Bashir exposes hypocrisy of AfricanistsDate Released: Mon, 22 June 2015 10:00 +0200
Johannesburg - The biggest criticism that we as Africanists must heap on ourselves is our romanticisation of everything African. We have a disturbing tendency of presenting all African traditions as inherently progressive, the entire African history as utopian, and all African leaders as perpetual victims of the West.
We do this regardless of evidence to the contrary and regardless of how such a position hurts our own people. Never has this been clearer as it was this past week when South Africa hosted the AU summit where Sudanese president Omar al-Bashir was present.
Al-Bashir, who came to power in 1989 after a military coup that ousted the democratically elected government of Prime Minister Sadiq al-Mahdi, has been indicted by the International Criminal Court (ICC), of which South Africa is a signatory. He is charged with being criminally responsible, as an indirect co-perpetrator, for war crimes and crimes against humanity in the war in Darfur. A warrant for his arrest was issued in 2010.
The war in Darfur, one of the most brutal Africa has seen post-independence, began in 2003 when the Sudanese Revolutionary Front, comprised of various rebel groups, fought against the Sudanese government. The government was accused of the oppression of the non-Arab population of Sudan.
In retaliation, the Sudanese government launched a bloody campaign of systematic genocide against the indigenous population of Darfur. And as in most wars, women and girl children bore the worst of the brunt as rape was used as a weapon of war.
Hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians died in this conflict.
More than a million were displaced (the Sudanese government, naturally, claims that the numbers are lower than has been estimated by the UN). It is for this that al-Bashir is wanted by the ICC.
The indictment of al-Bashir is opposed by the AU and various other bodies including the Non-Aligned Movement and League of Arab States.
Like many, I am of the view that the ICC is a very problematic institution. One only has to look at the long list of criminals wanted by the body, as well as those who have been convicted in the past, to appreciate how unjust the ICC is.
Its application of law is not only atrocious, given the flawed processes that it employs; it is also selective and clearly targeted towards African and Arab leaders.
Countries such as the US and Israel are not signatories to the Rome Statute.
Thus, American leaders such as George W Bush, who has litres of blood dripping from their hands, cannot be charged by the ICC.
They continue to terrorise the world with impunity as African leaders are hurled at the racist ICC to answer for their alleged crimes.
Over the past few years, many African states have been threatening to withdraw from the ICC.
The main proponent of this has expectantly been Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe, whose hatred for the West is unmasked.
Two years ago, the AU took a controversial decision to support Kenyan president Uhuru Kenyatta who, along with his deputy William Ruto have been charged by the ICC for allegedly masterminding a heinous campaign of violence following the disputed 2007 election.
The majority of AU member states challenged the timing of these charges.
They argued, perhaps correctly, the taking of a sitting president to the ICC would undermine the sovereignty of Kenya and send the already unstable country on a downward spiral of more violence and instability.
The African leaders elevated the discussion further by contemplating the possibility of withdrawing from the ICC – a move that would have brought the ICC to its very knees.
It’s a move I personally would have welcomed, albeit with caution.
The logical alternative to the ICC would be to put our leaders on trial in our own courts – specifically in the African Court on Human and People’s Rights (AfCHPR) in Arusha, Tanzania.
The court was established 11 years ago with the objective of making judgments on AU states’ compliance with the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights.
This would be a perfect solution if only we had a continent led by honourable people who have an appreciation for accountability.
Sadly, we have the opposite.
For starters, the AfCHPR, which was entered into force in 2004, has only 27 signatories out of the 54 members states of the AU.
This means exactly half of the AU member states have not ratified and are not party to the charter.
This alone says a lot about the commitment of our leaders to finding an African solution to an African problem, which they claimed this court would do.
The biggest criticism that I have of the AfCHPR is its inherent inability to dispense justice.
This inability is fostered by the failure of our leaders to hold one another accountable for crimes against our people.
History is littered with many examples of African leaders committing crimes against their own people – crimes for which they are not prosecuted by the same AU that today wants to claim moral righteousness in its criticism of the ICC and the West in general.
The kingdom of Swaziland is a country led by a government that suppresses political organisations opposed to the Tinkhundla regime.
This regime violates the rights of political activists on a daily basis, arresting and persecuting some as young as 18. This regime beats up workers when they protest and has forced hundreds of activists to seek asylum in South Africa. And this regime is recognised by the AU.
This same AU has presided over and defended the atrocities that have been heaped on the people of Zimbabwe by the reactionary Zanu-PF government of Mugabe.
This is a government whose riot police have consistently been unleashed on innocent civilians, a government that has criminalised and forced into exile student activists.
A government whose corruption and cronyism has forced more than 5 million citizens into the diaspora and collapsed the economy so severely that once the food basket of Africa is now a country with virtually no industry, sky-high levels of youth unemployment, poverty and severe structural inequalities amplified by the opulence of government officials living in mansions in Borrowdale, just a few minutes drive from the CBD that has been turned into a market by a multitude of desperate street vendors.
And we must never forget that this is the government responsible for Operation Gukurahundi, a genocide against the people of Matebeleland, which history books rarely mention despite its raw recency.
These are only two of many examples of the atrocities that are committed by our own governments, for which no African body had been held responsible.
They operate with complete impunity under the protection of fellow African leaders, equally beastly and morally bankrupt.
So if the truth must be told, while the ICC is a problem in its current state, with its current crop of thugs (otherwise known as leaders), Africa is incapable of being the solution. Both the ICC and the AU are anti-Africa.
They are working very hard to ensure the instability and non-functionability of this continent.
The seminal question then becomes: what is to be done?
The most important thing that must happen is young people should continue with the waging of a relentless war against the reactionary old guard that has failed this continent at every turn.
The north African spring uprisings that started in 2011 must serve to us as an example of what the possibilities are of a revolution led by the youth. It is undeniable that a lot of mistakes were committed, which ultimately betrayed what had the potential to be a real revolution.
But a lot has been gained. We have glimpsed an Africa without regressive regimes that have entrenched themselves in our minds, denying us the possibility of imagining a future without them.
As the youth, we need to claim every inch of this continent as a site of struggle. We must claim the space of the civic movement in particular, which history has proved has shaped this continent far more than partisan politics have.
Education is another site that the youth must claim. Perhaps the most important. Through the demands of institutional transformation and the opening of doors of learning, we must design an education system truly geared towards an autocentric African developmental agenda.
We have an obligation to fashion a higher civilisation. It begins with being able to self-critique and to be honest about ourselves as a people.
We need to stop painting our leaders as perpetual victims of the West, because while it is true that the West is responsible for a lot of structural problems in Africa, what is equally true is that our own leaders are no better.
And given that they are our own, are actually worse than the West.
We need to stop protecting racists and murderers like al-Bashir.
We need to stop protecting reactionaries. We need to stop defending mediocrity in the name of being Africanists.
Being an Africanist is not defending everything African. It is defending Africa from anything that is threatening its renaissance.
We must defend the future of this continent, even against our own.
* Malaika Wa Azania is author of Memoirs of a Born Free: Reflections on the Rainbow Nation.
** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Media.
Source: Sunday Independent
By: Malaika wa Azania
Pic Credit: Kim Ludbrook(File Photo)