By Jenerali Ulimwengu
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
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
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
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: