Continued Rejection of the ICC in West and East Africa

It is not new to read of African governments ignoring or rejecting the International Criminal Court (ICC)’s claims to jurisdictional authority. But two stories this week reinforce the idea that many key players on the continent are willing to cross the Court.

First is Sudanese President Omar al Bashir’s attendance at an African Union summit in Abuja, Nigeria. The ICC issued a warrant for Bashir’s arrest in March 2009, in connection with war crimes in Darfur. His travel itinerary since then charts a map of ICC rejection across Africa and beyond. While Nigeria is the first West African nation to host Bashir, it joins a trend that includes several other countries and the African Union itself. From the BBC:

Mr Bashir has visited numerous African countries since the arrest warrant was issued – including Ethiopia, Kenya and Djibouti.

Only Botswana and Malawi have threatened to arrest him.

In May, the AU called on the ICC to drop war crimes charges against Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta after accusing it of “hunting” Africans because of their race.

Mention of Kenya brings us to the second news item from this week: Yesterday, the ICC rejected another request from Kenyan Vice President William Ruto, who like Kenyatta faces charges at the Court, to hold his trial in Africa.

The election, in March of this year, of Kenyatta and Ruto seemed a rebuke to the Court. Both men have been under indictment since March 2011 in connection with election/post-election violence in 2007-2008. David Bosco, writing shortly before Kenya’s most recent election, spelled out some potential consequences that a Kenyatta victory might have for the Court. One of these is particularly noteworthy in light of the Court’s decision on Ruto’s request for a trial location change:

That a freshly elected African head of state will bear the burden of ICC indictment would likely worsen already poor relations between the court and African officialdom. Many African leaders have argued that the ICC, which to this point has indicted only Africans, systematically ignores crimes committed in other parts of the world. At various points, African leaders have discussed withdrawing en masse from the treaty that created the court or, more likely, empowering a regional court to investigate atrocities, thereby displacing the ICC.

The ICC’s decision to keep Ruto’s trial in The Hague may strengthen such sentiments among some African leaders.

From both Nigeria and Kenya, then, I see fresh examples of the difficulty the Court is having in achieving legitimacy and recognition in Africa.


Africa News Roundup: Traore Returns to Mali, Constituent Assembly Meets in Somalia, Senegal Boosts Electricity, and More

Mali’s interim President Dioncounda Traore returned home yesterday from France, after a two-month recuperation.

In Somalia, the National Constituent Assembly “began a marathon-nine-day meeting on Wednesday to debate on a provisional constitution, before final ratification by a national referendum.” This is a critical step in the transition process, though it comes behind schedule.

AP on evictions in the Makoko area of Lagos, Nigeria:

Makoko is a sprawling community of bamboo homes and shacks built out of driftwood, close to the University of Lagos campus and visible to daily traffic that plies the Third Mainland Bridge, the link from the mainland to the city’s islands. Those living in Makoko subsist largely as fishermen and workers in nearby saw mills, cutting up water-logged timber that’s floated into the city daily. Some work jobs outside of the slum as gate guards and in other industries, though most live almost entirely within its watery boundaries.

The people of Makoko have created their own life independent from the state, with its own schools and clinics, however ill-equipped. Commerce goes on in its creek alleyways as women sell sizzling dishes and goods from canoes. Others sell videos and telephone airtime cards from the shacks just above the waterline, where a maze of wooden planks connects the homes.

Senegal has received an $85 million loan to help boost electricity.

The Guardian: “Burkina Faso’s School for Shepherds Thrives”

Kenyan presidential candidates Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto, even if one of them is elected in March 2013, would still have to stand trial at the International Criminal Court, where they face charges of fomenting post-electoral violence in 2007-2008.

After a strike that cost twelve production days, work has resumed at First Quantum’s Guelb Moghrein mine.

What else is going on?

Africa News Roundup: Sahel Food Crisis, Ethiopia to Leave Somalia, Boko Haram, Senegal Opposition Rally, and More

Oxfam now says, “Some 13 million people are at severe risk from a food crisis which is set to escalate into a full scale humanitarian emergency in the Sahel region of West and Central Africa if urgent action is not taken.” AFP has more.

VOA: “A senior Sudanese negotiator said he sees little hope for progress in talks with South Sudan on contentious issues left over from the two countries’ separation last July. Mediators in Addis Ababa are measuring progress in millimeters.” The BBC reports on conflict in the borderlands between the two countries.

Ethiopia plans to remove its forces from Somalia by the end of April. Kenya’s troops in Somalia, meanwhile, will soon officially become part of the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM).

In other Kenya news, “The International Criminal Court on Friday rejected bids by Uhuru Kenyatta, Kenya’s former finance minister and three others to have charges dropped against them related to the country’s 2007 election violence.”

Gen. Soumaila Bakayoko of Cote d’Ivoire told reporters yesterday that the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) may intervene militarily in Mali’s civil war. The Wall Street Journal reports on the more than 100,000 people who have been displaced by the fighting in Mali.

News continues to trickle out concerning the failed rescue of two European hostages in Northwestern Nigeria on Thursday. Weekly Trust has published a detailed account of the raid. Boko Haram, suspected of involvement in the kidnapping, has denied that it played a role. Nigerian authorities have made at least five arrests in connection with the killings. Meanwhile, another battle between Boko Haram and the police took place yesterday in Kano.

Elsewhere, another hostage crisis may be over: “Ethiopian rebels say they have released two German tourists who were taken captive during a gun-battle in January.”

Prominent politicians will rally in support of Senegalese presidential challenger Macky Sall tomorrow.

Last but not least, Burkina Faso “has fired 136 policemen who were involved in a mutiny last year.”

I’m especially curious to hear readers’ reactions to this idea of an ECOWAS intervention in Mali. Is it possible?

Kenya: Ruto, Sang, and Kosgey Back to The Hague for ICC Confirmation of Charges Hearing

September will mark a new phase in the International Criminal Court (ICC)’s legal proceedings against six Kenyans accused of fomenting post-election violence in 2007-2008. From September 1-12, three of the six (William Ruto, Joshua Arap Sang, and Henry Kosgey) will attend “confirmation of charges” hearings in The Hague, where the ICC will determine whether enough evidence exists to go forward with a trial. Later in the month, the three remaining suspects (Uhuru Kenyatta, Francis Muthaura, and Hussein Ali) will undergo the same process.

A key question going forward will be whether, and how, the ICC case affects Kenya’s internal politics.

Profiles of all six suspects are available here, but two suspects, Ruto and Kenyatta, are prominent candidates in the 2012 presidential race, and are also participants in key struggles taking place in the present. Ruto is the head of a dissident faction within the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM), the party of Prime Minister Raila Odinga. Odinga has moved to kick Ruto out of both the party and the new cabinet. The ICC indictment may have weakened Ruto’s position politically, but Ruto remains defiant, saying that he will run for president even if the trial is still ongoing. Kenyatta, meanwhile, survived the cabinet reshuffle, keeping his position as Finance Minister and remaining a major player in Kenya’s inflation crisis. President Mwai Kibaki may have been willing to sacrifice Ruto for a better relationship with Odinga and a shot at a legacy less tarnished by the 2007-2008 violence, but Kenyatta, ICC indictment notwithstanding, seems “too big to fail.” And though, as Reuters points out, Odinga has a lead in the polls, “his rivals’ combined support could unsettle him.” One source argues that a Kenyatta-Ruto “coalition of the damned” could beat Odinga, and put someone else – presumably Kenyatta – into the president’s seat next year.

As Ruto, Sang, and Kosgey head to The Hague this week, it will be important how their constituencies react. Ruto’s prayer rallies have generated press coverage, as have his remarks calling on other ODM leaders not to support the ICC case. These remarks underscore the potential of the ICC case to heighten tensions within and between parties, and between the country’s different ethnic groups.

NTV Kenya has a video report on the ICC case:

Kenya: The ICC’s “Ocampo Six” Case Moves Forward, Setting Stage for Tensions

Kenya’s “Ocampo Six” are six political figures accused by International Criminal Court (ICC) Prosecutor Luis Moreno Ocampo of having played critical roles in fomenting political violence following Kenya’s 2007 presidential elections. In April, the suspects appeared before the Court for a formal presentation of the charges against them. In September, the suspects will return to The Hague for a “confirmation of charges” hearing, the last major stage before trials begin. Daily Nation explains the calendar:

The oral hearings for the case against radio presenter Joshua Sang and suspended ministers William Ruto and Henry Kosgey would close on September 20 but the judges may ask the parties for more information in writing.

If the judges are satisfied with the oral submissions, the three would know whether they will go to trial by November 20 but the date may be later if the judges ask the parties for more information.

The oral hearing of the case against Deputy Prime Minister Uhuru Kenyatta, Civil Service head Francis Muthaura and former police commissioner Hussein Ali will run from September 21 to October 11.

The three will then know their fate as early as December 20 or later if the judges ask for more information.

Many Kenyan leaders are still not on board with the process. Some of the suspects want the hearings delayed. Kenyan investigators are interviewing the suspects as the government appeals to the ICC to allow Kenya to try the accused at home. But it seems the case will go forward; Kenya already lost one appeal to handle the cases on its own.

The timing of the different phases of the case set the stage for domestic tensions to grow in Kenya. The next presidential elections won’t be until December 2012, but campaigning has already effectively begun. Uhuru Kenyatta, current Finance Minister and one of the accused, is a major presidential aspirant. Although several polls have shown that a majority of Kenyans support the ICC process, if campaigning heats up at the same time that the trial intensifies, Kenyatta’s supporters could begin to say that the ICC is interfering in Kenyan politics and unfairly targeting their champion. Further politicization of the ICC case would add to the potential for a tense election year.

To stress the point even further, I’ve become increasingly convinced that law is politics, or at least that there is blurry line between the legal realm and the political realm. Putting it more concretely, the ICC has become an actor not just in the legal sphere, but also in Kenyan politics. That involvement carries risks of unintended consequences, risks that are particularly chilling in light of fears that next year will be another bloodbath.

Africa News Roundup: Senegal, Nigeria, Niger, China in Africa, and More

Senegal’s President Abdoulaye Wade continues with his plans to seek re-election in 2012.

Nigerians will vote in state elections on Tuesday. Following last week’s riots, the government has deployed more troops and closed the borders. Defeated presidential candidate Muhammadu Buhari, meanwhile, continues to draw criticism, and was recently banned from entering Niger State.

Dele Olojede, publisher of Nigeria’s Next, has an op-ed in the New York Times on the presidential elections that is well worth reading.

In the country of Niger, the new President Mahamdou Issoufou has appointed his cabinet.

AFP reports on AQIM’s latest (alleged) activities in the Sahel:

Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) is building a new base in Mali near the Mauritanian border, with a view to attacking that country, security sources said Thursday.

“We have learned that vehicles are transporting AQIM fighters into the Wagadou forest, in a zone situated in the east in the Malian district of Nara, not far from the Mauritanian border. It is a new base they are installing,” one of the security sources told AFP.

In Burkina Faso, where there is ongoing unrest among soldiers, students, merchants, and others, President Blaise Compaore has appointed himself as defense minister.

Mr Compaore revealed the move in a cabinet reshuffle announced on national television.

Last week, he ordered bonuses for soldiers, sacked the head of the army and dismissed the government in a bid to reassert his authority.

New army chief Gen Honore Nabere Traore said mutineers would meet Mr Compaore.

“The crises are heading toward a solution,” Gen Traore said on public radio, adding that officials had “found adequate responses” to the mutineers’ demands.

in the Guardian, Joshua Rozenberg writes, “Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo is the best asset of those opposed to the international criminal court.”

The Economist has some handy charts on China’s trade with Africa.

What are you reading today?

“Ocampo Six” Return to Kenya

On Thursday and Friday of last week, six Kenyans appeared in front of the International Criminal Court (ICC), which has charged these men with fomenting post-election violence in 2007-2008. The legal proceedings will continue for some time, but for now the “Ocampo Six” (so named for the ICC’s chief prosecutor) are back home. One of the first steps two of the suspects, Deputy Prime Minister Uhuru Kenyatta and suspended minister William Ruto, took yesterday was to headline a rally. The tone of this event contrasted with earlier events, but the rally still underscored how politicized the trial has become in Kenya.


Before attending the ICC hearing, Kenyatta, who is also deputy prime minister, and Ruto had criss-crossed Kenya holding raucous rallies calling for their cases to be held in Kenya. They accused their political rival, Prime Minister Raila Odinga, of implicating them.

The ICC barred the suspects from making “dangerous speeches” to incite violence or they would face arrest. Kenyatta and Ruto took a conciliatory stance in their speeches at the rally, a far cry from their comments before their ICC appearance.

The ICC can take heart from Kenyatta and Ruto’s new tone. But one question that came to my mind was whether the politicization of the trial – or the outcome – could negatively affect Kenya’s 2012 elections, in which Kenyatta may be a leading candidate. Legal proceedings, after all, are not isolated from politics, especially in this case. And Kenya remains divided:

Kenyans thronged to the rally by bus and on foot. Police estimated the crowd at about 35,000.

“If the cases are confirmed and go ahead at The Hague, there could be big problems. Without Uhuru, we won’t have elections,” said a Kenyatta supporter, John Waweru, 30.

Despite the heroes’ welcome from supporters, most of the east African country’s 40 million people backed an ICC hearing, while support for the case to be heard at a local tribunal had dropped since a previous survey in December, according to a poll published last week.

“Tuko Pamoja!” (We are together), said one placard; “Uhuru for president in 2012” said a slogan emblazoned on the torso of one shirtless supporter who had painted his body white.

The return of Kenyatta and Ruto has already prompted some violence, as NTV Kenya reports: