To put this article in perspective I will quote a Rwandan saying that goes: ‘Uwavuze ko nyirinzu yapfuye, ntabwo aba ariwe uba yamwishe’ which translates in English as: ‘don’t shoot the messenger’
Sublimation is a human vice to substitute a true value with an artificial one. In this article, I painted sublimation in another optic: When faced with a deep-rooted problem, to which the answer is complex and sometimes beyond one’s reach; Instead of confronting it heads-out, one tends to fabricate a new problem; a trifle, to which he affords an easy answer as a strategy to create diversion and save face.
This attitude is unfortunately inherent to African leaders and continues to weaken African bodies such as the AU, the African Commission, regional bodies, etc. and undermine their capacity to fulfill their mission and address the complex problems for which they have been created…
This vice of sublimation, will be illustrated by four stories: the first is about the International Criminal Court (ICC) and the critics that it has been subjected to at the occasion of the African Union’s fifty year Anniversary – African leaders went as far as calling it a racist institution. The second will discuss a recently initiated campaign to have the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights relocated from Banjul in protest to Yaya Jameh’s relentless 19 years of tyranny (and insanity). The third story will talk about the Somalia-Somaliland strife.
Part One: the Hypocrisy behind the ICC critics:
Sufferin’ and smilin’ is a famous number by Nigerian illustrious musician Fela Kuti, a song that has given me so much joy for its swinging rhythms, proper to good old Fela and Femi his son after him. I never really gave it too much thought until I saw on television the celebrations at the fiftieth Anniversary of the African Union in Addis on the 25th last month
It was all-festive in Addis that night, presidents praising each other of the tremendous achievements made by our continents in the last fifty years. These fellows must live in a different Africa than the rest of us, I taught to myself; what are they celebrating? Fifty years of failure? Then it hit me: they are doing what they do best: sufferin’ and smilin’
No mention was made of the deepest horrors that our beloved continent has gone through in the last fifty years: fifty year ago, Kenya was at the same economic level as South Korea, Nigeria richer that Singapore, a continent that was set for success… Now look at it… with a few exceptions, the true picture is of economic stagnation at best, regression at worst; deepening inequalities; endemic corruption; genocides, protracted armed conflicts – now mostly targeting civilians, etc. etc. What is there to celebrate?
The day would have been better used as a time for deep reflection, retrospection, open and honest peer review; an opportunity for commitment to profound political reforms; but no; one after the other, speech after speech, they chose amnesia to reason.
The theme of the day: African Union and Pan African Renaissance!
How many times are they going to be doing this pan African Renaissance thing?
First it was suggested by Kwame Nkrumah, later by Abdoulaye Wade at the launch of the NEPAD. That was 12 years ago; he even erected a beautiful monument in the centre of Dakar – to which he still perceives amenities as the designer… A rainassance to be able to bear fruits needs to be done early in life and once and for all. Not every time you need to sell empty hope to the people; and certainly not at fifty.
By fifty you are expected to have become wise; repent your sins and guide the youth on a different path than you took;
But you? No:
You dye your hair and vie for president AT 89 YEARS OF AGE!
As if all that was not painful enough, It turns out they had saved the worst for last: All in unison they lambasted the ICC; and they went at it, imperialist, racist, etc. as if in a brief moment of soberness they realized how unreal their celebrations were and felt the urge to justify some of the most conspicuous failures…
Now lets take a closer look at how the ICC came about: since the signature of the Rome Statute that established the ICC on the 17th July 1998, most of them have been enthusiastic to sign up (34 of them to be precise), refer cases to it. Only two of the many ‘situations’ on the African continent were referred to the ICC by the UN Security Council; that is Sudan and Libya. Why? Because massacres were going on in those countries and African states were doing nothing to stop them.
And the world, having learned from the Hussein Habre circus, knew that no African state would ever take prompt action against the perpetrators.
The rest of the cases were referred to the ICC by African states themselves: Tailor, Lubanga, Ntaganda, Bemba, Gbagbo, Koni, Mudacumura and so on.
But most importantly: Why have Africans been predominantly indicted for crimes against humanity? Because these crimes are rampant on our continent, and fifty years of independence, the OAU and AU after it, have done nothing to mitigate them.
That should have been the gist of the Africa fifty. But as usual, it’s never their fault, it’s always the fault of others: the UN, the colonial power, the US, etc.
African leaders have all it takes to address our problems and that’s why we elected them. But instead, they spend time covering up each other’s most heinous crimes and blaming others, as if they make them kill their own brothers, rape their own women, steal from their own countries…
I do not think that from the standpoint of the victims of post electoral violence in Kenya, the raped women in DRC and the mutilated people in Sierra Leone, the ICC is racist.
If the ICC is racist, what do you make of Bashir, Taylor or perpetrators of the violence in Kenya? sons of Africa, is that it?
To be a true son of Africa you must use power to commit atrocities and expect protection from your peers?
People trust them with their lives, with their votes – admittedly, most people actually have not had a choice since most of the current leaders, somewhat high-jacket the power from the; but still, it does not make them less responsible;
By not averting – or directly causing – the death of thousands of innocent people on the continent, African leaders have once again proven unworthy of the those who placed their destiny in their hands; by harboring the killers among themselves, they have rendered themselves accomplices.
By condemning the ICC however, they have shown that they are cut from the same ideological cloth with those indicted. If there is any ideological bankruptcy which Kagame talks about, criticizing the ICC is its best manifestation.
The ICC is merely doing what Africans have failed to do, which is investigating crimes and bringing some of the criminals to book. Today, many will argue that the existence of the ICC has deterred apprentice criminals from operating at wish.
Statements like those made in Addis last month have achieved two things: they have emboldened existing and potential criminals such as the FDLR and LRA out there in the deep forests of DRC, or Boko Haram in Nigeria on the one hand, and on the other, exposed and traumatized further the victims who are by now despairing in seeing their executioners brought to justice one day…
Being a Rwandan, I am bitterly alive to the devastating effects of world inaction. The Genocide of Tutsis was carried out for three months as the world looked by. An ICC – if it existed at the time – would have opened investigations during its preparations, and maybe, it would have swayed some world action…
But now that African leaders are criticizing the ICC, I wonder where they were during that genocide? Where were they? Did they not support the genocide regime while it was conducting the killings? did they not offer safe heavens to its perpetrators thereafter? Kabuga, the financier of the genocide, where is he? Is he not being harbored by one of our regional members? Let them not be vague…
I know, they might say that the ICC closes its eyes on crimes elsewhere in the world and focuses on Africa. But what is wrong with that? Maybe it is a good thing? Maybe it is supposed to reduce violence in our continent – that is if we actually cooperate with it…
But in any event, are there no crimes in Africa?
Did those people kill themselves? Or crimes against humanity in other continents somehow exonerate crimes on our continent?
They want to create an African court? One that they can coerce just like they coerce domestic courts, or just scrap it when they are not happy with its decision, lest we forget what happened to the SADC Tribunal: a well functioning regional Court that was unceremoniously dismantled for handing down judgments that displeased Robert Mugabe…
There are two things involved here – like Basket-mouth would say:
(1) If the individuals indicted are innocent, then we have nothing to fear: the court is actually a good forum to irrevocably prove one’s innocence in a spectacular fashion: I remember when the head of Rwandan presidential protocol was arrested in Germany on a warrant issued by a French judge; when asked whether she wanted to be tried in Germany, she said no, I want to go to France and confront those who are accusing me! A few months later she was released with no charges. Now she goes about her business all over Europe, a free woman!
(2) They are guilty but African leaders want to shield them from justice.
Which one is it?
I think is time to own up:
I have been looked down upon by people from other continents, and today, I look down upon you, our African leaders: you have nothing to celebrate; in fact you should be ashamed of yourselves.
And let me tell you:
We have grown weary of your lies; we are tired.
We did not believe you when you painted an idyllic picture of our continent that day in Addis, just as we no longer believe you when you tell us that colonization is the source of our poverty and conflict;
Hell Brazil was colonized! But then eventually they shaped the future they wanted for themselves and worked towards realizing it. What can’t we do that? What is inherently insane about us, are we possessed by demons or what?
Yes at the Berlin conference colonial powers partitioned Africa into artificial territorial units, that were later to be a cause of conflicts;
But what did African leaders do upon accession to independence, when they had the opportunity to right that wrong? They condoned and owned them: The 1963 decision of the OAU, the first decision ever to be made by independent African States at the founding day of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU): The boarders of the colonialist are not to be touched!
What did they say to Kwame Nkrumahwhen he suggested that they overlook those boarders and unite? they said no: we also want power, we want to feel what the white colonialist felt, sleep in his house and drive his car; Play President: Marechal (Mobutu), Emperor (Bokassa), King of kings/guide (Gaddafi), President for life (Mugabe)…
Immediately after they adopted a resolution on non-interference among states, and went about their oppressive reigns undisturbed; amassed fortunes one cannot finish in 25 lives while the people died of hunger…
Today they are repeating the same mistake. They are passing resolutions against unconstitutional change of government, instead of calling each other to uphold constitutional values, fight stayism and corruption. I have to say, this resolution is ironic, coming from Mugabe, Mubarak, Compaore, Gadaffi, Museveni, Sassou-Ngwesu and Biya among many more. how else do they expect other citizens in their countries to access power? but the youth in Egypt showed them that that resolution is a joke..
Now they seem to have found a new mantra: ‘western domination, imperialists, racists’. But wait a minute, this is nothing new; these are justifications used by Yaya Jammeh to oppress his people in total impunity, while African leaders look by.
As i watched the television, only one question came to my mind: God, what will people in other continents think of us? The house in which they are celebrating, fifty year of independence is a gift by the Chinese and half the drinks and the food they are consuming are paid for by the European Union.
Look at them, they seem not concerned one bit!
But then I remember another catchy phrase in a number by Kofi Olomide, the Congolese king of Rumba: ca vas aller, ca vas aller..