The controversial International Criminal Court has finally come out with an arrest warrant for President Omar Beshir of the Sudan. The warrant is out for war crimes and/ or crimes against humanity but not for genocide—a point that would surely not matter that much for the accused.
Let me say from the outset that I have little or no sympathy for the tyrant in the Sudan who, aside from causing the slaughter of so many in South Sudan and Darfur, has deported many Ethiopians to their deaths or diappearance and has sent his troops to occupy Ethiopian land.
That said, the decision by the ICC and the clamour it has engendered from quarters that have proven contempt for Africa calls for some reflection. The ICC seems to be in reality the ACC, the African Criminal Court, as it seems hell bent to deal only with alleged African war criminals (up to now) from the Congo, Sudan, Central African Republic and Uganda. From Milosevic to Charles Taylor and the Congolese war lord, that court in The Hague has yet to deal with notorious war criminals from the West.
The ICC arrest warrant for Omar Beshir thus leaves a bitter taste in our mouths not because the accused is innocent or does not deserve to be tried (which should be done by the people of Sudan and not by others for that matter) but because it is one more clear contemptuous action directed against Africa and signifies the nauseating double standard and hypocrisy that has been so damaging to the oppressed peoples of the world. War criminals abound all over the world and the top ones are the very ones manipulating the ICC prosecutor and making all this hue and cry.
Just a look around shows that while in Cambodia one trial for genocide is in progress the butchers of Indochina, from Henry Kissinger to so many American generals and CIA officials, are not only free but honoured. In Iraq, where war crime of huge proportions has been committed by Bush and Cheney we hear no whisper of a court action against them or any other suspects other than the speeded trial and execution of Sadam and his officials. Even in Africa, pro-West butchers are hardly bothered. The war criminal in Ethiopia, Meles Zenawi, is untouched and even rewarded with aid and praise for his crimes against the Ethiopian and Somali peoples. The tyrant in Equatorial Guinea is enjoying Western protection by those greedily taking that country’s oil.
Omar Beshir’s political and ideological position brought on him this wrath and not his bloody actions against his own people. Had he been pro-Washington or pro-London, the ICC would have ignored him no matter how many he may have killed. Did London and Washington criticize Mugabe when he ran rampage in Matabeleland to “deal with an insurgency”? There is presently a cry out for the arrest of former Chadian dictator Hissen Habre however his replacement Idris Deby also deserves to be tried but the oil factor comes in to grease the ICC silent. How many war criminals are enjoying comfortable exile in the USA, France and England? Wasn’t Sadam the dear friend of the West for so many years as he killed so many Iraqis and gassed Kurds and waged war against Iranians?
The shame of the past seems to be carried by the ICC now. Real crimes and criminals ignored. Has Germany paid for the brutal massacre of the Hereros? Italy for the death of one million Ethiopians? Belgium for the butchery of 15 million Congolese? Britain for all its crimes of Empire all over the world? Britain, France and America for the slave trade? France, Spain and Portugal for their colonial crimes? Can we say Lebanon? Sabra and Shattila? Chechniya? Dare we even mention other recent crimes perpetrated by the powerful on hapless and defenceless people?
Africa is shamed again and again and that dead body called the AU has yet to be buried with indignity. A frustrated Revered Desmond Tutu once said young South Africans ‘should not listen to Desmond Tutu”—I find his recent comments on Zimbabwe and Sudan not worthy of an African ear, young or old. Anyway, the ICC warrant against Beshir will mainly serve to complicate the problems of the troubled region and may even gain him some support from angry Sudanese. Other victims of Beshir may rejoice but it would only be a pyrrhic victory. The real victory is when the people bring the tyrants to their own court of law and when all war criminals, white or black, rich or poor, are brought before a proper court of law. The parody and political machinations by those who should be tried themselves is only a continuation of the injustice, a cruel and crude joke, against oppressed peoples.
Hama Tuma is an Ethiopian writer and poet
The views expressed here are solely those of the author’s and may not necessarily reflect the views of Afrik-news.com.