The African Union should be working hard to ensure that there is no impunity in Africa. If Kenyatta and Ruto are innocent they should not be afraid to get their day in court. Any discussion at the AU about mass withdrawal from the ICC could be tantamount to self-delegitimization
This week many of the current political leaders of Africa will meet in Addis Ababa to discuss whether African states should withdraw en masse from the International Criminal Court because of the indictment of Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta and Vice President William Ruto. This meeting will be an extra-ordinary session of the African Union (AU) organized to deliberate on International Jurisdiction, Justice and the International Criminal Court (ICC). At issue is whether the ICC has discriminated against Africans and whether the case of the killings of over 1,100 persons in 2008 and the displacement of over half a million should be a matter of international criminal law.
To ensure that the original reasons for the case before the ICC are not forgotten, it is urgent that the Assembly of the African Union remembers its mandate and foundational doctrine of non-indifference embedded in Article 4(h) of the Constitutive Act of the AU, mandating the continental body to ‘intervene … in respect of grave circumstances, namely: war crimes, genocide, and crimes against humanity.’ As such, I am arguing that the special session of the AU has far more serious priorities. If Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto are innocent, then they can have their day in court and their exoneration before an international criminal court can only convey greater political legitimacy to them.
As already stated, one aim of the African Union when it was formed was to ensure that there was no impunity for those who committed crimes against humanity in Africa. If indeed, it is the position of the African peoples that the ICC has discriminated against Africans, then the most urgent matter before this upcoming Assembly is for Africans to build regional and national mechanisms to bring those who commit crimes against humanity to justice. Unless the Assembly can demonstrably guarantee the African peoples that the AU has genuine political will and capacity to thoroughly enforce article 4(h) of the Constitutive Act, to stem the criminal activities of desperate and selfish political leaders in Africa, any discussion about mass withdrawal from the ICC could be tantamount to self-delegitimization.