Africa, America, find common enemy in ICC

The United States government, On September 2, 2020, imposed sanctions on the International Criminal Court (ICC) prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, and another senior prosecution official, Phakiso Mochochoko. In addition, US Secretary of State Michael Pompeo announced that the United States had restricted the issuance of visas for certain unnamed individuals “involved in the ICC’s efforts to investigate US personnel.”

This week, Pompeo reaffirmed those sanctions, tweeting that “The ICC is corrupt, politicized & incompetent. Chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda abused her authority, engaged in corrupt acts for her personal benefit, and wasted millions with malicious prosecution of American personnel.”

Understanding the rationale behind such attacks at the demise of the Trump administration is one thing. Pompeo has been on the over drive lately, tweeting a lot from his personal account a lot of Trumpian nonsense since the beginning of the year.

There has been a lot of foreign policy actions from the Trump administration since the defeat at the polls in November. Top ranked among the disasters is the normalization of Morocco-Israeli relations which saw the US sign away control of Western Sahara to Moroccan suzerainty without the Moroccans themselves offering anything in return.

Morocco and Israel already had a security cooperation under the radar for years, and the public declaration of recognition of the state of Israel which the Trump administration had expected is not even set in stone. 

The decision to reinforce the sanctions on the ICC at the twilight of the Trump administration, while it has to do with the refusal to subject American soldiers accused of war crimes to the ICC, portends a lot of trouble for us down here. Before now, there was a lot of noise from African states about pulling out the ICC because of its perceived focus on, and bias against African countries. With Pompeo’s railings against the court, it provides moral grounds for renewed  African animosity towards the court. 

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For dictators like Abdulfatah El Sisi in Egypt, Muhammadu Buhari in Nigeria, Paul Biya in Cameroon and a host of other wannabe dictators and gross human rights abusers, this is more like a dream come true. African leaders have been watching events in the US since the November election with vested interests.

The storming of the Capitol on January 6th and Trump’s attempts to delegitimize American democracy may seem like something straight out of an African country’s playbook, but it is yet another mishap in American politics that provides course for erring leaders to do the same. Twitter’s decision to ban Trump from its platform, Amazon’s decision to pull Parler from its Playstore and so many other developments since then which has opened up pre existing debates about free speech and 2nd Amendment Rights. It has also brought up concerns about President Buhari’s government treatment of protesters and other dissenting voices. 

The trajectory of opposition to the ICC would continue under the incoming Biden administration, even though the bellicose rhetoric may be doused. But that does not take away the damage done to the institution, which makes it difficult to hold erring leaders accountable. It’s a dark time ahead for victims of state sanctioned oppression whose major hope has been the ICC. 

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