Dominic Ongwen ICC Trial: Has opportunistic Museveni lost the plot on ICC?
By Dikembe Disembe
The capture of LRA fugitive Dominic Ongwen and subsequent handover to the International Criminal Court has revealed the ‘fundamental contradictions’ in arguments of the usual opponents of the court.
Of those exposed, none is so conspicuous as Uganda President Yoweri Museveni, who, for sometime now, has been a rising anti-ICC czar within the African Union itself and the continent at large.
Museveni shot to ICC fame because of his overzealous attacks on the court with respect to the Kenyan situation. Museveni has remained in the driving seat for a kind of pan-african jingoism whose main target has been the Hague-based International Criminal Court
Since March 2010 when the ICC indicted six Kenyans including two prominent politicians William Samoei Ruto and Uhuru Kenyatta, who would then effectively rally their communities against that judicial institution, invoking a not-so-distant memory of European colonialism, and win the Presidency, Museveni has been a ‘guest with a single message’ in all Kenya’s national celebrations: bash the ICC.
In June, 2013, during the celebration of AU’s 50 years, Museveni led other African nations in sending a thickly laden message to the court. Borrowing the usual Kenya’s propaganda script of making all kinds of wild allegations on the court, especially its prosecutor, Museveni claimed they (African Presidents) have information the ICC intends to detain President Uhuru.
â€œICC should tell us if they plan to detain (Kenyan President Uhuru) Kenyatta. They should give us an explanation if he is going to come back to Kenya because the information we are receiving is different.Â We will not agree to have him attend if the intention is to detain him. If we don’t have a clear picture of the plans by the International Court, then it means our relations with them will be soured. They should treat us with dignity,â€ Museveni roared.
In the same year, during the inauguration of Uhuru, the President-elect, at Kasarani, Museveni claimed the election of Uhuru was a rejection of the ‘blackmail’ by the ICC and its neo-colonial masters.
â€œI want to salute the Kenyan voters for the rejection of the blackmail by the International Criminal Court (ICC) and those who seek to abuse this institution for their own agenda,” he said amid cheers from Kenyan jubilant supporters of the two indictees-turned-president and deputy.
Waxing lyrical, Museveni even attempted to pitch for a broader understanding of Â why violence occur in Africa, and, quite falsely, presumed that a ‘legalistic process, especially an external one” cannot address such events.
â€œA legalistic process, especially an external one, however, cannot address those events. Events of this nature first and most importantly, need an ideological solution by discerning why they happened”.
But Kenya’s post election violence pale in comparison with the sheer brutality of the Lords Resistance Army of Museveni’s own country. If Museveni was true to his word, then, truly, an external legal process cannot resolve the LRA menace if couldn’t resolve the Kenyan situation.
Of course Museveni was all along bluffing. Like other African dictators, Museveni found the ICC an issue he could opportunistically hung on, while overlording it in Uganda.
But the arrest of Dominic Ongwen has blown the cover off for Museveni. He has watched, in forced silence, as the same judge who read the rape, mass murder, forceful eviction of communities and other crimes against humanity charges to the six Kenyans do the same to his own country’s citizen – with his permission, cooperation and facilitation.
Will he again accuse the ICC of ‘legal gymnastics’ and ‘political witch hunt’? Of course Museveni conveniently let those who captured Ongwen to hand him over to the ICC, thus ‘saving face’, but doesn’t this gets at the heart of the issue? That Museveni is a hypocrite and an opportunist whom, faced with a moment to demonstrate his disdain for the ICC, ducked it and passed the buck?
The arrest of Ongwen whose trial is in the initial stages at the ICC already, presents Africa with another opportunity to reshape the debate on the significance of the court. Ever since the Kenyan situation, a highly successful propaganda campaign has painted the institution as being at the whims of the ‘West allies’ in Africa.
But recently, even before Ongwen came on stage, the world court of justice has gained more admirers and exposed treacheries in international politics especially with regard to the Palestine agitation to join the Rome Statute.
The same western proponents of the court in Africa, especially the United States, has been at the forefront in ‘warning’ Palestine, as it attempts to protect Israel from possible referral to the court.
Perhaps, it is time proponents of the court revisit its role in a fast evolving politico-legal world.