In wake of the African Union threatening to withdraw from the International Criminal Court (ICC) and announced withdrawals, many African countries – including Botswana, Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ghana, Lesotho, Mali, Malawi, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Tanzania, and Tunisia – have affirmed their commitment to remain in the ICC and to work for any reform as ICC members.
Zambia is the latest country that is currently conducting public consultations on the country’s ICC membership. After announcing its withdrawal from the ICC, South Africa is also reconsidering her position. Botswana was seen as a lone voice in support for the ICC, but the way things are turning, it appears a number of African countries are readjusting their positions on the ICC.
The ICC is a groundbreaking achievement in the fight against impunity, the organizations said. It is the first and only global criminal court that can prosecute individuals responsible for atrocities. It is a court of last resort in that it has the authority to try genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity committed since 2002, but only when national courts are unable or unwilling to investigate and prosecute. Since the court’s treaty opened for signature in 1998, 124 countries have become members.
The majority of ICC investigations in Africa have arisen in response to requests or grants of authority by governments in the countries where the crimes were committed – as in Central African Republic, Côte d’Ivoire, Democratic Republic of Congo, Mali, and Uganda – or through referrals by the UN Security Council – as in Darfur, Sudan and Libya.â€¨â€¨The ICC has faced backlash from some African leaders since it issued arrest warrants for Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir for alleged genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity in Darfur in 2009 and 2010. In 2016, evidence of the backlash reached new heights when South Africa, Burundi, and Gambia announced they would withdraw from the court, the first countries to take such action.
The ICC faces many challenges in meeting the expectations of victims of mass atrocities and member countries, the organizations said. Its inability to reach crimes committed in some powerful countries and their allies is a cause for deep concern, even as claims that the ICC is targeting Africa are not supportedby the facts. The court’s reach is limited to crimes committed on the territories of countries that have joined the court or offered the court authority on its territory, absent a referral by the United Nations Security Council.â€¨â€¨“The ICC has room for improvement, but it offers hope to victims who have nowhere else to turn for justice,” said Dewa Mavhinga, Southern Africa director at Human Rights Watch. “The court serves African victims who have suffered atrocities.” â€¨â€¨Gambia has rescinded its withdrawal and South Africa is also re-examining withdrawal, making Burundi the only country to have maintained its withdrawal. Under the ICC Statute, withdrawal goes into effect one year after the state party submits a notification to the UN Secretary-General.â€¨
THE ZAMBIA CASE
Several human rights and civil society organisations around Africa are calling on Zambia to reaffirm its membership in the International Criminal Court to best advance justice for victims of atrocities. A group of African organizations and international nongovernmental organizations with a presence in Africa are mobilising Zambians to support the public consultations on ICC membership.â€¨â€¨Zambia’s government began public consultations on the country’s ICC membership the week of March 27, 2017.
This was in response to the African Union summit’s adoption in January of an “ICC withdrawal strategy.” An unprecedented 16 countries, including Zambia, entered reservations to this decision.â€¨â€¨“Zambia has much to gain by staying with the ICC,” said Boniface Cheembe, executive director of Zambia’s Southern African Centre for the Constructive Resolution of Disputes. “Zambia has been a role model on the continent in matters of peace, democracy, and human rights.
Leaving the ICC would erode the country's leadership and threaten respect for the rights of victims of the most brutal crimes across Africa.”â€¨â€¨The organizations, which have long worked together to support justice for grave crimes in Africa, also released an updated video featuring African activists on the importance of the ICC in Africa.â€¨â€¨As a member of the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC), Zambia has a proud history in the establishment of the ICC, the organizations said. SADC was active in the diplomatic conference in Rome in 1998 where the ICC’s treaty was finalized after six weeks of negotiations.
SADC members developed 10 principles for an effective, independent, and impartial court at a meeting in Pretoria in 1997.â€¨â€¨Zambia signed the ICC’s Rome treaty on July 17, 1998, the day it opened for signature, and ratified the treaty on November 13, 2000.â€¨â€¨“We would encourage Zambia to reaffirm its support for the court, particularly in the absence of any functioning regional criminal court that can hold perpetrators to account,” said Kaajal Ramjathan-Keogh, executive director, Southern Africa Litigation Centre. “Zambia’s moves to reconsider its ICC membership raise concern.”
While there is no hard-and-fast rule in politics, former Molepolole North Member of Parliament, Mohamed Khan says populism acts in the body politic have forced him to quit active partisan politics. He brands this ancient ascription of politics as fake and says it lowers the moral compass of the society.
Khan who finally tasted political victory in the 2014 elections after numerous failed attempts, has decided to leave the ‘dirty game’, and on his way out he characteristically lashed at the current political leaders; including his own party president, Advocate Duma Boko. “I arrived at this decision because I have noticed that there are no genuine politics and politicians. The current leaders, Boko and President Dr Mokgweetsi Masisi are fake politicians who are just practicing populist politics to feed their egos,” he said.
Former Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) parliamentary hopeful, Lawrence Ookeditse has rejected the idea of taking up a crucial role in the Botswana Patriotic Front (BPF) Central Committee following his arrival in the party this week. According to sources close to development, BPF power brokers are coaxing Ookeditse to take up the secretary general position, left vacant by death of Roseline Panzirah-Matshome in November 2020.
Ookeditse’s arrival at BPF is projected to cause conflicts, as some believe they are being overlooked, in favour of a new arrival. The former ruling party strategist has however ruled out the possibility of serving in the party central committee as secretary general, and committed that he will turn down the overture if availed to him by party leadership.
Ookeditse, nevertheless, has indicated that if offered another opportunity to serve in a different capacity, he will gladly accept. “I still need to learn the party, how it functions and all its structures; I must be guided, but given any responsibility I will serve the party as long as it is not the SG position.”
“I joined the BPF with a clear conscious, to further advance my voice and the interests of the constituents of Nata/Gweta which I believe the BDP is no longer capable to execute.” Ookeditse speaks of abject poverty in his constituency and prevalent unemployment among the youth, issues he hopes his new home will prioritise.
He dismissed further allegations that he resigned from the BDP because he was not rewarded for his efforts towards the 2019 general elections. After losing in the BDP primaries in 2018, Ookeditse said, he was offered a job in government but declined to take the post due to his political ambitions. Ookeditse stated that he rejected the offer because, working for government clashed with his political journey.
He insists there are many activists who are more deserving than him; he could have chosen to take up the opportunity that was before him but his conscious for the entire populace’s wellbeing held him back. Ookeditse said there many people in the party who also contributed towards party success, asserting that he only left the BDP because he was concerned about the greater good of the majority not individualism purposes.
According to observers, Ookeditse has been enticed by the prospects of contesting Nata/Gweta constituency in the 2024 general election, following the party’s impressive performance in the last general elections. Nata/Gweta which is a traditional BDP stronghold saw its numbers shrinking to a margin of 1568. BDP represented by Polson Majaga garnered 4754, while BPF which had fielded Joe Linga received 3186 with UDC coming a distant with 1442 votes.
There are reports that Linga will pave way for Ookeditse to contest the constituency in 2024 and the latter is upbeat about the prospects of being elected to parliament. Despite Ookeditse dismissing reports that he is eying the secretary general position, insiders argue that the position will be availed to him nevertheless.
Alternative favourite for the position is Vuyo Notha who is the party Deputy Secretary General. Notha has since assumed duties of the secretariat office on the interim basis. BPF politburo is expected to meet on 25th of January 2020, where the vacancy will be filled.
Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) big wigs have decided to cancel a retreat with the party legislators this weekend owing to increasing numbers of Covid-19 cases. The meeting was billed for this weekend at a place that was to be confirmed, however a communique from the party this past Tuesday reversed the highly anticipated meeting.
“We received a communication this week that the meeting will not go as planned because of rapid spread of Covid-19,” one member of the party Central Committee confirmed to this publication. The gathering was to follow the first of its kind held late last year at party Treasurer Satar Dada’s place.