Daily Nation (Kenya)
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Perpetual whining by some African leaders that the International Criminal Court is biased has in recent weeks become a badge of honour for continental politicians bent on resurrecting the days of the Big Man.

South Africa, whose president, Jacob Zuma’s’ best lesson includes surviving scandals, went for the biggest: it officially notified the UN Secretary General’s office it was withdrawing.

Having waited for ‘the big continental boy’ to throw the first punch, Burundi, whose president Pierre Nkrunziza is a reincarnation of best forgotten Big Men, announced it was withdrawing from the ICC.

Gambia, whose landmass is less than the river it’s named after, joined the bandwagon.

Fear among human rights advocates is more withdrawals by African nations.

Maybe, maybe not. Attempts at this year’s annual Summit of the African Union in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, to go for a mass exodus failed.

That’s now saying there aren’t quitters.

Kenya, for example, has a strong constituency of ICC bashers.

Having hauled the country’s president and his deputy to the dock – the cases collapsed – infuriates many Kenyans, especially the nostalgic beneficiaries of the Big Men days.

Notably, South Africa, Burundi and Gambia have skirmished with the ICC.

South Africa for refusing to arrest Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir, an ICC fugitive; Burundi because the ICC wants to investigate alleged state-sponsored crimes since Nkurunziza decided to change the constitution to allow him a third term.

Gambia’s case is bizarre. It wanted the ICC to indict the European Union on issues related to African migrants, including Gambians, dying in the Mediterranean Sea on their way to Europe.

President Yahya Jammeh should be wondering why some Gambians are saying ‘Good bye fat man.’

It’s worthy of note none of the 43 African nations signatory to the 1998 Rome Treaty that established the court was overtly, note OVERTLY, coerced.


There are 124 signatories to the treaty that set up the ICC to try heinous crimes, including of aggression, against humanity and in war.

Why they did baffles, considering the continent had galore perpetrators of the crimes the court was established to handle.

Apparently aware of the fact, most countries in the Middle East and Asia didn’t get on board.

The perceived ICC bias against Africans is based on the fact that since inception the court has only indicted and prosecuted their kind.

That’s no reason to quit the court. After all, committing a crime because others have gotten away with it is stupid. It makes more sense not to.

Moreover, in six of 10 preliminary examinations that have led to full investigations, African nations concerned invited the ICC.

Most important, it’s foolhardy for a nation to quit an international organisation because in the modern world decisions by such organisations have spillovers that eventually affect the quitters.

For example, the ICC isn’t going to die if African signatories withdraw.

The owners are in the UN Security Council. They aren’t signatories.

They will chase whoever they want. Ask Al-Bashir whose country isn’t signatory to the Rome Treaty.

Sticking around and fighting for reforms – galore for the ICC are on the table – is, in the long-run, most beneficial.