Crime Pays: African Rulers Can Avoid ICC Justice By Committing More Atrocities
Kiir, Museveni, Kagame, Kenyatta; no this is not a lineup
How can African rulers defeat the International Criminal Court?
Ironically it now appears that the best way for African presidents accused of crimes against humanity and war crimes to avoid ICC prosecution is for more rulers on the continent to commit similar atrocities.
The power struggle between South Sudan's President Salva Kiir and his former Vice President Riek Machar has degenerated into ethnic cleansing killings, with armed backers of Kiir killing Nuers and supporters of Machar killing Dinkas.
Machar is an ethnic Nuer while Kiir comes from the majority Dinka.
These killings, which have taken the lives of many hundreds of civilians, qualify as crimes against humanity. There are reports that mass graves have been found near Juba, the capital, controlled by Kiir's supporters; mass graves have also been reported in Bor, the city under the hold of Machar's backers.
Will Kiir and Machar ever be prosecuted? Or will it be impossible since the international community need both men to order their supporters to halt the ethnic cleansing? And if only these two can stop the massacres, how would it be possible to prosecute them? Unless a neutral force can preserve the peace and have both men apprehended.
Recently the African Union in a Special session in Ethiopia made the absurd request to the United Nations that henceforth African heads of state should not be eligible for prosecution by the International Criminal Court regardless of atrocities they can be connected to. Several African rulers accused the ICC of racism.
The propaganda campaign to delegitimize the ICC was initiated by Uganda's Yoweri Museveni, in power for 28 years now, and himself a prime candidate for ICC prosecution. Gen. Museveni has been tied to war crimes in neighboring Congo, as a result of ordering his military there on repeated occasions. Millions of Congolese have died as a result of wars stemming from wars of aggression from Uganda and Rwanda since 1997.
The most recent incursion ended in a debacle when Gen. Museveni's and Rwanda's Paul Kagame's proxy army, M23, was routed by Tanzanian, South African and Malawian forces as part of a UN force that backed Congo's army.
Gen. Museveni is aware of his potential exposure to prosecution: On June 8, 2006, The Wall Street Journal reported that he personally asked then UN Secretary General Kofi Annan to block an ICC probe of alleged crimes by Uganda's army in Congo.
Even though the UN rejected the recent AU request that African rulers be immune from prosecution, it appears that several rulers tied to crimes against humanity could escape accountability after all.As more and more leaders are tied to atrocities against civilians in Africa it will become impracticable to prosecute them; they will thereby gain de facto immunity.Sudan's Omar Hassan al-Bashir has defied an ICC indictment for years and his alleged crimes are beginning to be pushed in the news background as fresh crimes occur in Africa.Rwanda's Kagame also is a prime candidate for prosecution as a result of the atrocities by his army against civilians in Congo -- in addition to the numerous murderous militias he's sponsored there, including M23 as the UN reported. Last December President Obama pinned responsibility for M23's crimes on Gen. Kagame when he personally called him and asked him to pull out his mercenaries.The alleged crimes that Uhuru Kenyatta is linked with in connection to the violence surrounding Kenya's 2008 election-- his own ICC trial may be adjourned soon -- pales in comparison to the Congo atrocities that Uganda's Museveni and Rwanda's Kagame are linked to.
In the Central African Republic, the self-appointed "President" Michel Djotodia seized power in March after he violated a peace treaty and overthrew President Francois Bozize.
Djotodia's Seleka rebels have been slaughtering civilians for months now, prompting an intervention by France and AU forces. Ironically, the intervention force will prop up Djotodia since he no longer controls the very forces he unleashed against civilians. Under the circumstances, how will he brought to account?In Nigeria, there have been several news accounts of widespread atrocities by the military in its battle to contain the Boko Haram. Will any Boko Haram leaders or President Goodluck Jonathan or his military commanders ever be brought to justice? How and under what circumstances?It's becoming increasingly clear that the ICC cannot be expected to deliver justice by prosecuting African rulers who have committed or continue to carry out atrocities.
The more crimes these rulers carry out, the chances that any one of them will ever be brought to account declines.