One feels like shouting at the top of one’s voice, hoping the noise will make some unhearing people hear a little. Maybe we should dispense with civility in this uncivil backwater of a continent.
For I cannot, for the love of me, fathom the reasons that impels our rulers to persist in being illogical in matters where they are given generous opportunities to be logical, opportunities they so carelessly pass up.
If we revisit the debate about the International Criminal Court and its decision to indict some African leaders in situations where it is clear to all that atrocities of one sort or another were committed, a number of questions raise themselves voluntarily.
It is disturbing that our leaders/rulers can muster enough cheek to summon each other to Addis Ababa with the sole purpose of finding ways to avoid accountability when they go astray. It is even more disgusting that they can think of a mass walkout on an organisation they joined with such aplomb not so long ago, the reason for walking out being that some of them have been required to come clean on their activities.
The court at the Hague is a court of law in the tradition where presumption of innocence is guaranteed, unlike in so many of our rulers’ kangaroo courts where one is guilty as soon as one is charged, and where magistrates and judges are either articles for sale to the highest bidder, or where they are so subservient to the executive that anyone who rouses the ire of the ruler is dead meat.
One question we should be asking ourselves is, if you know you are not guilty, what makes you so scared to go and plead your innocence? From what the Kenyan leaders have been saying, they do not seem to be that terrified of appearing.
One of them has repeatedly insisted he wants no disruption of the trial as he is confident of being vindicated.
There also seems to be some understanding that the two will not be made to be absent from the country they are supposed to run at the same time, that their appearances will be staggered. So where is the problem?
The problem is not with the Kenyan accused; it is with the other African rulers who cannot be too sure that in their countries they will not commit the types of crimes their colleagues are accused of. If the Kenyans play ball with the ICC, these others will have been exposed, for a precedent will have been set.
So they are hiding behind all manner of smokescreens, including sovereignty and the claim that Africa is being targeted. What they are seeking is pro forma insurance cover.
No, I repeat, it is not Africa that is before the ICC; it is African individuals, and for specified reasons. But I understand the arrogance that informs that claim: For these gentlemen — and a couple of ladies these days — Africa is them.
What happens to them happens to Africa. Just like someone who has lost out on a deal in Nairobi, Dar or Kampala will tell folks back home that they got a raw deal because they are from this or that tribe, or this or that faith. In this way, whole ethnicities or religions are shanghaied into wars they know nothing about.
Talk of Africa being targeted! Not enough African rulers are summoned to The Hague, if we go by the crimes they have committed against their own peoples.
I personally know at least seven who should be packing their bags to answer for hideous crimes, including murder and armed robbery. Yes, armed robbery. One who steals money and other properties that belong to other people (the citizens) commits the crime of theft. If the people protest and he uses armed police or soldiers to shoot unarmed citizens in order to suppress the protest and to help him to effect his theft, that is armed robbery.
It may not be on the statute books, but it would be if the law were not such an ass.
Jenerali Ulimwengu is chairman of the board of the Raia Mwema newspaper and an advocate of the High Court in Dar es Salaam. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org