04 December 2013

No Black and “other” Africans in the Rainbow: A Nation Divided

I live and work in Pretoria, a bustling cosmopolitan metropolis that is lauded as the biggest city in Africa (at least in breadth). Bustling and cosmopolitan for the moneyed and the non-blacks, not for the masses who shuffle up and down the city’s Jacaranda lined pavements daily. I love Pretoria, the city, but not necessarily her history, or her people whose present seems so deeply intertwined with the city’s history that as a “black” African, I must defend my turf (silently, sometimes loudly). I moved to Pretoria in February 2009 to work. It was a dream come true. To work in the city with the most foreign representation on the continent, touted as cosmopolitan and “modern.”

I shared the news with those with ears. I was living with my sister and her husband at the time and both had their reservations. My sister asked me how I’d “survive” in Pretoria with all the racism and the then recent spates of xenophobia (I don’t know how to say “ear” in Setswana!). I told them that I didn’t think either of these interrelated phenomenon remained in the country’s capital, and if so that they would be extreme. I was wrong, they were right. I would soon learn that there’s little space for "black" in the rainbow, and none at all for black people from other African countries… not yet anyway. In fact, on closer inspection you’ll find that there’s not much brown either!

Fast forward almost 5 years later, I sat in my home in Pretoria, and read with an odd mix of interest, anger, shock and relief, the article by Neo Maditla on “rental racism” in Cape Town. Interest because issues of racism and classism intrigue me and South Africa is riddled with these. Anger because as a black person from outside South Africa, I have experienced similar “rental racism” and “rental xenophobia” 1550km away and in the dorps, towns and cities in-between. In 2007, I struggled to get a digs in little Grahamstown after I left university residence because few “non-liberal” white folk wanted to share with a 'darkie' and black South Africans kept querying my nationality! In 2012, after “securing” a lovely duet in a quiet neighbourhood East of Pretoria, the agent’s email tone changed once I indicated that I was Zimbabwean. After initially informing me that the security deposit would be 1.5 months’ rent plus admin costs, he sent me a terse email with a revised “addendum” that now included a curiously out of place addition that foreigners must pay 3 months’ rent as deposit.

I was to learn later on that rental agents were rolling out this “new” requirement. My reading of it was “We don’t want foreigners living in our houses,” considering most people are lucky if they get half their deposits back! I have blacklisted (excuse the unfortunate pun) Trafalgar along with a few other agencies operating in Pretoria.

I read Neo’s article in shock, not at the article itself, but at the writer because she seemed to think this phenomenon was unique to Cape Town and/or out of the South African norm. Further, that the article suggested that the unfair discrimination was just a race issue. It isn’t. Relief (and let me explain here) because FINALLY someone had cared to share the tales of the many who have suffered this fate. And it wasn’t me. You see, whenever I say anything vaguely negative about South Africa (even if it is to say that I hate rugby and that cricket bores me), I am attacked and told that I must “go back to Africa where [I] came from.” So it was refreshing to read an article by a South African calling out other South Africans for their prejudices. And it wasn’t in the dreaded News24 comments section!

While, it would be unfair to over-generalise and say that Pretoria (and Cape Town) is a racist and xenophobic city. Allow me to be unfair at this juncture. The irony of racism and xenophobia in Pretoria and Cape Town (and elsewhere really) is that they are juxtaposed with the internationalisation of the country. It is paradoxical.

Pretoria, as the country’s capital is a hub of international activity, with expats living in secure estates and meeting for Latin cocktails and salsa classes on the regular. Cape Town as the “design” capital of the country, the seat of parliament has its all round “we’re so glamorous, we don’t see colour, creed nor nationality, except if you are poor here” vibe. Ah. Never mind.

I speak of racism and xenophobia in the same breath because these two are inextricably linked in South Africa. I am yet to hear of Greek shop-owners being mistreated and/or violently assaulted by angry “local” mobs. In fact, whenever foreigners are attacked in South Africa, the victims are invariably black. And African. I contend that black Africans are targeted because to their attackers they symbolize something that they are struggling to attain. After decades of a repressive white regime in which black people were regarded and treated as inferior, many still struggle to accept that black people can succeed. That black people can carve a niche for themselves and soldier on despite seemingly insurmountable challenges. So when a black foreign person succeeds where they could not, it is viewed as a greater injustice than when a white foreign person does so. It does not compute. It makes no sense. But xenophobia is nonsensical.

It is clear to me that xenophobia and all other forms of hatred towards people perceived as the "other" are nothing more than external manifestations of one’s own internal self-loathing and/or feelings of inadequacy. As if by killing off those you "fear" are taking away your resources (resources which you claim entitlement to, whether or not you really are entitled to them is another issue altogether) you'll suddenly become better. That exterminating the other will solve your problems. It is intriguing that whenever people experience racism and xenophobia, it is almost always from (near) strangers.

The racism and xenophobia I have suffered has mostly come from people who don’t know me, people who attempt to measure my successes and failures within a split second at the till at my local supermarket and decide there and then that I am either not worthy of their services or grab hold of their bags because, the flying spaghetti monster forbid, I might just try to snatch their handbag and run home. I have suffered xenophobia from people who decide that because I am Zimbabwean, I must smell a certain way, speak a certain way, walk a certain way and all of this must not be done in South Africa. I must do and be it in Zimbabwe.

In 2008, while getting my hair washed at a side street salon (because high-end, yet reasonably priced beauty parlours for black people are still hard to find in South Africa), my South African hairdresser, who obviously had no idea I was not South African, candidly remarked, “Foreigners steal our jobs.” The ever diligent person that I am, and obviously not wanting her to chop off my ailing mane, I waited until she was done styling my hair to tell her that I was a foreigner and I had no intention of stealing her (or anyone’s job). I added that, as a foreigner, it was harder for me to get work despite being an above average student in university. She hissed at me and accused me of “passing off as South African.” My hair was in an acceptable state and I wasn’t in the mood for more idle chitchat, so I made a quick escape.  She didn’t physically attack me and I doubt she had any plans to. However, it was people just like her who months prior and in the months and years to follow, took to the streets in a widespread attack on foreigners on the basis of her very allegation. That black foreigners were here to steal jobs from black South Africans and must go back from whence they came.

It is sad and terribly disheartening that our world is cluttered with degenerate human beings who, despite millions of years of evolution, still fail to accept that the "other" does not really exist. What cowardice it is to attack someone because of (mis)perceived differences and unfounded stereotypes. The problem of xenophobia is particularly riling because more often than not it manifests in violence. It astounds me that one can discriminate against another because they hail from across an imaginary line. People forget that we are all one and the same despite some differences in external physical appearance, concentrations of melanin, and language.

I struggle to reconcile the on going xenophobia(violent or otherwise) with what I know of South Africa’s battle for liberation. Did South African people not recently celebrate and ululate at the demise (or perceived demise) of apartheid? Did that freedom "just" happen? Was it not through the actions of a vast majority of people – many of whom were foreigners – that South Africa became "free"? Many of South Africa’s heroes sought refuge in neighbouring African countries where they were treated, not as visitors, but as family – brothers in arms. Harbouring exiled freedom "fighters" is but one of many ways through which foreigners aided the South African "revolution." Were it not for the same foreigners being attacked today, "freedom" might not exist in South Africa (well, not for most people anyway). But I digress…

From newspaper articles, you would think that society agrees that xenophobic violence is appalling, yet little seems to be done to arrest the problem. What are WE really doing about it? By sitting back and doing nothing are we not part of the problem? Issues such as these should be debated in the public domain, protests should be held and those who have, through their xenophobic violence, harmed others (psychologically, physically, emotionally or otherwise) should be brought to book. Something can be done. There needs to be a clear legislative framework that addresses xenophobia and it must be properly implemented.

PS: As I write, xenophobia remains a real and immediate threat for many Africans living in South Africa. The Institute for Security Studies will, on 12 December 2013, host a seminar on why Somali immigrants continue to suffer the brunt of xenophobic attacks in the country.

PPS: I use the South African nomenclature for racial identifiers as a (strange type of) courtesy to the readers. Personally, I struggle with the use of “black” to identify people of African origin, as I am yet to meet a “black” person (shades of brown, yes. Black? No.) Also, white doesn’t sit well.

Ottilia Anna Maunganidze is a researcher and international criminal law expert at the Pretoria-based Institute for Security Studies. She writes in a personal capacity.

This was originally posted on Umuntokanje and uses some content from previous writings by the author. 

21 November 2013

Is trial by video at the ICC virtual justice or the real thing?

21 November 2013
Is the proposal by Botswana, Jordan, Lichtenstein and others to allow accused like Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta to participate in his International Criminal Court (ICC) trial by video link a shrewd chess move to outfox African governments? Or is it a genuine move to address African concerns, which African leaders – and the ICC itself – would be wise to seize?

Last Friday the UN Security Council (UNSC) rejected the African Union’s (AU) demand – put forward by Rwanda, Togo and Morocco – that the cases against Kenyatta and his deputy William Ruto for alleged crimes against humanity after the 2007/8 elections should be deferred under Article 16 of the Rome Statute governing the ICC. States parties to the Statute on the UNSC argued that the proper place to discuss the AU proposal was in the ICC itself, and particularly the annual gathering of the Assembly of States Parties (ASP) to the Rome Statute which would be meeting this week in The Hague.

Britain’s ambassador to the UN, Mark Lyall Grant, told the UNSC that the ICC had already addressed the AU’s (ostensible) central concern that the ICC cases should not distract Kenyatta and Ruto from governing Kenya, especially at a time of heightened terrorist threat illustrated by the Al-Shabaab attack on Nairobi’s Westgate shopping mall in September. Grant recalled that the ICC had thrice postponed the start of Kenyatta’s trial, until February 2014, and had agreed to schedule the two trials so that the two leaders were never in The Hague – i.e. out of Kenya – at the same time.

Grant also said that at this week’s ASP meeting, a number of amendments to the ICC rules would be proposed to further address the AU concerns, including the proposal that sitting leaders like Kenyatta may be ‘present’ at their trials in The Hague by video conferencing. This would allow Kenyatta to remain in Nairobi, greatly reducing the distraction from his official duties.

Ottilia Anna Maunganidze, a researcher at the Institute for Security Studies, notes that Kenya has proposed that sitting heads of state and government should be immune from prosecution by the ICC. This would no doubt fully satisfy the AU which adopted a resolution to that effect in October and prompted the ASP to conduct a debate today on the impact that indicting sitting leaders could have on peace and security. But Maunganidze doesn’t think Kenya’s proposed amendment to the Rome Statute has a chance, as there is no consensus on the issue. In order for such an amendment to pass, in the absence of consensus, a two-thirds majority of states parties would have to support it, and then a seven-eighths majority would need to ratify it.

The UK video link proposal and a similar amendment jointly submitted by Botswana, Jordan and Lichtenstein have a much better chance of being adopted as they would only entail amending the ICC rules of procedure and evidence which requires a two-thirds majority. It’s not quite as simple as that, though, she explains, as the proposed amendments to the rules must be consistent with the Rome Statute which takes precedence. The Rome Statute, for instance, requires suspects to be ‘present’ at their trials, and some countries will surely argue that a live video image of Kenyatta in the courtroom will not make him ‘present’ as the Rome Statute requires.

Probably quite a few governments will agree with Human Rights Watch and other activists that the ICC should not make special exceptions for sitting presidents as this would violate the principle of equality before the law. And in any case the video proposal, even if accepted at the present meeting, would still take considerable time to wend its way through the protracted ICC approval process.
Some observers suspect, though, that the proposal may have been submitted as a means to placate the African lobby and justify not taking action on the UNSC. But if we assume, for the sake of argument, that it is a sincere attempt to reconcile the competing interests of universal justice and effective government to deal with security threats in particular, then it could well be adopted at some point. And one could also assume, perhaps, that if the necessary support is visibly mustered at the current meeting in The Hague, the approval process could be fast-tracked.

We have already seen the ICC bend the rules for Kenyatta and Ruto, a sign that it is feeling the growing pressure being put out by the AU. And, strategically, the ICC probably needs to adopt this proposal, in order to avoid alienating Africa even further and possibly provoking a future withdrawal by some of the 34 African signatories to the Rome Statute, which would deal a very damaging blow to international justice.

But if the Western and other countries boxing in the international criminal justice corner really back the proposal and want it to go through in time for the Kenyatta trial, what about the AU side?
Some African governments seem rather non-plussed by the proposal. The South African Department of International Relations and Cooperation’s response to it has been to insist that the government’s official position is still for a deferral by the UNSC of the cases against the two Kenyan leaders. Yet in the same breath, it does not rule out supporting the video link proposal. Maunganidze confirms that right across government, there seems to be ambivalence about it.

That may be because in a sense the video proposal has called South Africa and Africa’s bluff. If they are really concerned that ICC indictments will fatally distract Kenyatta from his government responsibilities, this proposal addresses that concern, not fully but sufficiently. But if the Kenyan case is really just a vehicle for the AU’s resentment that the ICC is picking on Africa and for a self-serving desire by leaders for blanket immunity, then they will be inclined to reject it. Some answers to these questions should start emerging from the ASP meeting. 

Peter Fabricius, Foreign Editor, Independent Newspapers, South Africa

Originally posted by the Institute for Security Studies

13 November 2013

Does the ICC case against Kenya's leaders undermine international peace and security?

13 November 2013
On 5 November 2013, the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) began handling the request to defer the International Criminal Court’s (ICC) cases in the Kenyan situation. The request, which was submitted on 1 November for consideration by non-permanent members Rwanda, Togo and Morocco under instruction from the African Union (AU), relates specifically to the cases against Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta and his Deputy, William Ruto.

Kenyatta and Ruto (together with Kenyan journalist Joshua Sang) face charges related to the violence that erupted after Kenya’s December 2007 elections, in which over 1 100 people died. Ruto and Sang’s trial began in September 2013, while Kenyatta’s trial is due to start on 5 February 2014 after a third postponement.

In October this year, the AU held an extraordinary summit at which the relationship between the ICC and Africa was discussed. Central to the discussions was the fact that all cases currently before the ICC are from African countries, including the indictment of two sitting heads of state. In its 12 October 2013 decision, the AU called for the Kenyan cases to be deferred and asked that the UNSC provide feedback on the deferral request by 12 November 2013, the date on which Kenyatta’s trial was scheduled to start.

Given that Kenyatta’s trial has been provisionally moved to February 2014, it remains to be seen whether the AU will still expect the UNSC to make a decision on deferral immediately. As things stand, the UNSC agenda for November does not include a session to discuss the deferral request. However, this is not to say such discussions will not be held, as the programme of work can be updated at any time.

Even if heard, despite support from Russia and China, the likelihood of the deferral being granted is slim, given that the United States, United Kingdom and France, who all hold the power to veto resolutions, insist that the ICC’s postponement of Kenyatta’s trial to February next year was sufficient. The views of the five permanent members of the UNSC notwithstanding, it is essential to assess the merits of the deferral request itself.

Article 16 of the ICC’s Rome Statute, in terms of which deferral requests can be made, statesthat ‘No investigation or prosecution may be commenced or proceeded with … for a period of 12 months after the Security Council, in a resolution adopted under Chapter VII of the Charter of the United Nations, has requested the court to that effect ….’ Chapter VII of the UN Charter empowers the UNSC to take measures to ‘maintain or restore international peace and security’ if it has determined ‘the existence of any threat to the peace, breach of peace or act of aggression’.

First, it is clear that Article 16 is intended for use in exceptional circumstances. Indeed, the UNSC has not, to date, deferred any ICC investigation or prosecution. The question now is whether continuing the court processes would undermine international peace and security. The AU’s request stresses that Kenya’s leaders need to focus on the ongoing fight against terrorism, especially following the attack on Westgate mall in September. They contend that having the president and deputy president of the country on trial jeopardises this.
This is not a widely supported view. Notably, Kenyan human rights organisations, in a letter to the president of the UNSC, stated that conflating the two issues would undermine accountability. The organisations emphasised that deferral on this basis would actually further embed impunity, which lends itself to susceptibility to terrorism.It cannot be denied that terrorism is a serious threat in Kenya and the Horn of Africa region. However, the UNSC has to decide whether this suffices as a basis upon which to allege that continuing the trials will compromise international peace and security. Indeed, counter-terrorism and international criminal justice are bedfellows in that they both seek to address serious crimes that have an adverse effect on global peace and security, and where the two intersect a balance must be struck. One should not be preferred over the other.

Second, the AU claims that by virtue of their positions as president and deputy president of Kenya, the two accused should not, for the duration of their terms, be prosecuted. The AU argues that doing so would undermine Kenyatta and Ruto’s official duties. If the deferral were granted on this basis, it would contradict Article 27 of the Rome Statute (which denies immunity for heads of state and other senior government officials). Significantly, it would mean the deferral would have to be renewed every 12 months for the duration of the Kenyan presidential term of five years. Presupposing that Kenyatta runs for a second term and wins, the deferral would have to be extended for a further five years.

This, as noted by Fergal Gaynor, the legal representative of victims in the case against Kenyatta, would further unduly delay any justice for the victims – assuming that Kenyatta is indeed found guilty. Similar sentiments have been voiced by civil society, including the Kenyan Human Rights Commission and the International Center for Policy and Conflict. Importantly, this argument of the AU contradicts Article 2(6) and Article 143(4) of the Kenyan constitution. Article 143(4) specifically prohibits the president’s immunity from criminal prosecution for ‘crime[s] for which the President may be prosecuted under any treaty to which Kenya is party and which prohibits such immunity’. The deputy president enjoys no immunity from prosecution under the Kenyan constitution.

Third, the AU contends that the criminal justice reforms undertaken in Kenya sufficiently allow for national prosecutions of those responsible for the post-election violence. While, on the face of it, this is in line with the ICC’s role as a court of last resort and is thus commendable, it is not a basis for deferral. Indeed, this was the primary basis of Kenya’s own deferral request made directly to the ICC in 2011, which the Court rejected. Supposing the criminal justice reforms were considered in making the decision, the argument ignores the fact that despite these reforms, there have been few prosecutions and convictions for serious crimes committed during the post-election violence. More importantly, if the ICC is to reconsider its jurisdiction in this situation, the Kenyans who stand accused by the Court are unlikely to be prosecuted domestically.

Further, in early September, Kenya’s parliament passed motions aimed at withdrawing Kenya from the Rome Statute and repealing the country’s International Crimes Act, which, among other things, provides a basis for the prosecution of ICC crimes in Kenya. This move would mean that not only are the president and his deputy free from prosecution for international crimes, but so are all Kenyans. This goes against the spirit and purpose of international criminal justice and is a blatant denial of recourse to justice for the victims of international crimes.
These are the key matters that the UNSC must grapple with in deciding whether or not to defer the ICC cases against Kenyatta and Ruto. At the end of the day, this will be put to a vote. A resolution on deferral can only be passed if at least nine countries are in favour and none of the five permanent members use their veto. That is unlikely, but not impossible.

Ottilia Anna Maunganidze, Researcher, Transnational Threats and International Crime Division, ISS Pretoria

08 May 2013

Like Botswana, more countries should take steps to tackle the crime of aggression

08 May 2013
On Monday 15 April, Botswana became the first African country to sign and ratify amendments to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC) that could pave way for the prosecution of the crime of aggression. In his speech ahead of the signing of the ratification document, the President of Botswana, Seretse Khama Ian Khama, reiterated the country’s commitment to international criminal justice in general and the ICC specifically in fighting impunity globally. He said that international criminal justice should not be impaired by the status of the accused and that domestic and international prosecutions are the best mechanism to respond to international crimes.
This is a welcome development and evidence of the impact of the Global Institute for the Prevention of the Crime of Aggression and the Principality of Liechtenstein’s international ratification campaign, which promotes the ratification and implementation of the Kampala amendments on the crime of aggression. The crime covers the planning, preparation, initiation or execution of an act of aggression by a person in a leadership position. This act of aggression must also constitute a manifest violation of the Charter of the United Nations (UN). Acts of aggression are any use of armed force by one state against another without the justification of self-defence or authorisation by the UN Security Council.
For African countries, the importance of allowing the ICC and its member states to prosecute the crime of aggression cannot be overstated. Indeed, Africa has historically been a victim of aggression (in various forms). In 1998 in Rome, when the Statute of the ICC was adopted, and in 2010 at the Review Conference of the Rome Statute of the ICC in Kampala, African states parties actively sought the inclusion and definition of the crime of aggression. However, ratifying these amendments is significant not only to Africa but to all countries – several of whom have suffered as a result of the aggression of other states.
It should be noted that in order for the ICC to begin exercising jurisdiction over the crime of aggression (at the earliest in 2017, as agreed upon by states parties to the Rome Statute in Kampala in 2010), 30 countries must ratify the amendments by 31 December 2015. Botswana, Estonia, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Trinidad and Tobago, and Samoa have led the way by being the first six countries to ratify. However, 24 others will need to ratify before the deadline. While the end of 2015 might seem a far-away date, the reality is many states parties to the Rome Statute must be urged to ratify the amendments urgently. Countries like Belgium, Germany, Ghana, Lesotho, Senegal and South Africa have already begun the ratification process – albeit at different levels. It is hoped that these and several other countries actively working on the ratification will do so swiftly. There are three reasons why countries should ratify the amendments:
  • Ratification would serve as a first step to promoting international peace and the rule of law.  The express prohibition of the illegal use of force contained in the definition of the crime of aggression and the threat of criminal sanction could prevent future illegal uses of force. Also, states that ratify would effectively protect themselves against aggression by another state and would publicly pledge not to commit aggression. This would be in line with the promises made at Nuremberg that never again would those who commit the crime of aggression do so with impunity following the conviction of senior German officials for waging aggressive war during the Second World War.
  • The criminalisation of the crime of aggression serves to protect human rights. By their very nature, acts of aggression result in gross human rights violations and the violation of international humanitarian law. Those who often end up counting the cost of aggression are the most vulnerable of society, particularly women and children.
  • Ratification reflects continued support for the ICC and international criminal justice. While the 122 countries that have ratified the Rome Statute have already shown their commitment, ratifying the amendments would serve to bolster this commitment.
Nevertheless, the inclusion and definition of the crime of aggression in the Rome Statute is not without its challenges and detractors. Indeed, at the time that the Rome Statute was being considered, the issue of whether or not to include the crime of aggression was the subject of immense debate. Countries like the United Kingdom and the United States, who prosecuted aggression at Nuremberg, were ironically the ones who argued against its inclusion. Their concerns related to legal constraints on their ability to mount military or humanitarian interventions. Further, it was (and has been) argued that the crime of aggression is an issue of a political rather than a legal nature and should thus remain the remit of the UN Security Council, not a judicial body such as the ICC.
A large contingent of states (from Africa, the Arab world, Europe and those that are non-aligned) supported its inclusion in the Rome Statute. The resultant statute incorporated the crime of aggression, but did not define the crime and put off the ICC’s exercise of jurisdiction over this crime until such a time as a definition was agreed. This definition was agreed upon in 2010 and can be seen as a compromise between the two divergent views on the crime. However, the ability of the ICC to exercise such jurisdiction was postponed until at least 2017.
The adoption of a definition on the crime of aggression and the inclusion of additional war crimes in the Rome Statute was a giant leap for international criminal justice. It was a further affirmation by states of their commitment to international justice, peace and security. The crime of aggression, unlike the other offences under the Rome Statute, specifically targets national leaders who are in a position to effectively exercise control over or direct the political or military action of a state. The prosecution of this offence by the ICC will ensure accountability for the most serious illegal uses of force against other states. The journey, however, has been arduous and could remain so if states do not follow through on their affirmation by ratifying. Indeed, states should be seen to actively commit to international criminal justice rather than merely making declarations. Without action, these declarations may be viewed as nothing more than empty promises.
Ottilia Anna Maunganidze, Researcher, Transnational Threats and International Crime Division, ISS Pretoria

27 March 2013

A warlord faces justice at the ICC after six years on the run

 27 March 2013


On Tuesday 26 March, Bosco Ntaganda, a former rebel leader accused by the International Criminal Court (ICC) of committing war crimes and crimes against humanity in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), appeared for the first time before the court. The appearance came a week after Ntaganda handed himself over to United States (US) embassy officials in Kigali, Rwanda and requested immediate transfer to the ICC. Through the cooperation of US and Rwandese authorities, Ntaganda was sent to the ICC on 22 March. While the reasons for his surrender are unclear, what is apparent is that Ntaganda has chosen to face justice at the ICC instead of continuing life as a fugitive.

The significance of this, for the ICC and international criminal justice in general, cannot be underestimated for a number of reasons. First, Ntaganda – after almost seven years on the run – is the first person for whom the ICC issued an arrest warrant who has voluntarily surrendered himself to the court. Eleven others for whom arrest warrants have been issued for situations in the DRC, Côte d’Ivoire, Libya, Sudan and Uganda remain at large.

Second, the ICC received ready cooperation from the US and Rwanda. Both countries have not ratified the Rome Statute of the ICC and thus have no direct obligations to the court. Despite this, their decisions to cooperate with the court and swiftly transfer Ntaganda to The Hague are indicative of support for international criminal justice.

Third, Ntaganda’s surrender comes at a time when the DRC is embroiled in ongoing conflict in the eastern provinces of the country. Ntaganda is said to have been integral in stoking the conflict in various ways from mid-1990 to date. However, it should be borne in mind that the crimes for which Ntaganda is presently charged relate to his activities in the eastern DRC region of Ituri (north of the war-torn Kivu provinces that border Rwanda) between 1 September 2002 and the end of September 2003.

For his alleged involvement in the Ituri conflict, Ntaganda – a Rwandan-born Congolese citizen – is charged with seven counts of war crimes, including the enlistment and conscription of children under the age of 15, the use of children under the age of 15 to participate actively in hostilities, murder, attacks against the civilian population, rape and sexual slavery, and pillaging; and three counts of the crimes against humanity of murder, rape and sexual slavery, and persecution. During the time these offences were supposedly committed, Ntaganda was allegedly serving as the Deputy Chief of the General Staff of the Patriotic Forces for the Liberation of Congo (Forces Patriotiques pour la Libération du Congo, or FPLC), the military arm of the Union of Congolese Patriots (Union des Patriotes Congolais, or UPC), a rebel movement in the eastern DRC. In this capacity, it is believed that Ntaganda reported directly to Thomas Lubanga Dyilo. Lubanga Dyilo, currently in detention, made news in 2012 when he was the first person convicted by the ICC for the enlistment and use of children to actively participate in hostilities.

In addition to his involvement with the FPLC, Ntaganda – nicknamed ‘The Terminator’ – has over the years fought for several rebel groups. In the early 1990s, Ntaganda fought with the Rwandan Patriotic Army and from 2006 he was linked to the National Congress for the Defence of the People (Congrès National pour la Défense du Peuple, or CNDP) led by Laurent Nkunda. Ntaganda is also one of the key figures allegedly behind the November 2008 Kiwanja massacre in which approximately 150 people were summarily executed in under two days.

Despite all this, Ntaganda was integrated into the Congolese army following the attempt at demilitarisation and reintegration of rebels from the CNDP, and the Congolese government made no effort to arrest and transfer him to the ICC. At the time of his surrender, Ntaganda had defected from the army and had been linked to another rebel movement, the M23, from early 2012. It is believed that the splitting of the M23 in February 2013 following infighting prompted Ntaganda to flee from the DRC to Rwanda.

Despite several promises (and having previously cooperated with the ICC), the Congolese government did not arrest Ntaganda. Interestingly, the DRC itself has over the years issued arrest warrants for Ntaganda for allegedly committing, among other offences, torture, murder, illegal detention and arbitrary arrest. These warrants of arrest and those issued by the ICC were not executed, which further frustrated those who wanted to bring Ntaganda to justice.

The failure by the Congolese government to arrest Ntaganda and transfer him to the ICC – as it had done with Lubanga Dyilo – highlighted one of the major challenges facing the court: that it does not have its own police force and so relies on support and cooperation from Rome Statute states parties to make arrests. Ntaganda’s decision to surrender himself to the court is significant because it shows that the ICC can secure indictees for trial if they voluntarily surrender, even to non-state parties that are not bound by the ICC’s statute.

There are three ways in which an ICC accused can come before the court. First, when a summons to appear is issued, the accused can voluntarily present him or herself to the ICC. Second, when an arrest warrant is issued, the authorities in a particular state can apprehend and surrender the accused to the ICC. Third, when an accused for whom an arrest warrant has been issued hands him or herself over to the court. Given that when arrest warrants are issued this is done precisely because it is doubtful that a suspect will voluntarily appear, the third option – which Ntaganda recently took – tends to be the least likely. More so for ICC cases, which tend to focus on people in positions of power because of the prosecutorial strategy of going after those most responsible for international crimes.

Ntaganda`s appearance in the dock at the ICC on 26 March sends a strong message to perpetrators of international crimes that they too may face justice one day – whether they are delivered to court after arrest or because circumstances push them to voluntarily surrender. While this is only the beginning of the proceedings against Ntaganda, it is a highlight at a time when the ICC continues to struggle with securing the arrest of individuals like Ugandan Joseph Kony of the Lord’s Resistance Army and President Omar Hassan al-Bashir of Sudan.

Ottilia Anna Maunganidze, Researcher, Transnational Threats and International Crime Division, ISS Pretoria

Original posting: 

08 March 2013

Democracy dependent *only* on elections? No!

Elections as the primary determination of a democratic process leave a sour taste in my mouth… 

 How GW Bush notoriously "won" by the skin of his rigging teeth in 2004 and how many others "win" after a low voter turnout. But even when the turnout is high, elections do not truly glean the "will of ALL the people, by ALL the people, for ALL the people."

On 4 March, 50,03 % of voters elected Uhuru Kenyatta & his running mate William Samoei Ruto to the Kenyan Presidency. Former foes who formed an alliance to strengthen chances of election. A strategic choice. Great on them, but 50,03 in real terms is 6 173 433 of 12 338 667 votes counted. 50.03% of 29.7% of the population (est* 41 609 728 as of 2011) in real terms means less than 15% of the population have decided the "fate" of the other +85%... *sigh* 

That being said, the will of the people can still be done if those elected into office serve the interests of their country's population... The trouble is: Do they ever?

31 January 2013

They tell us colonialism ended, but I don't hear them...

Graphic: Out of Africa – Did the Colonial Powers ever Really Leave?

Richard Johnson "Africa may have achieved independence, but the old colonial ties are still important as France’s decision to send troops to Mali to fight Islamist extremists shows. The old colonial powers in Africa may no longer be the rulers, but they still exert influence and have strong economic and political links. David McDonald, professor of the Global Development Studies at Queen’s University, says, “The French and the English were much more strategic in terms of recognizing that they wanted to maintain neo-colonial linkages with their former colonies. So it was shedding the direct authoritarian power at the barrel of a gun and replacing that with independence, but an independence that was, and is still to some extent, extremely dependent on the political and economic will of the former colonial masters.” – The National Post’s Rubab Abid and Richard Johnson look at the former colonies and former colonial powers who still dabble inside the continent they once owned."


Contact Richard Johnson:

18 January 2013

Uganda Coalition on the International Criminal Court (UCICC) Annual Publication

Uganda Coalition on the International Criminal Court (UCICC)  

The Forum Magazine 2012

"This issue contains analyses of both critical and pro ICC nature. It is inclusive of different opinions, perceptions and misconceptions surrounding the work of the ICC, since the time of establishment.

This issue is most important for views on the work and impact of the ICC and outstanding considerations are:

(1) What have been the roles of the ICC as a world court since the time of establishment?
(2) The impact of the ICC since establishment.
(3) The common challenges faced by the ICC since the time of establishment.
(4) The different perceptions and misconceptions about the ICC as being another form of neo-colonialism.
(5) The future prospects of the ICC as a world court for future fair delivery of justice and the elimination of impunity.

The forum endeavours to uncover all minds of the researchers, academia and Civil Society Organizations. It is an opportunity for expression of thoughts geared towards the creation of a platform that is essentially beneficial to both the national and International community."

Download the PDF:,%202012%20%20Final%20Copy.pdf