The Citizen (Juba)

Africa: Are the Present Leaders of AU Unaware of Banjul Charter of 1981?

A critique of the AU leaders in an opinion page of The Citizen has drawn the attention of the Africans in general and AU leaders in particular to the Banjul Charter initiated, drafted, discussed and passed by leaders of OAU member countries.

This Charter was one of the most significant documents ever issued by the forerunner continental organization to the African Union, the Organization of African Unity OAU. When the late Muammar Kaddafi confused the African leaders for some of whom he paid their outstanding annual subscriptions in the organization by bulldozing the name from aiming for African unity to mere union because the North Africans have no interest to bring their countries closer into unity with African countries, the organization has the current name African Union.

What is at stake here is the dormancy of the Banjul Charter and its non-application in addressing the African core issues by the current AU leaders. Carefully read, the Charter clearly does not condone any leadership like that in Sudan which deprives its citizens of their rights to live by placing them in danger. The Banjul Charter could have stopped the suggestion made by some African leaders to ignore implementing the International Criminal Court ICC which indicted President Omer Al Bashir for war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide in which 300,000 Africans were killed in the restive region of Darfur.

The Banjul Charter is very clear and does not allow harm to the citizens of the member countries by their governments. The international community having established through modern technological means the committing of the crimes in Darfur using satellites and other methods AU leaders should have asked it for proofs of the ICC accusation of Al Bashir before frog jumping into decision that AU member countries felt the ICC was created to try Africans only and therefore was a body of discrimination. That was the vague reason given by these leaders not to support the arrest of Al Bashir who continued to visit African countries in defiance of the announcement to arrest him.

The AU decision in favour of Al Bashir to allow him move out of Khartoum to visit some African nations like, Chad, Kenya, Ethiopia, Malawi, Egypt, Libya, Eritrea without any fear of arrest on behalf of the ICC was not unanimous. If it were, some member countries like Lesotho, Malawi could have said they would arrest him and hand him over to ICC should he step in their respective territory.

The recent event of Malawi cancelling the planned AU heads of state summit in its capital Lilongwe following the Benin foreign minister expression of opposition to the Malawian decision to ban Al Bashir from coming was a clear crack in the African Union and the leaders must reconcile their positions to have one voice to keep Al Bashir out even from Addis Ababa because his case involves criminal charges and not diplomatic stand-off.

Many Africa leaders who were at first made by colleagues to believe that the ICC was for Africans only are now getting the message that the ICC is for taking to task leaders of the world and not of Africa only who commit serious crimes against people of their countries or those of the neighbouring countries. The world has seen the generals like Mladic who massacred Muslims and Croatians in Srebrenica, an enclave in the former Yugoslavia during the Balkan wars of 1990s taken to The Hague after more than ten years of hiding. Slobodan Milosevic of Serbia died while under detention in the ICC for mass killing of people during the same Balkan wars.

Now where is the validity of the African charge that the ICC is meant for African leaders like Charles Taylor of Liberia, Laurent Gbago of Ivory coast, the Congolese former rebel leaders, Joseph Kony of the Ugandan LRA, Al Bashir and his ministers namely Ahmad Haroun, Abdel Rahim Hussein and Ali Khusayb? Africans are straightforward people and do not follow wrong ideas blindly. They must turn the table in the AU and lock Al Bashir outside the hall of justice, equality and respect to human dignity.

It is when they do that the rest of the world will say truly we are people who make independent decisions and are not just driven blindly by others to serve their vested interests. It is time the AU leaders make the organization to be given its due respect.

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