THE BLOG

Al-Bashir Indictment: Why Africans Are Divided Over The Decision

Many Sudanese and Africans at large are divided over the International Criminal Court's (ICC) decision on March 04, 2009 to charge Sudan's President Al-Bashir with 10 counts of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity. There is a general feel -- as the said President has put in so many words -- that the West wants to control us, if they are not doing so already.

At first when the news broke out of Al-Bashir's arrest warrant, I could not understand why tens of thousands of Sudanese showed up in support of Al-Bashir's defiance and against the ICC's decision. When one is on the outside looking in, 300,000 civilian deaths that he has allegedly orchestrated surely deserves any punishment the ICC deems suitable. But many sovereign people of Sudan see this decision as part of the "new colonialism" of the West:

"We will protect President Bashir with every drop of our blood," chanted one group of demonstrators near Khartoum University.

One demonstrator, Fakri Osman, charged the West with hypocrisy, saying it had "two weights, two measures. We want a Sudanese solution to a Sudanese problem."

I will be first to admit of the situation in Darfur -- that resulted in hundreds of thousands of people, including children, being raped, tortured and killed -- that any African leader who is responsible for such brutality should be investigated and prosecuted by the ICC. But -- blessed though I may be with a certain level of intelligence and logic -- one cannot deny that the ICC is biased towards African leaders. And rightly so, given the atrocities they have caused.

Of all the 13 people indicted by the ICC, all are Africans. And what are we Africans to think of this? According to Wikipedia, Crimes Against Humanity means:

"particularly odious offenses in that they constitute a serious attack on human dignity or grave humiliation or a degradation of one or more human beings. They are not isolated or sporadic events, but are part either of a government policy (although the perpetrators need not identify themselves with this policy) or of a wide practice of atrocities tolerated or condoned by a government or a de facto authority. Murder, extermination, torture, rape, political, racial, or religious persecution and other inhumane acts reach the threshold of crimes against humanity only if they are part of a widespread or systematic practice."

Then surely Robert Mugabe will be next on the list since thus far, he has left at least 4000 people to die of Cholera and thousands more infected. In 2005 he led the brutal "Operation Drive The Rubbish" by demolishing houses and businesses, a move that resulted in a loss of livelihood for more than 700,000 Zimbabweans. He also used political force and violence by torturing and killing members and supporters of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) in order to win the 2008 elections. Yes indeed, in the very near future world headlines will be fielding the news of Robert Mugabe's much anticipated indictment. Once again rightly so.

But what about George Bush? Isn't it a "Crime Against Humanity" that the war he declared in Iraq with Tony Blair in 2003, resulted in reportedly more than 1 million civilian deaths, under the pretense that they were ridding Iraqis of Saddam Hussein's support for terrorism and weapons of mass destruction. All I am saying is that many Africans feel that there is a double standard and hypocrisy coming from the West.

Nobel Peace Prize winner Desmond Tutu wrote this week in the New York Times that African leaders and the African Union should support this "historic occasion." But many have been mum, diplomatic or have downright bashed this decision, including Kenyan foreign minister Moses Wetangula saying the ICC has been "very suspect." And, as you know, Africa is not short of dictators, corrupt, greedy and power hungry leaders whom by now must be thinking they are targets of the ICC. But to their comfort, they have full control and unwavering support from the people on the ground, who would rather believe their leaders' innocence than a decision from the West, and will do anything to protect them.

In conclusion and my recommendation: What should be good for Africans, should be good for the U.S. and Europe. The ICC is not seen as a free and fair court in Africa and decisions like these, as right as they are, tend to be seen as biased toward the continent. They will do more harm than good if not handled more diplomatically.