Kiir’s Remark on the ICC Can Squash South Sudanese Faith in His Leadership

By: Philips Al-Ghai

June 1, 2013 (SSNA) — Since Omar Al-Bashir’s name appeared in the list of the world’s most wanted, the battle cries against the International Criminal Court (ICC) have been sounding across Africa. Nervous heads of states across the continent, whose hands are tainted with the blood of their own subjects, or fear that they might not end their tenure without tainting their hands, voiced their dissent against the world’s renowned court of law in explicit terms.

For these men and women whose actions have reduced our beautiful motherland to a begging continent, it makes sense. They are drowning in the guilt of political killings and impoverishing their own people. They would clutch at a straw. They are groping for anything within their reach, withdrawal from the ICC for instance, to cling to. However, President Salva Kiir’s rage against the ICC on the eve of African Union’s 50th anniversary celebrations is one that, exceptionally, raised a few concerns –at least for those who hate blind discipleship.

According to Sudantribune May 24, 2013, this is what the S. Sudanese president had to say in ‘support’ of his ICC indicted Kenyan counterpart, Uhuru Muigai Kenyatta:

“The ICC seems appears like it was meant for African leaders and that they have to be humiliated,” said the South Sudan leader, who was flanked by his Kenyan counterpart.

“We will never accept it [ICC],” he stressed.

One question begs as you read these lines: Did the president know what he was ‘supporting’?

Someone would argue that he was trying to be “African”. After all, good bunch of African leaders are singing the same lyrics, why not him? In any event, he has all freedoms and duties at his disposal to opine on world issues, and rally behind his fellow Africans for the betterment of the continent. The circumstances surrounding the calls against the ICC, however, suggest otherwise. The invalidity of AU’s dissatisfaction with the ICC renders the president’s indulgence in the affair useless, impulsive, uncalled-for and, consequently, add more uncertainties to his leadership –something that must oblige S. Sudanese voters to ponder over their own political destiny. 

It makes you wonder whether the president had taken his time to assess the number of times his counterparts have switched sides in this West-Africa-ICC game before they [recently] get baptized with “Africanism”. One wonders how the president has forgotten, all of a sudden, that he lived in the bush, fighting injustices, for 21 solid years. One wonders whether His Excellency knows that his indirect support for injustice is not only a painful news to the Kenyan victims of 2007-2008 post-election skirmishes, but also a BIG caution to the general S. Sudanese public that still harbors fresh retrospect of injustices. And one wonders and wonders and wonders… One thing is certain though. The storm will be over, and all the adrenaline will circulate back to the suprarenal glands.  In the wake of these events, you’d bet, Mr. President will sit back and wish his wisdom wasn’t compromised by the hype of the occasion. Here is why:

Underlying Hypocrisy In Calls Against The ICC

Calls against the ICC do not guarantee justice for African victims of power greed. Rather, they are a mere escape from justice. One of the most disgusting lame excuses often given is that “ICC is a tool used to humiliate African leaders”. And that it fails to try “other leaders” committing crimes in other continents blah blah blah blah… It sounds a genuine claim to many Africans because it’s a question of “us vs them”, isn’t it? The other side, that many followers of the idea tend to ignore at times, is that it directly implies that African leaders acknowledge crimes against their own people, but don’t want to be held responsible. So, essentially, in a desperate attempt to evade justice, painting the ICC with the “white-man court of neocolonialism” becomes relevant. This is a well-crafted excuse to set common Africans in the anti-West mood. In case you’ve this false perception that everyone who opposes “African views” is a pro-West [as many see opinions these days] for get it. I have my own grievances against the West, yes, but they don’t have to impinge on the judicial rights of my fellow Africans.

Why should Africans care about ICC trying leaders in other continents if that is not hypocrisy, anyway? It would be a bit sensible and more appealing, at least for an average-thinking person, if the accusations against the ICC were started with statements like “African leaders are accused falsely…” And from there…. go ahead with your pieces of evidence. The irony, though, is that common Africans have bled in the hands of their own leaders and still do. It’s a hard fact. Furthermore, the AU, in the time span of 50 years since its formation, is yet to whisper justice in the continent awashed by the blood of assassinations and genocides. All planned and executed by African leaders. One would be forgiven to think that AU is only a gang of hooligans who are toiling hard to bring the resource littered continent to her knees.

One’s heart simply bleeds for the victims of African leadership. What is good, that leaders have done to Africa, that they now want to point accusing fingers for the misfortunes of the continent? In the famous Rwanda Genocide men slaughtered men, women and children were pitilessly massacred and left for vultures and hyenas to devour on.  In the Sierra Leone war, tender kids and mothers were mercilessly butchered, others got their limbs chopped off and left with permanent scars that only symbolize the curse of being an average or third class African. Kenya’s post-election violence [2007/2008] was no exception: neighbors hacked their neighbors to death in cold blood, scores were burnt to ashes, and thousands were forced to abandon their homes and are still stranded in IDPs camps to date. And Joseph Konyi’s LRA, for over a decade now, has masterminded all forms of terror you can name in northern Uganda, S. Sudan, DRC and Central Africa; not to mention the countless massacres between the two Sudans. Yet, the leaders still see accountability for their actions as ‘humiliation’ and have guts to demand that ‘the ICC tries leaders from other continents’. Who can be held accountable for such heinous crimes that were, almost exclusively, carried out by Africans? Perhaps the ICC charges Australian prime minister, or Saudi King for war crimes in Darfur in place of Al-Bashir? African leaders simply want to tell us that they don’t want to be tried because they haven’t killed anyone in Europe or America. And whether they butcher their own subjects is no one’s business.

Apparently, in the perspective of our leaders, we the common Africans are nothing more than just expendables: only useful as a climbing ladder to power, but whose life is much more akin to that of a housefly. If claims against the ICC were intended for the benefit of Africa, the AU would have told us the alternative judicial system that will protect the rights of common Africans.

Whether it was one of those impromptu utterances is yet to be known, but it is no secret that those who dread the repeat of the holocaust years in S. Sudan will always take issues of justice with a grain of salt. It might come to haunt Kiir’s political adventure.

Decision of Kenyan Parliament on ICC Cases

One of the most important facts that president Kiir chose to ignore, for whatever reasons known to him, was the choice of Kenyans. After Philip Waki’s report on the election violence, with the recommendation that a local tribunal be set up to try the six suspects [who were not made public at the time], the Kenyan parliament unanimously expressed their preference of ICC over local tribunal to preside over their cases. Ask a Kenyan at the time and they’d tell you they wanted none other than the ICC! This was a valid quest for true justice due to vulnerability of Kenyan courts to political interference that might compromise justice for the victims. Until the parliament agreed, there was no mention of the ICC demanding the suspects to be brought to Hague. Everyone knows that, Uhuru knows it too. So, where did Mr. Kiir get his briefing about the “ICC targeting African leaders”? Of course, Uhuru must have wondered about the bravery of his counterpart! In this world of camouflage politics, it is priceless getting someone who can needlessly jump to the spotlight on your behalf. It is laughable though. Precisely, Kiir’s ‘support’ for Uhuru did not only disrespect justice for the Kenyan victims of the violence, but also the Kenyan government’s decision on the issue.

In summary, the recent hype about the ICC suggests that Africa is on the verge of adopting the law of the jungle: Only the strong survives. Moreover, S. Sudanese gave everything to break free from political ills and lawlessness. They absorbed bullets and casted their ballots to buy justice, and will not afford to give more. Kiir should focus on convincing S. Sudanese that his government can protect their precious lives and properties with nothing but the rule of the law.  Otherwise, if he were preoccupied with joining the unruly mob and waking up sleeping dogs, S. Sudanese would be compelled to explore other options.

Philips Al-Ghai can be reached at [email protected]

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