Government officials have warned critics not to doubt African Union’s resolve to engineer a mass withdrawal from the International Criminal Court.
Despite the numerous hurdles for a mass withdrawal of the continent’s signatories, foreign affairs Principal Secretary Monica Juma reiterated the continent’s resolve and urged critics to give the continent a chance.
“In 1963 the OAU (Organisation of African Unity, the precursor of African Union) singled out as its ultimate objective the total liberation of Africa by 1994 which saw the apartheid in South Africa collapse.
That is how serious this is. Only it will not take that long this time round,” said Dr Juma.
WITHDRAWAL NOT PASSED AT AU SUMMIT
Dr Juma said this even as it emerged that the much touted withdrawal decision was not passed at the recent AU Summit.
Instead, AU heads of state mandated their foreign affairs ministers to explore a strategy for mass withdrawal from the ICC, which African governments have been accusing of targeting the continent’s leaders.
The ministerial committee, according to government officials, will begin working on the strategy in “a week or two.”
The foreign ministers will work under the chairmanship of Ethiopian foreign minister Tedros Adhanom. But critics say the withdrawal is not practical.
“Each African State that has signed up to the Rome Statute that establishes the ICC had its own reason for doing so.
None were the same,” Ms Stella Ndirangu, a Programme Manager in charge of International Co-operation at the Kenyan Section of the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ Kenya) said.
In addition, Ms Ndirangu said there is nowhere in that decision that expressly calls on African countries to stage a mass walkout.
AU’s decision on the ICC at paragraph 8 (iv) states that “The Assembly decides that the (AU) commission continues to engage with relevant stakeholders within the ICC in order to address issues raised in the various decisions of the AU Policy Organs on the ICC.”
Human rights activist Maina Kiai also pointed out the “unfounded” misinterpretation of the AU’s decision.
“I think there was a lot of spinning by the government which the media and the public has bought,” he said.
In his speech at the 26th AU Summit in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, President Uhuru Kenyatta made references to the mass withdrawal.
“It is my sincere hope that our ICC reform agenda will succeed so that we can return to the instrument we signed up for.
If it does not, I believe its utility for this continent at this moment of global turmoil will be extremely limited.
In that eventuality, we will be failing in our duty if we continue to shore up a dysfunctional instrument,” the President said.
AU leaders have been critical of The Hague court especially after it indicted Sudan President Omar al Bashir in 2009 and also started the post-election violence trials in Kenya.
Deputy President William Ruto and former radio broadcaster Joshua Sang still have their crimes against humanity cases ongoing in The Hague.