By Dikembe Disembe
There are two Africans at the International Criminal Court. The African strongman and the bright African. From the deliberations at the AU, it only appears that one group of Africans are complaining of the Court’s existence. This group, definitely, are the ‘strongmen’.
Who then is an African Strongman? When I visited Wikipedia, (though one of my lecturers would be distraught if she had to learn this), a ‘strongman’ is a “political leader who rules by force and runs an authoritarian regime”.
In Africa, these strongmen abound, with definitions which revolve around their iron hold on the systems of checks and balances in their countries, from the judiciary upto the legislature.
Much as Africa is castigating the ICC, the institution has also recognised the ‘intellectual power’ of brainy Africans who serve under various capacities in the court’s many organs.
Paradoxically, the accused Africans in the court are using the legal services of Western and European lawyers even as they bash the institution as targeting ‘Africans’. They clearly do not have faith in the ability of fellow Africans!
Uhuru Kenyatta’s lead counsel is a British national. His Deputy, William Ruto, also has a battery composed of non-Africans who, interestingly, argue there cases in front of an African presiding judge and against an African prosecutor.
Whether by coincidence or design, the ICC has shown one of the great contradictions of our time. A court filled with Africans yet loathed by Africans!
Five of the Court’s current judges are Africans; Ms Fatoumata Dembele, Diarra (Mali), Ms Akua Kuenyehia (Ghana), Mr Daniel David Ntanda Nsereko (Uganda), Ms Joyce Aluoch (KENYA), and Ms Sanji Mmasenono Monageng (Botswana).
A number of A fricans occupy high positions at the court, including the Chief Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda(The Gambia) and Deputy registrar Didier Preira (Senegal).
In a deeply patriarchal Africa, the ICC has rebalanced judicial power, making young girls in dirty poor villages in Africa, from Mali to Kenya, get role models in disciplines which often are male kraals, deeply wounding gender stereotypes. The ICC is an institution which furthers Africa’s intellect beyond the confines of the continents law schools and law courts.
That African political leaders would want the continent to pull out of the body, ostensibly to save their own skins, without looking at the bigger picture, is selfishness of the highest order. Sadly, even members of the academia, who rant in hollow classroom lectures about opportunities inherent in a globalised world, have remained quiet about the place of this institution in so far as career development in the global world is concerned.
Universities like Moi just recently awarded a doctorate degree to the accused – the strongman – forgetting the brainy – the intellectual – at the ICC.
Pulling out of the ICC stifles opportunities for hardworking Kenyans and other Africans and should be rejected by all young people who dream beyond the borders. Africa’s renaissance must not be pegged singly on the political whims and machinations of Africa’s strongmen.
Dikembe Disembe comments on topical social and political issues in East Africa