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Life Reflections

The Hague: a throne for justice or a zoo for Africans?

By September 20, 2013June 6th, 2023No Comments

There are many international organs charged with punishing the violation of justice for all but the undisputed champion that has netted the biggest haul of violators so far is the International Criminal Court (ICC).

Today if you take a casual walk around the ICC’s detention centre and look through the bars, you’ll behold such hardcore violators as Charles Taylor, Laurent Gbagbo, Jean-Pierre Bemba, Germain Katanga and Bosco Ntaganda.

They and others eagerly awaited, on the list yet to be apprehended or voluntarily delivering themselves, come from “situations” as varied as République de la Côte d’Ivoire, République Démocratique du Congo, Uganda, the Central African Republic, Sudan, the Republic of Kenya, the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya and Mali. The difference it makes, search me, but note that these are situations, not necessarily countries.

Anyway, the ICC was established as a permanent tribunal to prosecute individuals for genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes and the crime of aggression.

Considering the trail of dehumanising crimes that has blighted the history and geography of this globe, the whole of humanity should celebrate the mission of this noble body and none should be vague about The Hague, seat of the ICC. All who care about the sanctity of human value should join the battle to cause all such violators to head to The Hague.

Yet reports are that the African continent is set to battle the ICC. It has been said in many quarters that the African Union (AU) is convening in Addis Ababa this coming October to, among other items on the agenda, discuss ways of stopping the ICC from having its way in African “situations”. And it is said that Rwanda will be among the lead pushers of this fight.

When you know the history of this abused and aspersed central African country, Rwanda, as many have now come to know, it sounds paradoxical that she should choose not to be on the side of the ICC. In her history, she has suffered colonialism, instigated divisionism, abetted and self-inflicted genocide, false accusations of perpetrating harassment on herself and other abuses. In her geography, in every part of her territory her people thereon have been affected by these abuses. Reason, therefore, points at the ICC as a logical partner in the fight against these abuses.

However, maybe it’s true that, as they say, the devil is in the details. In her history as in the geography of the developed north as she has observed, everything “international” has always given Rwanda reason to smell a rotten rat.

At the Berlin Conference when Belgium, Great Britain and Germany openly shaved off her border regions and appropriated them to their acquired territories, none of the international actors present raised a finger. The abuses that she suffered under colonialism, for having been shared by almost all African countries, need no repeating here as they are an open secret.

More recently, when preparations for the Genocide were practically complete, the UN peace-keeping mission on the ground, as if on a tip-off, packed its bags and left, save for a few observers (in literal sense), whose mission now seemed to be making sure it was not interrupted.

Moreover, when Rwandans nonetheless interrupted that Genocide and were almost through stopping it, the UN Security Council tried to scuttle their effort by unleashing France, whose role in preparations of the same they knew very well. Today, “international” little gives Rwandans any hope that there will be any significant change in this modus operandi.

After all, why is it that, when you look through those bars (not necessarily physical) in the doors and windows of the ICC detention centre, you see Africa? Yet every continent on this globe, if it has not seen victims of genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes and the crime of aggression, it has seen perpetrators.

How many innocents of the Arab world are perishing under the indiscriminate hand of modern-day killing machines from-don’t-ask-me-where? Our central African giant of a country, who has been overseeing its haemorrhage since the first European explorer spotted its resourced underbelly? This non-extravagantly-sized Rwanda, who armed and assisted her maniacal demons of 1994? Why are their faces not reflected behind those bars, together with those African faces?

It is not true, then, that fighting the ICC is fighting international justice. Fighting the ICC is fighting the idea that “international” should refer to one party out of the human race and discriminate against another. It is fighting to harmonise the world community and to reject double standards, where a southerner is inferior and punished for a sin that a superior northerner will not be punished for. International justice is either justice for all or it is injustice. Africa should not be seen to endorse any injustice, whatever its form.

Especially, fighting the ICC is sending the message to the developed world that, under any circumstances, Africa will never succumb to its threat. The threat: “Accept my whip or no aid for you!” Instead of accepting lopsided international justice, Africa should show that it can set up its own justice organs.

African justice for Africa. Either this or a “developed” face will soon be throwing a banana at a black “monkey-face” behind those ICC bars. The Hague will be the seat of an international zoo for Africans.

If you think this is a comical idea, ask yourself when Africans have ever been rated higher.

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