrument for Western Vendetta.
But it was not ICC that took me to Khartoum, a city full of African symbolisms whose rulers insist they are Arab. A city that should be a melting pot for Africans and Arabs and others but whose rulers delude themselves that they are racially and religiously homogenous. It is a country whose Blackness is proclaimed in its full Arabic name, Bilad El Sudan (land of Blacks), but that identity and ownership is ideologically denied by its rulers. I was there to participate in an African Union Commission meeting on popularisation and ratification of the AU charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance.
The Charter was adopted in 2007 by the Assembly of Heads of State and Government. Since then, 28 member states have signed the charter signalling their commitment; a kind of expression of intent. But so far only two states, Ethiopia and Mauritania, have ratified the charter. Both countries are not walking adverts for democracy or free and fair elections or good governance. However the charter needs 15 countries to ratify before it comes into force and any 15 will do. So the AU’s Political Affairs Department led by its Commissioner, Mrs Julia Joiner and the Head of the Governance Division, Dr Mamadu Dia, have been holding regional consultations to popularise the charter and also mobilise stakeholders to get states to ratify it.
The Khartoum meeting was principally between the AU and Regional Economic Communities, invited experts and other stake holders on how to continue to popularise the charter, but more immediately to get it ratified. There are many reasons for the delay in ratification but my own strong belief is that there is no political will on the part of the leaders. All other reasons will give excuses but not convincing explanations.
Many of our leaders sign international instruments and continental ones for political correctness, often donor-driven, but at the back of their minds they hope that their citizens will never know about them and if they do, they are sure that they will never be implemented as long as they are in power. There are also no sanctions for non-compliance. That is why they can sign up and delay ratification. As long as they do not ratify, they have no obligation to comply. Sudan where we had the meeting has not ratified the charter, yet this did not stop it hosting the meeting and we left with no expressed commitment to do so.
The AU has 10 commissioners elected from 5 regions on the basis of two per region. They represent ten countries, none of whom had ratified the charter. If the chairperson’s own country (Gabon) has not ratified and his deputy’s (Kenya) and that of other commissioners including the Political Affairs commissioner (Gambia) who is campaigning for ratification has not done so, what moral or political credibility do they have to persuade other states to do so? It is clear that our leaders do not respect themselves; therefore it would be expecting too much to ask them to respect their citizens. To respect their citizens they have to respect themselves first and mean what they say, or sign and say what they mean or sign.
“Forward ever, backward never”…..Kwame Nkrumah (1909 – 1972)
…………………..DON’T AGONISE! ORGANISE!!………………………