Recently, an attempt by the South African government to get that country out of the International Criminal Court (ICC) was blocked by its high court. The South African government is contending that the ICC is effectively employing a neo-colonial policy by picking on African countries and as such it must follow the example of several African counties by leaving the court.
Not only do I consider this reasoning unsound, it was wrong for those African countries that have left the court and it was also wrong for South Africa to try to leave, for several reasons.
Notice that South Africa and the other African countries that see the ICC as an instrument of racist European imperialism are not contending that the judgements of the court are wrong. What these African countries are saying is that the ICC is picking on black African countries only.
However, the ICC has investigated leaders from several other parts of the world. The former leader of Serbia was arrested by the ICC and actually died in prison. Also, the ICC has cases from Afghanistan, Colombia and other non-African parts of the world. So the claim that the ICC is picking on black Africa seems to be hogwash.
Anyway, even if the ICC was picking on black Africa, so what? If the ICC was wrongly picking on black Africa, then the Africans who have or want to leave the court would have a good case for seeing the ICC as a bogus. However, if the ICC is rightly picking on black Africa, then it really doesn’t matter. The question that black Africa should be asking is why it is being picked on.
Look at some of what black Africa considers as being picked on: Sudan’s Al Bashir, the Banda case, Bemba Gombo of the Central African Republic, Laurent Gbagbo, Katanga and a long list of others. Somehow, looking at what these leaders are accused of, if the Africans are to be believed, they are not tyrants at all, but saints!
The problem with the drive by black Africa to leave the court is that while the ICC is seeking to bring these Africans to justice, it is doing nothing to bring others, notably white leaders from the great powers, for their supposed crimes. However, there is a significant difference between what these Africans are accused of and what the leaders of the great white powers are accused of. I suppose it can be argued that wars are never good. However, the wars that many of these African leaders waged were, many times, specifically and deliberately targeted against their own people and with particular brutality – including mass rapes and executions of defenceless civilians. The wars waged by the great powers, however, were aimed at quickly defeating their opponents.
Yes, rapes and the killing of innocent civilians may have occurred on account of these “white” wars. But unlike the African perpetrators of the expected horrific norm, these actions were mostly not as a result of deliberate policy by these great powers. Indeed, oftentimes, when they occur during the wars waged by these great powers, the perpetrators are punished.
Maybe Africa just cannot help its backwardness and maybe that is why it takes up most of the ICC’s time. Black Africa is certainly not doing much to bring these accused to justice. As such, it will always need Europe to have a paternalistic policy towards the continent to civilize its leaders in the benefits of conforming to modern ways. For that reason alone, Africa should stay with the ICC.
By: Michael Dingwall