9 February 2016

Africa: AU Cries Wolf Over ICC Withdrawal

A famous Greek fable goes that a young trickster shepherd boy repeatedly cried out that he was being attacked by a wolf. The villagers would come out armed to the teeth only for him to laugh until tears rolled down his face. "I was only joking", he would say, tickled. Then one day the wolf came and mauled him. He cried out for help but no one came. Not even his family or best friend. Everyone thought that he was joking as usual. His false alarm and lies cost him his life.

The Africa Union (AU) is the biggest cry baby when it comes to the ICC. It keeps crying and laughing over matters of life and death and this is not amusing. This immature behavior is not what the children of Africa would expect of their father.

The AU has threatened for the umpteenth time to pull out of the International Criminal Court (ICC), only to backtrack. Our father the AU has been crying wolf. This is disappointing since crying wolf is not in line with our dreams of justice and freedom. Our expectations as children of Africa are for the AU to fight for the underprivileged and against all forms of suppression both within and outside the continent.

The ICC has been on the agenda of almost every AU summit since the indictment of Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir. Goal posts have changed significantly from the days the AU lobbied for Bensouda to become ICC's first African prosecutor. The AU has instead become the primary saboteur of ICC Chief Prosecutor Bensouda and the Court.

As the AU continues to cry wolf over the withdrawal of its members from the ICC, the two pertinent hard questions the organisation must ask itself are: what would Mandela say and what would Beyonce do?

The AU hypocrisy is a foul attempt to blackmail justice. It's time for the AU that it regards an individual as more important than a country. But is al-Bashir more important than the oppressed people of Sudan? Is William Ruto more important that 1300 Kenyans killed and the 650,000 Kenyan victims roaming the face of the earth, who cannot even go back home but have to be resettled in other parts of the country?

Only a few weeks ago, the AU requested to be a friend of the Court in the ongoing trials in The Hague, in which Kenya's deputy president William Ruto and journalist Joshua arap Sang are co-charged with crimes against humanity. In the same breath, during its latest summit in Addis Ababa, the AU went ahead and endorsed asking a committee to consider a roadmap for possible withdrawal from the ICC.

Imagine coming home from school one day only to find your father crying loudly because your mother did not make enough ugali. Dad is packing his clothes, remote control, television and everything else that can fit in his car. He is threatening to leave home unless mum makes the exact amount of ugali he wants. Dad does not care whether you or your siblings have any ugali at all or that you are hungry and you also need him to help with the homework.

The AU must style up and act as the real father of the African continent. Harassing and hunting down the ICC is not a mark of leadership but of failed leadership. The AU's unbecoming conduct of favouring her blue-eyed leaders in Kenya and Sudan who are on trial, at the expense of other African leaders who have gone through the process, smirks of mischief. Have they called for Charles Taylor to be released? Did they not prefer to go for their Christmas break before addressing the ongoing genocide in Burundi? Have they asked Kenyan leaders why eight years after post-election violence, victims cannot go back to their previous homes and instead continue to languish in IDP camps? Why are people being resettled in their own country when they have their homes? Who is fooling whom?

It is becoming crystal clear that the AU is not here to support African citizens but for its own self-preservation. AU leaders are demanding immunity for sitting presidents, but they cannot control their own greed or stop wars on the continent. To whom shall we turn when our own father has turned us into orphans? Is the AU crying wolf of its own volition or has money changed hands? Who knows?

Omwa Ombara is the pseudonym of an international journalist and author.

The opinions expressed here are those of their author and are not intended to reflect those of The Hague Trials Kenya. Have an opinion you would like to share? 

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