By Ademola AraoyeT
he implications are that Africa is also hopelessly out of reckoning in the global competition for extractive value. This failure in this most critical department is the most devastating for Africa’s feeble drive for holistic emancipation. The African geopolitical landscape is configured to ensure that the continent remains out of relevance in the global scheme of things. In fact, many of these political non-entities are condemned to permanent dependency, barely surviving on residues of value disbursement from powerful states to retain their fictive sovereignty. The dependency syndrome is deeply ingrained in the mindsets, such that the loyalties of the helmsmen of these states are more to their metropolitan controllers than their citizens. Also, internally, the leaderships trust, rule through, and are secured by a very small band of loyalists and persons from their ethnic bases and villages. The contractual circle of leadership is a narrow local constituency. The multiple dependency syndrome has posed a mortal danger to the integrity of Africa’s half-hearted striving for holistic emancipation. But the cynical beneficiaries of the untenable situation will defend this madness to the hilt. This is even as more misguided opportunists still want to carve out more fiefdoms for themselves. The people are manipulated on the basis of their ethnicity and religion to advance the agenda of these villains. In the ghettos of pan-Africanism, governance has become the exclusive domain of villainous egomaniacs. Nigeria has had a few of them; egomaniacal and psychotic patrons of the state. And they kill people very mercilessly to satiate these monstrous cravings. This is the scenario all over the continent. It is a direct outcome of Addis Ababa.
Killings are a major feature and challenge to the oppressed people in the continental ghettos of pan-Africanism. It can be chilling. William Reno records that in December 2009, the Lord’s Resistance Army, a brutal rebel militia group guided by a wig-wearing commander named Joseph Kony massacred more than three hundred people in a remote corner of north-eastern Congo. Most of the victims were clubbed to death, some were killed with machetes, a few were shot, and a few more were strangulated. Reno further notes that violence is pervasive with dozens of small scale dirty wars in Congo, Somalia, the Central African Republic, Burundi, Sudan, South Sudan, Chad, Niger, and Nigeria from east to the west, from some of the mightiest nations to its smallest and least significant. Chief of Army Staff, Lieutenant General Luka Yusuf, referring to the 2007 massacre of unarmed civilians in ZakiBiam, said that was just the military’s normal role as enshrined in the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Confronted with these horrors, international society has shown legitimate concern for violations of human rights and the catastrophic lack of respect for the sanctity of human lives.
Yet, Africa faces a dilemma in respect of externally contrived mechanisms to ensure justice is done and to serve as a deterrent to egregious human rights abuses, especially in times of bloody conflicts. The African Union summit meeting in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, on October 11 and 12, 2013, on the International Criminal Court (ICC) concluded with a demand for a postponement of the trial of Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta. The trial of President Kenyatta, scheduled for November 2013, had exacerbated African concerns over the ICC and instigated that summit of African states. The summit attained a consensus that no sitting African Head of State or Government should appear before an international court. Although it was initially suggested that the meeting was going to discuss the possibility of a mass withdrawal of the 34 African state signatories to the Rome Treaty that established the International Criminal Court, the AU consensus, in the end, was limited in scope as it addressed mainly the immunity of sitting Heads of State or Government. Thus, it left unattended the larger controversy around the feasibility and credibility of international transitional justice in a global system driven by mindless pursuit of power by powerful elite states and the immorality of the pursuit of partisan national and collective interests by elite forces at the expense of weak members of the international state system. These fundamental questions transcend the immediate attention trained on the implication of the prosecution of Kenya’s sitting President Uhuru Kenyatta by the International Criminal Court at The Hague.
The confrontation between an emerged global society (as distinct from the community of states often referred to as international community) glued together by transnational consensus and universally shared sensibilities around given transcendental moral codes and humanistic principles on the one hand and a power based and driven international state system dominated by ruthless elite forces, on the other hand, raises profound issues relating to the feasibility and integrity of the concept of international justice. This is at least so in the mind of discerning Africans. It is a truism that the doctrine of universal jurisdiction developed to address the problem of atrocious abuses of human rights perpetrated by state officials with immunity and all manner of mindless rebels is welcome. This is especially so in Africa with its appalling record in this regard. Yet, the real challenge to bringing these monsters to justice is not so much resistance to international justice in Africa, but rather the abuses of the process of international accountability by the same forces that, firstly, refuse to sign on to the process, and yet, secondly, exploit the good intentions of international society to advance their strategic goals. This is the crux of the challenge of international transitional justice in a global state system that is underpinned by the singular pursuit of national interests and, now, the protection of collective geo-strategic, including economic, interests of dominant elite forces in the international system. The international system, its regime of governing principles, the hierarchy and the privileges appertaining to being a member of an elite club of powerful states is traditionally power-based. This power projection of the victorious allies in World War II was evident at the Nuremberg trials that preceded the International Criminal Court at The Hague. The same considerations hold true today.
In the final analysis, the damning and regrettable reality is that the prevailing and unspoken sensibilities undergirding international transitional justice system, notwithstanding the moral cloak of the advocating state actors, are political. The morality of the international system of states is fickle, relative and selective. Its justice can only reflect the interests of the regime of elite forces that dominate and drive the politics of the international system, including international justice. In this setting, it is not conceptually feasible to expect a credible, independent, morally based international sanctions system that is not underpinned by a constant search of the most powerful forces to consolidate the power of their reach, hold and control of the global system. Secondly, in the advocacy of international society for the enthronement of international morality, they are unable to bring onboard powerful state actors that are easily the most egregious transnational violators of rights and the perpetrators of mindless unlimited violence on weak peoples around the world. As international society courageously pursues the birth of a saner, more humane world, even in conflict, the main elite state powers of the global system exclude themselves from this project to protect the dignity of humanity wherever this may be. Otherwise, someone should be howling over the indiscriminate use of cold metallic drones to incrementally wipe out poor communities who ever so often have no control over the bloodthirsty madmen from the dark ages who hold them hostage.
The powerful state actors do this, even while they directly influence the outcomes of international transitional justice processes. International justice is thus perceived by the weak and objective analysts from even these powerful states as a quasi law-based enterprise that is mainly an expression and mere extension of the configuration of global power. The cold political calculus of this regime bears no relevance to the pursuit of justice to victims. International justice becomes then a convenient political instrument of the powerful against the weak. In a way, it is double jeopardy for the victims of abuses as the same forces that undermine the credibility of international justice that should be their last resort exploit their plight. This is the fundamental precept of blatant neo-conservatism that has dominated the international system, especially in the George Bush White House, the nuanced neo-conservatism in relation to Africa of the Barrack Obama White House, the Lilliputian mind of a Sarkozy presidency in France and the confused Labour government in the United Kingdom under Tony Blair acting in Iraq, Libya or in Cote d’Ivoire. In the case of Nicholas Sarkozy, what morality or justice, international or otherwise, can Africa expect from a character standing trial for the alleged fleecing of an ailing virtual centurion billionairess Liliane Bettencourt? In 2020, Trumpist assault on the international liberal regime would make the situation worse for African states that he has described as “shitholes.”
Recent history is replete with this double standard in the case of the weak. As revealed by Wikileaks, the determinant imprint of the United States is stamped on the outcomes of some of the trials emanating from the Balkan tragedy. The United States preferred a certain outcome and got its way. The preponderant influence of the United States through its Ambassador in the Hague in ensuring that the International Special Court on Sierra Leone put away Charles Taylor forever and that he does not return to Liberia to threaten American economic interests is another case point. In Cote d’Ivoire, François Hollande’s France, just like his predecessor, Nicholas Sarkozy, presided over a victor’s justice and protected the Forces Nouvelles rebels, mostly non-Ivorians from Burkina Faso who are well documented for the most horrendous human rights violations in the Ivorian conflict. They acted on behalf and in the interests of France. Alassane Dramane Ouattara, who was the rebel paymaster choreographing the entrenchment of French interests, emerged as president of the country to dispense a victor’s justice on behalf of France. Meanwhile, the ICC, after acknowledging Laurent Gbagbo, after acquitting him of all charges and, unprecedentedly, proclaiming him as a most caring leader of his people, is still holding on to him on behalf of France. Top Libyan officials of the post-Gaddafi transition have alleged that a French agent was directly responsible for killing the former Libyan strong man. The plot is feasible because Nicholas Sarkozy had a reason to eliminate Gaddafi to cover embarrassing financial transactions between the two. Now, Africa faces the deluge as post-Gaddafi Libya totters toward violent disintegration. Life in the country is brutish and nasty. All France cares about in Libya, as in Cote d’Ivoire and Syria, is how its contractors are awarded billion-dollar worth of contracts under a reconstruction programme. Meanwhile, Benghazi, the stronghold of the Libyan militants, and Libya, have become a haven of lawless criminality and warlordism as the West busies itself pumping oil at sub-prime price. These are the true posters of international humanitarian intervention and justice in Africa. These are some of the direct dividends of Addis Ababa 1963.
So, there is a basis for the widespread perception among keen observers that the continent’s objective interests can never be protected by international political cum pseudo judicial mechanisms like the ICC. Against strident protests of a few perceptive African leaders, the hollowness of international morality and international justice prevailed in Libya, Cote d’Ivoire, and Liberia. But it failed woefully in Syria. The differential outcome can be explained by the fact that all the three African states involved were not and are not effectively integrated into the major global power alliance system. Where African regimes claim traditional friendship with their former colonial masters, their leaders are expendable minions to elite powers. So, while France, the United States and NATO could, with impunity, take laws into their hands in Africa, the cost of the bogus sanctimonious moral hypocrisy in Syria has been very high. They were checkmated by Russia and China.
Accordingly, the interventions by all sides in Syria merely complicated the crisis rather than have a quick determinant impact as in Africa. International transitional justice comes across as simply a power game in which the ghettos of pan-Africanism are mere pawns.
Another clear case in point of Africa’s dilemma in relation to international justice is the principle of Responsibility to Protect. Analysts have observed that restraining powerful predatory elite states contemptuous of the sovereignty of weak states from exploiting the R2P principles encoding universal humanitarian values to unilaterally project their strategic interests has been futile. The doctrine of Responsibility to Protect (R2P), constituting another strand of well-meaning initiatives to protect the primacy of the dignity of human victims in conflict situations, was advanced by its advocates as intended to create a new international legal framework for stopping war crimes. The principle legitimises international enforcement action against an oppressive state to protect its citizens from grave harm. The outcomes of the unilateral interventions of major powers in domestic affairs of weak states using this principle show that, in reality, the interventions were in pursuit of national strategic projects. They had nothing to do with the rule of law or to protect vulnerable citizens. The façade of “humanitarian interventions” was exactly what it was — only a façade to do other heinous things. Accordingly, international structures or institutions, from the Security Council, the International Court of Justice, the International Criminal Court (ICC) and allied bodies, have to struggle to act as established to pursue justice as it is known of it in the domestic democratic setting of civilised societies. They are all political bodies. Ultimately, they end up as instruments in the hands of powerful forces that deploy them to pursue the interests of powerful forces against weaker states. The ICC poses a dilemma as it raises profound challenges for policymaking that delicately balances all the contradictory imperatives of the dilemmas of international humanitarian and judicial interventions.
The lessons are simple. The ICC, in the face of unending cycles of monstrous human calamities in African conflicts of no limits and bounds, represents a critically needed ascendance of international global moral sensibility championed by the international society (moral society) in mediating African trouble horrors. Unfortunately for humankind, the international community of states that is still determined to preserve the old and traditional currency of international intercourse — unmitigated and brutal projection of power — constitutes a serious impediment to this laudable project. These states have appropriated the rhetoric of the global moral majority to advance their partisan power related interests. In so doing, they usurped the ICC and have undermined the credibility of the well-intentioned global statespersons that crafted the ICC.
*Professor Ademola Araoye is Director, Abuja Leadership Center, a TETFund Center of Excellence in Public Governance and Leadership at the University of Abuja, FCT, Nigeria.