Bashir (Sudan), left, and Zuma (South Africa) shake hands.

KEMBUJE—In the year 2000, South Africa became the 8th African country to ratify the Rome Statute. Since then thirty-four African nations became party to the Statute that established the International Criminal Court (ICC). This meant that Africa was the most represented continent at the court. But sixteen years down the line, South Africa, like Burundi, is withdrawing from the court. Reports claim that South Africa does not wish to violate its obligations to the AU to protect the diplomatic immunity of AU heads of state, hence it can no longer be party to the Rome statute.

Hitherto, all the thirty-four African nations acknowledged full-well the purpose of the ICC and their obligations to it. Not one of them found any contradictions there until now. Also, part of the ratification of the Rome Statute gave the states the liberty to issue a declaration or make a reservation as regards to their concerns about the treaty. Only a few of African countries made declarations regarding Article 87 of the Rome Statute which concerns the channels and languages that the ICC will communicate with the state parties. While many European, Asian and Latin American states made various reservations and declarations on other provisions to state their concerns and obligations, no African country made any reservation about any other provision of the treaty. Yet, some sixteen years hence, South Africa and Burundi said they wish to pull out echoing the usual banter of the AU itself, which has been urging its members to pull out of the ICC since the indictment of Omar Bashir of Sudan and Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya.

What a Basket of Deplorables?

I think Africans should begin to do more reflection on the state of affairs in Africa so that the people will begin to realise their obligations to themselves and do the needful. For it is clear that indeed Africa does not have the requisite leadership that is prepared to play its rightful role to move the people forward. I have written extensively on this issue but let me state once again some basic facts so that we can understand where we stand.


Human Rights Issues of Concern Across Africa

First, in Malabo, Equatorial Guinea. When the AU met there in 2014 one of the decisions they took was to amend the protocol establishing the African Court on Human and People’s Rights to stop the court from investigating or prosecuting sitting heads of state or senior government officials. A year before this, Rwanda withdrew its declaration that allows its citizens or NGOs to take the government to court for violation of human rights by the government. Since its set up about 10 years ago, only about half of African countries have in fact ratified its protocol.

In the protocol, Article 5, Rule 33—one of the Rules of Procedure of the Court—allows not only states but also NGOs and individuals to sue their governments before the court for rights violations. But for NGOs and individuals to be able to do that, the respective government has to first make a declaration that it recognises the jurisdiction of the court to hear such petition. Hence, since its set up only seven countries have issued such declaration to allow their citizens or NGOs to petition the government before the court. They are Burkina Faso, Ghana, Malawi, Mali, Rwanda, Tanzania and Cote d’Ivoire.  But now this has reduced to six because in 2013 Rwanda withdrew its declaration since an opposition politician, Victoire Ingabire, complained that her imprisonment for genocide denial was politically motivated and therefore she is challenging the Rwanda government for that.

Then you come to 2015 when both Rwanda and Congo conducted sham referendums to change their constitution in order to prolong the terms of their presidents by manipulating term limits. Already presidents Denis Sassou Nguesso and Paul Kagame have both served more than 20 years in power. For Kagame in Rwanda, if the changes follow accordingly he could be the president until 2034!

As if this is not enough, we now have the Democratic Republic of Congo also change the constitution to allow Joseph Kabila to remain in power until April 2018 when there should have been elections in this month October 2016 as his last term. Kabila, with whom I was born in the same year of 1971 has been president since 2001, i.e. 15 years ago already after inheriting from his late father Laurent Kabila. Meantime in Gabon, the elections of last month, September were rigged by the incumbent Ali Bongo who has also inherited the presidency from his late father Omar Bongo when he died in 2009 after 40 years in power.

In all these cases the AU of course merely makes cosmetic appearances with a mission and then issue vague and scanty short statements calling for peace and calm only to go mute. Burundi is a case in point where the AU could not do a thing about that buffoon of a tyrant Pierre Ngurunziza who is tearing his country apart since he rigged elections in 2015. He has already been president for 23 years.

In the meantime, thousands of Sudanese especially those in Darfur continue to be massacred by the Janjanweed and other armed criminal militias of Omar Bashir. Hundreds of Kenyans massacred in the wake of the 2007/8 elections have perished with no one held to account as Pres. Uhuru Kenyatta and his accomplices managed to walk their way out of the ICC and are now urging the AU and all African countries to withdraw. As at this moment, the government of Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn of Ethiopia is cracking down brutally against the Oromo population of Ethiopia who are calling for equal rights and justice in their own country. Yet AU is headquartered in the middle of Addis Ababa. In the Gambia, after a brutal crackdown on protestors in April 2016 and the subsequent jailing of Ousainou Darboe, leader of the biggest opposition party and his entire executive members among tens of supporters, the AU mission to the country said the matter is a domestic issue to be dealt by Gambians. One feels only nausea if you imagine the situation in Egypt or Eritrea not to mention Zimbabwe or Cameroun.

Thus from the West to the East, the North to the South, regime after regime, president after president continue to crackdown on Africans in all forms and shapes with all kinds of tools and methods without hindrance. Where they do not gun down protestors, rest assured these regimes will arrest, detain and torture people to death. Even in countries we tout as democratic such as Ghana, Senegal, Cape Verde or Botswana, 20 years of stable governance could not still get majority of our people out of poverty and deprivation. These regimes continue to fail to put in place right policies and programs to ensure efficient and accountable governance that the masses of the people can enjoy the fruits of their sovereign wealth and their labour.

Instead in these so-called democratic countries where regular free and fair elections take place with a peaceful transfer of power the votes could not still ensure an affordable balanced diet and decent standard of living for the common man and woman in Dakar or Accra or Gaborone or Praia. But the height of the betrayal of these countries is how presidents Sall or Mahama or Carlos Fonseca continue to appear as if they do not see the violations in Africa. They choose to remain quiet and ignore the plight of Africans at the hands of predatory leaders. Why do they not rebuke their peers for these atrocities?  Instead we see hundreds and thousands of the youth of Africa perishing in the Sahara Desert and the Mediterranean Sea as they flee their motherland for lack of hope and peace and justice. Such is the life of an African in the midst of abundance in 2016.


South Africa’s reasons for Withdrawing from the ICC

Thus when we consider all of these, to now imagine that South Africa will have nothing to think about other than to pull out of the ICC because it could not arrest Omar Bashir when he visited the country in 2015, is the highest form of betrayal and disgrace. Even when at the time the South African High Court did make a ruling that indeed the government of Jacob Zuma had a constitutional responsibility to arrest Bashir, the government refused claiming that by the time they got that order from the court, Bashir had already left the country. But now if South Africa is claiming its responsibility under the AU Charter to protect diplomatic immunity of African heads of state as the reason to leave the ICC, what about its responsibility to the very constitution of South Africa itself? Is Jacob Zuma trying to tell us that his government gives primacy to the AU Charter and to an anti-African person like Bashir over and above the constitution of South Africa? Is Jacob Zuma telling Africans that the immunity of Omar Bashir is more valuable than the lives of the people of Darfur who are being massacred because of the ridiculous racist policy of Bashir and Khartoum?

The history of Sudan is clear. It is a country inside Africa where the Arab-speaking population of the north feel they are Arabs and not Africans and therefore think they are better than rest. This is the whole idea behind the war in that country for decades that has led to the division of the country into Sudan and South Sudan in 2011. Hence Bashir and his government are a racist apartheid regime for which South Africa should be the last, if ever, to recognize and sympathize with that regime.

By its own history, South Africa should have been the first and leading voice for justice, equality and human rights in the world today. That Jacob Zuma would protect an African sellout like Bashir who is no different from Apartheid criminals such as Hendrik Verwoerd, PW Botha and Pik Botha is a huge insult to each and every African; an irreparable betrayal of the martyrs of the 1960 Sharpeville Massacre, 1976 Soweto Uprising, and 2012 Marikana Massacre.

The decision by the South African government to withdraw from the ICC because of Bashir is a direct affront and a shameful dishonor of the life and struggles of Mangaliso Sobukwe, Steve Biko, Lilian Ngoyi, Walter Sisulu, Oliver Tambo, Chris Hani and Nelson Mandela and the millions who have perished as they stood up to fight against injustice and inequality in South Africa. The decision by the government of Jacob Zuma is a painful betrayal of the struggle and solidarity that each and every African gave to South Africa to see to it that it was free. After all of that, to imagine that Jacob Zuma would decide to align with individual presidents against the millions of African citizens clearly shows that Zuma is a man of vanity bereft of any iota of responsibility, morality and patriotism. Here is a man full of shame; an embodiment of low self esteem and treachery of unprecedented proportions never seen before in the history of mankind!

How now should African citizens enjoy life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness and security in their homeland? When its leaders and the governments close all avenues from where they could obtain justice and enjoy the fruits of their land and labor. In each and every African country, the leaders and governments have weakened the justice delivery system which they continue to manipulate to ensure that the masses are never able to hold the government to account.

Even when they setup the African Court and before it the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights, these African leaders and their governments disregard the rulings of these institutions with impunity. How therefore could the African citizen enjoy his or her human rights? ICC would have been irrelevant and unnecessary if indeed domestic, sub-regional and continental justice systems were strong, effective and accountable. But how can they be when you have these kind of leaders litter this hapless continent and saturate its AU whose current Chairperson is no other than Idriss Deby, a certified armed and dangerous tyrant, who is notorious for election rigging, torture and summary execution of his citizens in Chad. Shame.


  1. This is the first instalment of a two-series essay from Grandmother Africa on South Africa’s recent announcement to withdraw from the International Criminal Court. In this essay, Madi Jobarteh’s argument is two-fold. One – Africa has no court to which individuals or organizations of member states can seek redress on human rights violations. This means that the ICC represents the only viable alternative at the moment in buffering human rights abuses of said dictators in Africa. Two – the mere act of South Africa withdrawing from the court flies in the face of the nation’s own shameful history of apartheid. South Africa claims that because it cannot violate its obligation to the AU – for example, in arresting Omar Bashir of Sudan who was visiting South Africa but had an ICC warrant for his arrest – it can no longer be party to the Rome Statute. For a man who has been accused of ethnic cleansing in Sudan, it seemed probable that the experiences of Apartheid South Africa may come to bear on South Africa’s Zuma to issue Bashir’s arrest. But Jacob Zuma declined to hand over Bashir to the ICC.
    In this way Madi Jobarteh claims that South Africa’s decision to withdraw from the ICC represents a gross disrespect for the heroes and heroines who fought to end the Apartheid regime in South Africa.
    Enjoy! And stay tuned for the next essay by Jehuti Nefekare in favor of South Africa’s withdrawal.

  2. I understand the points he makes but to have a court set up and controlled by countries themselves guilty of human rights abuses and war crimes to only prosecute Africans makes the court’s credibility suspect. Therefore that body cannot be the legitimate body to prosecute anybody. If they begin to prosecute their own war criminals and human rights violators at the ICC then I will buy its credibility, but until then, it has no credibility.

  3. John, I am inclined to do the other, stay with both the ICC and UN, for as they say “the devil you know, is better than the angel you don’t know”. Looking at our track records in Africa with regards to human rights issues, governance and the provision of developmental infrastructures, etc, remaining in such international organisations, at the moment, is the only avenue for checks and balances / redress for some of us. Although, I agree that sometimes Africans and African issues does seem to be treated as “2nd or 3rd Class Citizens”; come to think of it, our leaders are treating us with the same contempt that we feel distasteful of

  4. John Owusu. Conditionally I agree with you but I do not think this is the time yet. On the UN i think it needs reform, i.e. the Charter because as it is currently, it is informed by events of the 2nd Imperialist War aka WWII. But it is still a tool that holds more good for us than otherwise. Thus my beef with your suggestion is that if Africa leaves the UN and ICC, it serves to benefit only the corrupt and useless leaders we have and not the masses because indeed the UN and ICC do have means to restrain bad leaders in spite of the power play and politics. Even as they are presently constituted the UN gives some protection to our citizens because our states have ratified international human rights instruments for which they are held to account. The way the international human rights work, all states of the world are monitored and held to account to some degree and sometimes when we see our governments seem to behave well and respect human rights, it is not because of their free will. It is usually because they are under pressure from UN human rights system that many of us do not know. For example the Gambia government abolished FGM in 2015 primarily because of pressure from the UN human rights system. Every report of the Gambia through the UN reporting system the issue of FGM is highlighted. Similarly the ICC is not coming for Mahama or Macky Sall or Kufour or Kikwete and similar leaders because by and large those ones are not committing atrocities and respect fundamental freedoms. Thus we need to see who in fact is the ICC coming after in Africa and how did it come for those leaders. we will realize that it is coming for the bad guys who are useless to you and me. Africa does not deserve Bashir and Pierre Mbemba and Joseph Kony etc. Thus when we speak for the removal of Africa from ICC we are in fact defending those bad leaders and seeking to lift the obligation to respect and protect human rights off the heads of our leaders and governments. In view of that I strongly argue that Africa needs the UN and ICC at this moment. We would not need these institutions when we have established an Africa that is democratic and well governed based on human rights. You see, we cannot continue to make the colonial and anti-imperialist argument when we are not acting differently from the colonialists and imperialists. Our leaders who like to sing the anti-imperialist song are no different from those very imperialists and therefore we must be careful not to buy into their tune when in the final analysis the masses of our people are going to be the losers. There is no leader in Africa who has the moral authority to condemn colonialism and imperialism because they are all using and benefit from colonial and imperialist systems and tools to oppress and exploit our people. Otherwise let them unite today and remove all these colonial-created borders and legal and political systems out of Africa.

  5. This is a tough one. I understand that Africa needs a court. So, in this sense I agree with Madi Jobarteh. We need a court to which we can seek to put demons behind bars. But again when you have crazy children in your family, you don’t ask parents from another family to come in and discipline them for you. This is why I am torn between both approaches. I think that there’s an obvious way forward here. Entreat the AU to scrap the new law that prevents any one or organization from filing human rights complaints of their own leaders at the AU court.

    Or better, let’s strengthen the Judicial Systems in our own countries. This for me is key since when you have crazy children in your own family you come together and decide how to discipline them. If lawmakers cannot come together in all seriousness and fearlessness on the national level, how can we expect them to come together on the continental level? We, in Africa, need to start showing that we can take care of our own problems. All problems are not settled through a court. If it must be settled through court, then sure, let us make our Supreme Courts good enough to address them. But sometimes brave men need take the law into their own hands and remove these crazies. Some African nations are ruled by crazy men because normal men refuse to do anything about it. Normal men are afraid to die.

  6. I would like to come at this issue from a slightly different angle. I, of course , agree that Africa has its share of crazy leadership. In fact we need to do something urgently to prevent more crazy people from abusing the African people. The ideal case would be for the AU to set up its own court and have each member sign on to submit to it.

    However, the reason why I support African countries leaving the ICC is not so much because only African leaders have appeared before the court. One of the things that is holding us back is our weakness to stand for goals that may benefit us but anger the west. Defiance is a NECESSARY part of breaking free from western hegemony. It’s builds a psychological muscle that allows us to dare to make decisions for Africa for the benefit of Africa. I am not saying that allowing human rights abuses to go unpunished benefits Africa. I am saying we need to create our own regional institutions under the AU that deal with African problems. I am saying that I would like to see an Africa before I die that has the testicular fortitude to stand up against institutions designed to hold us accountable but look the other way when the super powers misbehave. The job now is to keep our leaders accountable, not to a foreign court, but to the African people!

  7. Solomon Azumah-Gomez Indeed it must not be a difficult decision to take. I hear you but I think if perceive the matter in terms of the analogy you give then we may miss the point most likely. This is because that something is logical is not necessarily true or sound. And some of these issues are also not solved thru logic. So by your analogy if Madi’s kids are unruly certainly I will not go to Solomon to ask for help, vice versa. I may try to protect my kids and cover for them. But that also create more problems for them and their parent…if we follow your logic. Thus this matter has to be looked at from a very scientific, objective and analytical way, given the history and the circumstances. The AU as is presently constituted cannot create any effective justice system because that would presuppose the Assembly of Heads of State which is the supreme body has members who have created such effective systems in their own individual countries in the first place. Our second predicament is that more than half of Africa’s citizens are not involved in the governance of their country as active, informed and interested stakeholders. Am from the Gambia and because of the socio-cultural beliefs and misguided Islamic beliefs most of the people merely accept the status quo. Many consider themselves as not important or powerful or well placed enough to effect change. Most of the people lack the necessary political awareness to understand their worth and responsibility in the governance process. These and many factors therefore have made most of the citizens dormant and even uninformed defenders of the status quo. Thus in such a situation, one needs a highly self conscious leader to understand the weaknesses of his or her society and deliberately seek to empower them. Unfortunately we lack such men and women in politics and the intelligentsia to embark on this journey. Thus even if you do not wish to be dictator, one might be turned into one unconsciously. One example is our former president Jawara. To give the devil its due, the man had not ambitions to be a dictator, yet he ruled the Gambian for 30 years such that even when in 1992 he declared his intention to step down, his party leaders and citizens begged him to stay on. People wept saying the Gambia cannot survive without him. Thus here is a clear case in which if the man wanted to be tyrant, he had the license to be so. The socio-cultural setting and the profile of the populace was a fertile ground for dictatorship. We were a bit lucky that he has personal traits that did not endear him to tyranny. But under the same circumstances we have the next president and all things remaining equal he became a tyrant that until now Gambians could not even understand how to handle him. The story can be seen in all parts of Africa. Thus the UN and ICC just like the IMF, WB, FIFA, Commonwealth, Francophonie, and many more global legal and political institutions have become some kind of necessities for which we cannot abandon them outright, yet they do not also uplift us as it should be. If we abandon them under our present circumstances we will suffer more. If we continue to go along with them, we will have some good but some bad as well. This is why my position is we still keep with them because that gives us more benefits than if we left them. The task we need to do, as you said is to really seek the transformation of Africa. We can start at country level or at continental level of both. And part of that process is to allow ICC to pluck those bad apples out of our midst as we use that fact to empower, enlighten, organize and mobilize our masses to agitate for a new Africa.

  8. Atiga Jonas Atingdui. Again I think this is a dream many share, and it is a popular line that even the African leaders sing all the time even though dishonestly. They always proclaim, “African Solutions: Let us solve our own problems!” But in practice this is not happening simply because these leaders lack vision and patriotism first, and then they are not held to account by our people. The people cannot also do that because majority are politically ignorant and therefore majority are removed from the governance system and processes. Only election time they engage and even there majority are uninformed. Then we also lack conscientious leadership that is pretty informed, honest and patriotic. And I can tell you all the necessary treaties, protocols, institutions do exist created by the OAU and the AU. Yet these leaders will not respect the very decisions they many. The first time I saw the AU Agenda 2063, I told some colleagues whether the AU had seen the OAU Abuja Treaty for the Establishment of the African Economic Community of 1991 and the earlier Lagos Plan of Action 1980 – 2000 for the Economic Development of Africa. My brother if indeed our leaders have followed these plans by now the whole of Africa would be at the same level as South Korea and heading towards surpassing Germany by 2020. I swear. But once again these leaders woefully failed because we do not even have leaders. We just have weak men and women who are largely immoral, miseducated, unpatriotic and dishonest. Since 1957, we can count the less than 10 actual leaders who had vision and determined to transform the lives of our people. The rest are the opposite.

  9. I agree with Madi Jobarteh.I do not support the withdrawal. Whichever way you look at it, we still need the DETERRENCE effect of the ICC, untill our own regional institutions have come onstream and can bite. Right now, withdrawal will create a dangerous vacuum of impunity, on the continent that spawned Amin,Bokassa, Bashir, maniacal beasts who prey on their own people, as well as numerous genocidal non-state killers and rapists causing apocalyptic mayhem in the great lakes region. We must be mindful of our fledgling democracies and the tendency for these characters to emerge after election disputes. Withdrawal would make them breath easier. A bandit who destroyed priceless cultural artifacts in Timbuktu was recently jailed more than ten years in the Hague. The next bandit will think twice. We can analyze this thing from various angles, but for the ordinary people of Africa living in the shadows of impunity, withdrawal is bad news.

  10. I can’t agree more Johnson Ayoka. Until the African intellectual and politician becomes responsible, patriotic, informed and pragmatic we shall continue to be the wretched of the earth. We must become mature and sober to realize that in this world, what history has shown us is that everyone stands for your own. One can cry about slavery and colonialism but it serves no purpose until we become aware of it from the point of view that everyone has to stand for yourself. In that way we will reposition ourselves in order to empower ourselves to identify our interests and pursue them and protect ourselves. We cannot afford to continue to blame Europe or America or China or Arabia for what they do to Africa. What we can do is to stand up as fellow human beings and do for ourselves. The history of humans is a story of conquer, dominate and exploit. At least if we do not have any intention to conquer and dominate and exploit anyone, it is our responsibility to stand firm that no one conquers, dominate and exploit us. This is where we are failing ourselves. Patriotic leaders like Kwame Nkrumah, Sekou Toure, Amilcar Cabral, Patrice Lumumba and Thomas Sankara understood this and positioned themselves to achieve that objective. But most of our politicians and intellectuals do not. This is why these leaders could not even have the necessary support in their countries to achieve that objective.

  11. South Africa’s membership of the White Supremacist Court of Global Apartheid Racism, the so-calledInternational Criminal Court ( ICC), is rather a gross insult to the memory of the Martyrs of Apartheid! After hundreds of years of our Maangamizi experiences of Genocide/Ecocide at the hands of European predators, why are some Africans still so much in love with, or choose to be ridiculously naive about, their racist institutions of the globalising Coloniality of White Power? Why do they see our Afrikan salvation only in Black subjugation to White Institutional Racism? None of the black rogues who have abused their positions of governance in Afrika is worse, nor deserves to be put to trial before a legitimate court of true Peoples’ International Justice, more than Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, George Bush, Tony Blair, David Cameron, Nicolas Sarkozy, Silvio Berlusconi and their predatory ilk of Euro-Amerikkkkan criminal perpetrators of Genocide/Ecocide! Why must Afrikans allow their petty-criminals (yes, big to us, but quite petty in comparison to their White bosses) to be put to trial in travesty of Justice racist institutions controlled by the big criminal masterbrains who are not only the master-puppeteers of our own criminals biut also the highest profiteers from the crimes they set traitors from amongst us to commit against the masses of our Afrikan people? Rather than choosing to shirk responsibility, those Afrikans who desire real Change for the better in Afrika will have to do what all such persons in other communities do amongst their own peoples: courageously take for as long as it demands the appropriate action themselves sacrificially By Any Means Necessary to effect the required Change for their own and and all others’ betterment! Those Afrikans who desire change but refuse to do it by themselves, or join with like-minded Changemakers to realise their wishes, but rather choose to keep on begging aliens, (and particularly aliens whose pathological Afriphobic racist hatred and sadistic propensity to do terrible harm to us knows no bounds), to use their patently unjust institutions of racist discriminatory violence to humiliate, terrorise and penalise all of us Afrikans repeatedly, must be uncompromisingly opposed! Atiga Atingdui and Solomon Azuma-Gomez have written on this matter some thoughts shared by me. There is a dire need for fortitude on the part not only of the real men but also of the real women of Afrika to bolder walk their talk of Change in the here and now, instead of simply fantasizing and indulging in wishful thinking, with expectation that somebody else, more so predatory aliens and their institutions, will be our salvation even temporarily! We are our own Liberators!

  12. The rapes and killings in Darfur have not been punished. In the DRC, even six month old babies are raped. Men, let alone women, are sodomized and killed. The ICC is not perfect, I know, George Bush, Nyetenyahu and Tony Blair should be hauled before it, for crimes in Iraq and Palestine respectively. But if we cant get these three but can launder some vampire in our own backyard, why not? When Africa is able to erect a continental court, we can withdraw at that time. My problem is deterrence. Africa had dictators that were in the western camp,same as the juntas and autocrats of Taiwan, Singapore, Korea, Malaysia. We know the difference between the puppet dictators of Africa and those in the countries mentioned. Our progressive leaders were eliminated one way or the other, but the puppets who were in the enemies’ camp,what did they do? That is why I think some of these leaders need to walk around with fear in their hearts.

  13. The question that I have been a asking is how juxtaposed the sovereignty of nation and a court like the ICC which is seen as a court only for third world countries amd poorer countries ?

  14. Madi Jobarteh and Johnson Ayoka, I disagree to this extent: where does our genuflection to international institutions that only operate in Africa then end? This has two parts. (1) We have African nations that are not in themselves sovereign. The masses of dictators of Africa aren’t dictators on their own accord. Yes, it takes a nasty person to become a tyrant but one can look back at the history and see foreign hewing of African dictators. Atrocities in Africa are largely forged with foreign funds and colonial inflluence. Take Charles Taylor and examine how he left a prison in Boston to become a killer in West Africa. (2) On top of this foreign meddling in African affairs, one French coup of which was luckily foiled in Burkina Faso more recently, to the relief of many, the idea that we must also give in to foreign courts to implement Law & Order in our very countries goes beyond what is required to ensure some decorum of decency and some perspective of sovereignty in our nations.

    We need to ask ourselves first whether we aspire to be sovereign nations at all. This is not even about Africa any longer. Ghana for example is a sovereign nation. We have a Supreme Court and a Constitution. If the Nigerian head of state invites the President of Ghana and he/she goes, it will be ludicrous for the Nigerian government to arrest the head of state of Ghana, or allow the head of state of Ghana to be arrested by some international police and arraigned before a court outside of Ghana. That will be kidnapping!

    Since South Africa has a Supreme Court, the highest office that could oversee an arrest of Bashir (no matter what animal he is) is the Supreme Court of South Africa. Now, if countries start arresting other countries’ heads of state because some ICC has issued a warrant, then how far should it go? Should the ICC be allowed to do whatever it likes? Of course not. But how else shall we know if the ICC is doing the right thing, or that it hasn’t itself been usurped by some rogue state to do their bidding? Look how much disinformation came by way of Libya that Gaddafi was murdering his people. So what? Does the situation now make it any better? This is why we have sovereign nations.

    If people can grow some “testicular fortitude” within their own nations, there should be no need for the ICC, which is the whole point of nations. We create sovereign nations because we don’t want other peoples to meddle in our affairs. Ghana cannot allow Nigeria or any other country that invites our head of state to arrest him/her. To this point, South Africa is right in saying that its obligation first to its Supreme Court, and by implication its Constitution, and second to the AU, prevents it from being party to the Rome statue. I think in legal speak, this is fair. To be part of the ICC will be a contradiction in terms. It will be in contradiction with the Supreme Court of South Africa and the AU both.

  15. Solomon Azumah-Gomez. The High Court in South Africa ruled that the government should arrest Bashir in 2015. You see, the idea of sovereign nations to sign up to international treaties is itself a manifestation of sovereignty. A nation that is not sovereign cannot ratify an international treaty and belong to an international body set up by a treaty. This is because such an entity does not have the paraphernalia of sovereignty. To ratify an international treaty it must first be approved by domestic constitutional procedures and this is why South Africa could be party to the Rome Statute. So this means South Africa and all these African nations are sovereign. If in their state of sovereignty they allow outsiders to come in to interfere as you alluded to then that is a manifestation of their failure to protect their sovereignty but it cannot deny them sovereignty. If UK right now sends Wayne Rooney to be the Governor of Ghana and he becomes it, then it must be that Ghanaians have accepted it because nothing stops you from rejecting Wayne Rooney and UK. So South African knows it is sovereign and it signed the Rome Statute on the basis of its sovereignty hence it must be seen to fulfill its obligations as required by the provisions of that treaty. To wait until the occasion presents itself for you to demonstrate your treaty obligation only to turn around and cry about your sovereignty is disingenuous. Signing up the the Rome Statute is not a negation of your sovereignty and it has never been. Thus I think it is once again another colonial locker room banter to highlight issues of sovereignty anytime Africans are confronted with these issues. Our sovereignty has never been in doubt the moment we kicked out the colonialists and set up our own systems. Since then the rest is about how do we play our sovereignty. I think what we all need to do is to charge our leaders for misusing our sovereignty by the way they abuse and misuse our resources, rights and lives. Look at Jacob Zuma. The man has no morals. He is corrupt and plundering the wealth of South Africa. He spent millions on his private home. He brings in Indian friends to misuse public wealth and allows foreign companies to loot the wealth of the land. That is our sovereignty. That is the issue we need to bring up than to attempt to save him and his ilk who have sold our sovereignty for a mess of pottage.

  16. Madi Jobarteh, you are absolutely correct about the definitions and roles of sovereignty. I appreciate your deep sense of facts. To those points, I thank you for the education. I accept it. Although the point I make is a simple one: Since South Africa is a sovereign nation, it can decide on whether it wants to be party to the Rome Statute or not. My issue herein alone lies. By insisting that South Africa continues to be party to some Rome Statute, against their will (I use this rather circumspectly, not loosely) it defeats the whole idea of sovereignty.

    Now, when I say “against their will,” I’m very much alluding to South Africa as a democratic republic. Their leaders are elected and these officials take this rather difficult decisions in the people’s stead. South Africa then has decided to withdraw from a foreign organization. It’s their right as a sovereign nation. Or is it not? It is one thing to criticize the actions of a sovereign nation (which I think is what you are saying here), but it’s another matter altogether to say that South Africa cannot pull out of the court (which is what folks who do not understand sovereignty keep alluding to).

    But then again, it is a contradiction to be an AU member state and be party to the Rome Statute (from what I understand from your article). Ghana, for example, is engaging in a contradiction. If Bashir were to be invited to Ghana (I hope he’s not), and were he to be arrested, this will contravene the constitution of the AU. The vice versa on the other hand will be a contravention of the Rome Statute.Serious countries do not engage in contraventions. Ghana does. And Ghana is not serious.

    Again, it is one thing to criticize the decisions of the AU or any given African country but South Africa is doing, in my opinion, the correct thing. If the AU laws are unsuitable, let us get rid of it. Let us write plenty about the callousness of it. Let us debate that. If anything, South Africa must address its issues with the AU before it can address those with the Rome Statute. But then again, do we want an AU or not? Or do we only want an AU when we like their decisions?

  17. Frankly, meddling or no meddling, if you prey on your own people and turn their lives into a bloody mess, you are the traitor I know and you are eternally responsible. If we get distracted by foreign interference and excuse rapacious behaviour there will be no responsibility and there will be no let up in the bad leadership. If people set upon their own people they must be punished. We must discourage the emergence of such people by making it clear to them that the interference of another does not excuse bestiality. If there are no candidates let that outsider come into the open and do the deed himself so we know, like the french and belgian devil mercenaries of old. These African demagogues have no one to blame but themselves.

    Secondly, It is S.A’s sovereign right to withdraw, fine, but even in an ICC regime, it is the South African courts that eventually decide. They can very easily decide to toss out an arrest request. The thing is that if all the countries in Africa decide to set up an African court and bring it to being the same sovereignty questions will arise unless all the nation-states eventually unite!

    The international criminal court is not perfect but given the circumstances we find ourselves in it is more beneficial to live with it for now. We the citizens are already living under an ICC like environment. We can very easily and speedily be arrested and extradited by our own governments for crimes committed in another country. Shouldn’t some of these leaders live under this same fear?

    Moreover, have African countries as a group tried to reform the ICC from inside and failed?

  18. I think we should now collate where we agree and where we differ on this issue. I think, correct me if I am wrong, we agree that there are numbnuts in African leadership, who we must deal with. How we deal with these numbnuts is the issue. Right? Johnson Ayoka and Madi Jobarteh believe that it’s okay for an international court controlled by Euro-America (not Africa) to come in and do it. The ICC is not controlled by African governments. I am one of those people who says, no.

    My problem with the Madi stance is two fold. (1) It carefully, although invariably, alludes to this idea of globalism, spurred on by the rank of file of the same oppressors we are trying to break free from. These nations are in my opinion, our competitors. This view may perhaps be an old-fashioned one since we now live in a world dominated by neoliberal talk. But competitors I believe we are. How then can we expect our competitors to do what we must do for ourselves? This leads into the second issue.

    I believe, (2) we must do for ourselves what others are doing for themselves. There are more numbnuts right now in American politics, and I can name one, Hillary Clinton, than there will ever be in South African modern politics. But America and Americans are taking care of their business, good or bad. More than 80 people were arrested in the last week in the U.S. and facing jail times of up to 50 years in jail for protesting against private-government-corporate take-over of Native American lands. There’s much more! And worse!

    My aversion then to Madi’s article is all about African agency and urgency. For instance, I refuse to accept that because we don’t have the institutions appropriate for modern governance yet then we must outsource our own governance. This statement was true in 1957, in the case of Ghana, as it is true today. Whether we are ready or not is besides the point. Whether we can punish our own numbnuts or not is besides the point. The issue is, as far as we concerned, foreign courts forged into existence in Rome and controlled by Euro-American elite are, and if not are, then will be, and will become inimical to African self-assertive nationhood.

    So, I use the term “meddling” rather loosely. Not that I can find a concrete example of how America still meddles in Ghanaian politics but I believe that if they are able to secure the rights to build the USCOMMAND in Ghana then they certainly must have some influence. The issue is not that we both don’t agree on doing something about numbnuts in Africa. The issue for me is, rather than spend time trying to pen essays and informing our populace to revolt and demand functioning Supreme Courts in our countries, we would rather tire trying to sign onto some ICC to do what we must start doing for ourselves now. Can we not, like the British, fight until we can arrest and jail our very own numbnuts? Can we not?

  19. South Africa’s membership of the White Supremacist Court of Global Apartheid Racism, the so-called ICC, is rather a gross insult to the memory of the Martyrs of Apartheid! Why are some Africans so much in love with racist institutions of the globalising Coloniality of White Power? Why do they see our Afrikan salvation only in Black subjugation to White Institutional Racism?

  20. This is intriguing. For one, Madi Jobarteh has detailed a lot of information here that I was unaware of. I can understand where he’s coming from and the arguments are sound in the face of some of the tyrants we have on this continent. I will hold my comments and see what the counter argument from Jehuti Nefekare entails. Thanks for making it possible that we can read two different perspectives.

  21. We must be careful not to reduce all these things to merely expressing and debating perspectives! There are Afrikan lives being lost every minute all over the World because of the entirely malevolent geopolitical situation which is being forced upon us with the White Supremacy racist violence of pathological Afriphobia. At this painful time when, to the disgusting shame of all Afrikans, the World is remembering the gruesome horrific murder of Muammar Gaddafi, and for that matther the countless assassinations and massacres of our other martyred Heroes and Sheroes of the likes of those who similarly suffered before and after Patrice Lumumba, about which abominable crimes the hypocritical architects and functionaries of the ICC do not care at all, some of us do not want to be drawn into mere chattering about such Afrikan Holocaust instances of our Maangamizi! Those who spend most of their time just writing and chatting about what are actually the horrors of the Reactionary Violence of our Afrikan situation, while our inimical White Supremacist forces of Global Apartheid Racism and their imposed Black-Skin-White-Masked puppets from the African Elite spend most of their time ORGANISING TO KEEP DOING, rather than merely talking, terrible havoc to us, will end up having to resort wishfully to begging for salvation from the very masterpuppeteer Enemy and his deceptive institutions behind the tyrannical quislings of Euro-Amerikkkan Imperialism Africa is allowed by her foreign dominators to now have fronting Neocolonialism! As Audre Lourde advised: the master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house! As Osagyefo Kwame Nkrumah correctly put it, it is ORGANIZATION, meaning the Freedomfighting self-organization of the masses of oppressed peoples for their own self-emancipation, that decides everything!

  22. Solomon Azumah-Gomez. Rest assured I am not one for globalization. In fact I think it is a meaningless terminology because the slavery and colonialism were globalised activities as well. Secondly I fully understand that there does exist a Western hegemony which has created this neo-colonial situation in which we are. Nkrumah wrote a whole book on that as to how and why it operates. But I can tell you that neo-colonialism exists and is killing Africa primarily because of our leaders, from Zuma to Mahama to Buhari to Mugabe to everyone out there. Thus I think you twisted my position to appear as if I have faith in the so-called international system such as the UN or the ICC or FIFA. No way. But following your argument also would seem to give the impression that indeed we do have well meaning leadership and that we are on track only that the West is seeking to dominate us. Yet you did beautifully acknowledge the leadership gap in Africa.
    Thus here is the thing Solomon: I stand for a united Africa as a panacea to the bad leadership and poor governance and the overall weakness and disempowerment of Africa and Africans. This has been my life struggle. But then we have African colonialists in the persons of our leaders who run a cartel, not a government in our countries. They play with the international system because as we argue over ICC, am sure you know how we are also sucked into World Bank and IMF and WTO and all these international legal and political organizations and processes. I have also written about that to say that the global system is unfair, unjust and undemocratic and needs overhauling. But where we have such terrible leaders whose preoccupation is to hobnob with the international system as a means to appease the West as it suits them or torment their people at the same time, I do not have any sympathy for them. If they signed up to the ICC they must pay the price and I am saddened that you want to come to their defense. Both these leaders and the West and the East do not serve the best interests of our people and if Bashir is fighting with the West, I say good game. At least for Africa, it will be minus one tyrant as we struggle to salvage our continent.
    So my brother, to conclude please do not speak for these leaders and their cartels, aka governments. ICC is just one entity with which they are entangled against the interest of our people. Since they have refused to be honest, patriotic and pragmatic and focus on the unity, development and freedom of Africa, I will not stand for these leaders. If UK wants, let them come an pluck Mahama right out of Accra. Who cares.

  23. This article is utter senselessness. “Leaving the ICC, South Africa Dishonours The Martyrs of Apartheid”. Just look at the court process that was created to let those guilty of apartheid get off and keep all their wealth. It wasn’t the ICC was it? So you speak of the so called martyrs of apartheid but they were fine with the system that was created for those guilty in South Africa against true South Africans but now you bemoan the separate system that was created for the Black leaders of Africa that is the complete opposite of the system created for those guilty of apartheid. In my eyes you really need to check your priorities and your allegiance. Especially when the US for instances isn’t even party to the ICC but they wield it quite capably against African leaders but that’s fine for you but it reeks of hypocrisy of the worst sort.

    Based on your logic you seem to think that people that make a purchase aren’t able to re-evaluate their purchase based on their experience with it in their homes. The idea that African leaders who have far more experience with the court than any other region of the world that you mentioned somehow aren’t able to make any decisions based on what they’re seeing is shortsighted at best. The people of the UK approved the EU many years ago and recently voted to leave it. Based on your logic they can’t leave.

    Though to be honest with you it breaks my heart to see anything or anyone African referring to a Rome statute or anything else as though Africa itself can’t create it’s own hollowed halls. The people that gave you your beloved Rome Statute have more African and indigenous blood on their hands on every continent on the planet and we’re talking over hundreds of years. If they were so into justice when do they address their own countries’ failings where Africa is concerned, along with Asia and the Middle East where they’ve shed so much blood. It troubles me deeply when Black people behave as though Western institutions are so great and on such moral footing because when I witness such people I know that I am truly with a truly captured soul.

    That’s not to say that there aren’t despots in Africa that need dealing with. What I am saying is that the West lacks the moral high ground and any trace of justice to deal with them. Surely when the West can’t admit their own deeds which is a tenet of morality nor have they taken financial responsibility which is a cornerstone of their so called justice despite their clearly having been majorly enriched by the criminal enterprises that are slavery and colonialism then seriously how do your as a man find anything honorable about their institutions that you would preach to your brothers.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here