Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari, not long ago, expressed his government’s support for the controversial International Criminal Court (ICC) in Hague, Netherlands. The support couldn’t have been more wrongly-timed and could only have undermined other African countries in the struggle for equal treatment with leaders outside the continent.
Here was the same ICC with its back to the wall in the demand of African leaders for equal treatment with other world leaders in the ICC’s main responsibility of prosecuting crimes against humanity, wherever it might exist. From all records, the prosecution virtually focuses only on the African continent. In fact, the ICC shook to its foundation when South Africa served notice of its intention to withdraw as a signatory to the instrument setting up the ICC. That threat was a reflection of the growing anger of African leaders against being treated as second class to their counterparts outside the continent. The South African move was a leadership role suitable for only a couple of African states, including Nigeria, which regretfully clogged the process.
The instrument setting up the ICC was clear as crystal. Following series inhuman atrocities in various parts of the world, in the name of one conflict or another, it was decided, through the United Nations, to set up the ICC.
On the face of its, such a court would curb resort to mass murder, especially by African leaders usually to perpetuate or prolong their tenure. Hence, throughout Africa, there was hardly any country without its record of massacre. If under the apartheid regime, South Africa recorded Sharpeville massacre with casualties among black Africans, it was least expected that, after independence in 1994, a black African President Zuma thereafter would ever condone the murder of tens of unarmed miners, protesting against poor wages and demanding unproved working conditions.
Nigeria is not without its share of crimes against humanity, which should have been tried by an impartial ICC. The massacre at Odi, Bayelsa State, the massacre at Zaki Biam, Benue State, the massacre of members of the shite religious sect by Nigerian Army along Kaduna-Zaria expressway. The intermittent massacre of Sudanese by the country’s ex-leader, recently deposed President Al-Bashir, on such scale that made the ICC to declare him wanted for crimes against humanity.
Other countries stained with blood of its citizens are Cameroon, Togo, Democratic Republic of Congo, Gabon, Burundi, Central African Republic, Equatorial Guinea, Uganda.
With its prominent place on the catalogue of crimes against humanity, Nigeria, in its support for ICC, couldn’t have been a turkey calling for Christmas. More remarkably, Nigeria has always shied away from the major contention of the future of or even the existence of ICC at all, in view of the constant criticism of ICC’s bias against African leaders.
By the way, with such a catalogue of crimes against humanity in various parts of the world, it may appear ICC is a desirable instrument for taming blood-thirsty leaders in Africa. And how indeed in the trials of Liberia’s Charles Taylor and Cote d’Ivoire’s Laurent Gbagbo. But then, are Liberia and Cole d’Ivoire the only culprit countries for crimes against humanity in Africa? Many other countries – including Nigeria – had been reported to the ICC for alleged crimes against humanity. Did ICC ever take action?
In fact, in deserving figures, what was the combined total fatal figure of crimes against humanity in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Cote d’Ivoire compared to the complete destruction of anybody or anything moving in Odi and Zaki Biam villages in Nigeria? Obviously, ICC looked the other way in particular cases and that criminal indifference was responsible for the massacre of the shite religious sect and intermittent fatal repression of Biafrans agitating for self-determination recognised by the United Nations.
There is then the most fundamental reason Nigeria’s support for ICC at this stage is questionable. At inception, ICC was not tasked specifically to tackle crimes against humanity ONLY in Africa or developing countries. The ICC was established to tackle crimes against humanity all over the world. Surprisingly, developing countries were virtually intimidate to sign onto the treaty establishing ICC, with threats of various sanctions. And they all signed to the treaty.
Meanwhile, as much as developed countries might not be faulted for crimes against humanity, many of them (developed countries) were always involved in foreign wars where crimes against humanity were always committed – Afghanistan, Syria, Iraq, Middle-East and the Gulf. Developed countries, till today, are always complicit in the cover-up of crimes against humanity committed by their satellite client states. Such developed countries could, therefore, be, and should have been, liable for crimes against humanity committed by their citizens, who at least could have been investigated by the ICC.
To pre-empt that international accountability for which African leaders are easily liable, many foreign nations refused to sign on to the ICC document. United States, Britain, France, Russia, Israel and many European countries are not signatories to the ICC document. Hence, neither their leaders nor any member of their respective armed forces can ever be tried or investigated for any alleged crime against humanity. Why then should Nigeria’s Buhari be supporting an International Criminal Court, which can prosecute or even jail an African of whatever status for crimes against humanity, yet the same ICC can never try such equivalents in any developing country?
Indeed, an ICC official once attempted to interrogate some British ex-servicemen on allegations of crimes against humanity. But the (then) Defence Secretary, William Hague, arrogantly sent the ICC investigator packing. Would Nigeria or any African country have had the privilege to protect any of its servicemen from being interrogated by the ICC in similar circumstances? On the other hand, African leaders (admittedly because of allegations of crimes against humanity) had always been humiliated by this same ICC. Former Sudanese leader, Omar Al-Bashir had to hurry out of South Africa a couple of years ago to escape ICC officials’ attempt to arrest him under international arrest.
If that was bad enough, the treatment of Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta was worse. Fresh from an election victory about five years ago, the same ICC, which was scared off by British defence minister from interrogating ordinary ex-soldiers, was threatening an African leader with warrant of arrest. Poor Uhuru Kenyatta. I had to champion his cause in this column by calling on other African leaders to support Kenyatta and resist the ICC humiliation, and rub it in by quitting the ICC.
The debate, therefore, still rages on whether the ICC was specially created to be prosecuting only African leaders suspected of crimes against humanity. This is the same ICC bolstered by Nigeria. It is wrong. It is also a sabotage of a necessary self-assertion of the dignity of African leaders for equal treatment with their counterparts in other parts of the world.
Post script: Difference between vampires and human beings. Sudanese military leaders warned their people against demonstration and that they should blame themselves for any death from the demonstration. Truly, seven people died premeditated murder. Same day, in Hong Kong, protesters broke into Legislature. Yet, nobody was killed.
Taraba dares kidnappers
There is a new law in Taraba State stipulating death penalty for kidnapping and life jail sentence for concealment of information on either plot to kidnap or arrest of culprit. The new law is obviously intended to show the determination of the state government’s frontal tackle of a criminal menace, which has emerged as a growth industry in the country.
However, nobody should be deceived that the latest development is evidence of some serious tackle of the menace. Much as prosecution of kidnapping might be the responsibility of state governments, yet the latter remain the weakest link for that combat. Taraba State is only the latest to enact death penalty for the offence, in view of the alarming increase in the daring activities of kidnappers.
Otherwise, before Taraba, quite a number of states earlier enacted similar law for kidnapping. Lagos, Rivers Edo and Delta as well as others took that lead. It was not as if since then kidnappings had not been recorded in those states. In fact, the harsher the laws, the more daring are the kidnappers in the twin belief that misguided libertarians in society would not allow the state governments concerned to execute culprit kidnappers and that, in any case, with death penalty for kidnapping, state governors only aim at impressing society.
Why? The state governors concerned lack the guts to enforce the law on death penalty. It is only fair to single out ex-Edo State governor, Adams Oshiomhole, for executing a few convicted kidnappers. That tough position alarmed other potential kidnappers who moved to other states and Edo enjoyed relative peace. Other state governors either treated security of citizens from kidnappers with outright contempt on the excuse that governors are to save lives or did not even care to offer any explanation.
Meanwhile, gradually, the menace of kidnapping spread like wildfire all over the country, with murder of victims even after collecting ransom in some cases.
Despite the new law providing death penalty for kidnapping in Taraba State, the deciding factor will be the ability and willingness of the state authorities to enforce the law on any convicted kidnapper.
This is not a retroactive law. Henceforth, any potential kidnapper in Taraba State is, therefore, well aware of his fate, if and when convicted. Is the governor prepared to sign the death warrant of any convicted kidnapper? With the first few executions, kidnappers will flee Taraba State for other sanctuary states.