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The relationship between the International Criminal Court and the African Union Essay

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Updated: Jun 5th, 2019

The relationship between the International Criminal Court (ICC) and the African Union (AU) is among the hottest topics in Africa. Consequently, the AU has discussed its soaring relationship with the ICC in all its recent summits. An article by Maru, in the opinion segment of the Aljazeera, best explains this debacle.

An earlier article by Hoile, in the New African Magazine, also breaks down this fiasco. Both articles look at the current state of affairs between African nations and the ICC. Maru gives a general picture of why Africans are critical about the ICC, but takes the court’s side at the end of the article.

For instance, he relates AU’s displeasure with the court to the Kenyan case and warrant of arrest for President Omar Al Bashir. Hoile, on the other hand, seems to hold the notion that the ICC has failed in its mandate. He challenges the court to produce any tangible achievement that can justify millions of euros spent on it since its establishment. Nonetheless, these two articles provide an insight into an important issue in Africa.

Maru’s article follows a global campaign by the AU against the ICC in a bid to fulfill a request by the East African countries. The arrest warrant for President Al Bashir and the ongoing court proceedings facing President Uhuru Kenyatta and his deputy have resulted into AU’s recent spat with the court.

According to Maru, this war reached its peak when the AU blocked the ICC from opening a liaison office in Addis Ababa. In addition, AU’s recent extraordinary summit has the ICC as the only agenda. This shows that African leaders have scores to settle with the ICC. In this summit, the AU resolved that it will continue to cooperate with the ICC as long as the court respects its leaders (Maru).

The resolutions continued to state that the ICC should desist from prosecuting sitting African presidents. Additionally, AU urged the UN Security Council to consider postponing the Kenyan cases or shifting them to a location closer to Kenya. Giving his insight on the issue, Maru argues that the ICC is important to Africa, but agrees that the former chief prosecutor, Louis Moreno Ocampo tainted ICC’s image.

He adds that African dictators and rebels should not act victim as they are the causes of major problems within the ‘cradle of mankind’. Maru concludes by reiterating that recent elections in Kenya were a contest between Uhuru Kenyatta and the ICC’s prosecution office. Therefore, Uhuru’s victory was a triumph against his criminal charges.

Many questions remain unanswered pertaining to the conduct of the court. Hoile believes that the ICC has placed its focus exclusively on Africa. “The court is also logistically dependent on the UN” (Hoile par. 17). This means that its activities are subject to manipulation by the UN Security Council.

Only two of the permanent members of the UN Security Council have ratified the Rome Statute. One cannot make the rules if he is not part of the game. For that reason, countries such as the United States have no moral authority to decide on matters presented to ICC. Being major players in the global scene, these countries are setting a bad precedent. If the court is not good enough for a superpower, then, it cannot work for a third world country.

Hoile echoes that this court has completed only one case despite spending more than one billion euros. Ocampo ruffled African leaders’ feathers when he vowed to make an example out of the Kenyan case. Most critics of the ICC, thus, see the Kenyan case as an attempt by the prosecutor’s office to redeem a court that is slowly losing its relevance.

Both articles paint a true picture of the diminishing rapport between AU and the ICC. I agree with Maru and Hoile that the ICC cannot escape criticism. Ocampo arrogance and his shoddy investigations brought the court into serious disrepute. This explains why nobody was persecuted during his reign as the chief prosecutor. More specifically, many analysts accuse him of not doing any investigations on the Kenyan cases.

Word has it that he relied on reports compiled by human rights groups. Perhaps that is why the current prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, has lost so many witnesses. Witnesses that have withdrawn claim to have been coached on how to incriminate president Kenya and his deputy. ICC bias towards Africa is another factor that is affecting its credibility. As a result, Africans are getting overly frustrated with the court since most heinous human right violations occur outside Africa.

However, African states should not cry foul as they were the first to ask for an international court. Surprisingly, Kenya was very vocal during the establishment of the Rome Statute. Kenya was one of the most aggressive proponents of the ICC. Its recent opposition to the court is, thus, astonishing. At the moment, Kenya wants to be the first country to withdraw from the Rome Statute.

To this effect, a bill has been tabled in the Kenyan parliament. Kenya’s action aims at instigating an exodus from the Rome Statute. Moreover, countries which have signed, but are yet to ratify the statute may withdraw their signature. On top, countries that are yet to sign the statute may be encouraged to stay away from it for good.

The two articles explain the ICC matter in a way that can be understood by all. Both arguments fit the topic and are equally appealing to a leader. From the articles, it is clear that Africans leaders believe that the ICC is a political instrument. To them, this court is meant to frustrate African leadership.

Some go to the extent of claiming that the US and other powerful countries are using it to plant their desired leaders in Africa. Furthermore, the ICC seems to ignore serious crimes against humanity elsewhere, and instead focuses its energy on Africa. For instance, the US and Britain are accused of killing thousands of Iraqis, but no one seems to care. Many people have died in Syria and the court is yet to start any criminal proceedings.

The ICC seems to cast its net in Kenya and yet only a thousand people died during the 2007 post-election violence. Nonetheless, African leaders and the AU are thought to be wary of the ICC as they thrive on impunity. Africa must stick with the ICC since withdrawal from it will reverse gains in the war against impunity. We cannot ignore the fact that some of the most atrocious human rights violations occur in Africa. UN principles state that citizens’ human rights precede a state’s independence.

Works Cited

Hoile, David. “Is The ICC Fit For Purpose?” New African Magazine, 1 Mar. 2013. Web.

Maru, Mehari Taddele . “The Future of the ICC and Africa: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly.” Aljazeera, 11 Oct. 2013. Web. <>

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