By Gizaw Tasissa , PhD
Dictatorship has always been a problem for mankind. To survive, mankind must fight dictatorship, and ICC is one means of eradicating tyranny, not just in Africa, but the whole world. Dictators battle to maintain their power on the oppressed and construct defensive fence – law that suits them. In this short article, I will demonstrate how current African leaders in general, and Ethiopian in particular, betrayed the International Criminal Court (ICC) to perpetuate tyranny and dictatorship, eventually inhumane acts.
It was with shock that I heard the African Union’s (AU) decision to perpetuate tyranny and dictatorship in the continent on its extraordinary summit meeting in Addis Ababa on 11th and 12th October, 2013. It was in response to proceedings initiated by the International Criminal Court (ICC) involving Sudanese and Kenyan Heads of States and one Deputy-President. Despite the support for international justice expressed by Heads of States during the meeting or by their absence, the AU adopted a decision which undermined one of the pillars of its mandate: the fight against impunity for the most serious crimes. This officially recognizes impunity for political leaders in office and leaves victims by the wayside.
During this Summit, the AU determined that Heads of States and Governments in office should not be indicted by the ICC, arguing that otherwise the “sovereignty, stability and peace of member states would be undermined.” If they were arguing for the autonomy of the continent, they would have worried about the victims, not only for Heads of States. By the same token, on July 3, 2011, AU passed a resolution expressing a refusal on the part of its members to cooperate in the arrest and transfer of the President of Sudan to the International Criminal Court. At the summit, the first since the ICC issued an arrest warrant against Omar Hassan al-Bashir on charges of crimes against humanity and war crimes over the atrocities in Darfur, a number of African states independently expressed their opposition to the ‘unacceptable practices’ of the ICC – which they accused of having a bias against Africa.
Paradoxically, from 112 member states, 34 African States are parties to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court and, through ratification, have voluntarily committed to protecting equal treatment for individuals in cases involving criminal responsibility for international crimes.
ICC was established in 1998, long before it was known that some current African leaders like Uhuru would be President and Ruto Deputy President of Kenya, and Hailimariam PM of Ethiopia (current chair of AU). Yet, ICC is portrayed as if it were established to maliciously and discriminately prosecute Africans.
Fundamentally, ICC was not established for Africa, but to tame dictators everywhere. And, in Africa, after independence, most countries were victims of either leftist or rightist one-party dictatorship that subjected people to so much terror and genocide, that masses wondered when African independence would end! This is what we observe in Ethiopia, too. And, as the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, a sister court of ICC, ICC is not a special court – not more special than the Special Court for Sierra Leone that was established to specifically prosecute African leaders implicated in the Sierra Leone Civil War’s war crimes. Former Yugoslavians are white people, so what makes ICC bias in this African case.
Today, African Union dictators, Ethiopia as a leader, are fighting ICC because they can not survive without killing the rule of law, putting themselves above the law, restoring dictatorship, eliminating opposition, and reclaiming absolute freedom to steal, plunder, loot, commit genocides, and crimes of war and against humanity with absolute impunity.
The human rights situation in Ethiopia is not far from, if not severe, those who are charged against human rights violations in Africa, and brawl against justice. The following evidences explicate why and how Ethiopia skirmishes the issue at a distance.
On March 10th, 2004, Insight writer John Powers reported that, uniformed soldiers of the Ethiopian government attacked a remote town in the western part of the country on December 13, 2003, and killed more than 400 members of the Anyuak people. BBC reported early 2004 that: “some 16,000 people have fled ethnic clashes in Ethiopia for Sudan over the past month.” Most of these are Oromo alleged of supporting Oromo Liberation Front.
A joint undercover investigation by BBC’s Newsnight and the Bureau of Investigative Journalism had uncovered evidences that the Ethiopian government was using billions of dollars of development aid as a tool for political oppression. The investigation has also gathered evidence of mass detentions, the widespread use of torture and extra-judicial killings by the Ethiopian government forces. Yet, Western donors, including Britain – which is the third largest donor to Ethiopia – stand accused of turning a blind eye by continuing to provide aid money despite being warned about the abuses. The aid in question is long-term development aid, not the emergency aid provided in response to the current droughts in Ethiopia and its neighbors in the Horn of Africa.
“We are just waiting on the crop, if we have one meal a day we will survive until the harvest, beyond that there is no hope for us “ (Villager in southern Ethiopia)
“They raped me in a room, one of them was standing on my mouth, and one tied my hand, they were taking turns, I fainted during this.” (Ethiopian woman from the Ogaden)
Another person says, “Whenever fighting has taken place between the rebels and the army, for each army member who is killed, the military goes to the nearest town and, they start killing people,” he said. “For each army member killed, it equals to 10 civilians losses.”
As of May 2012, the Oromia Support Group reports 992 and 4407 civilian killings and disappearances, respectively. Most of them are Oromo. Another source of evidence discloses that, in one year only, from November 2012 to November 2013, 301 civil servants and students from the Oromia region were jailed and abducted or disappeared. By no means is this comprehensive information as far as other areas are missed due to inaccessible state of affairs.
Above all, the justification for human rights is that people should live with their dignity and free of suppression. But, in Ethiopia, we notice that, leave alone freedom, human life has became insignificant that does not count even to that of insects. Racist attacks and xenophobic threats are robust in Ethiopia. In order to uncover this and their cynic behavior, they operate in the name of defending terrorism in the region while they themselves are state terrorists that the West is deceived of and pouring uncontrolled fund, which enabled Meles Zenawi to hoard $4bn. His successors pledge to follow and do the same, but nothing different. To this end, before their turn approaches, they collaborate with their neighbor fellow xenophobic criminals and facilitate impunity against the decision of ICC.
Impunity gives the green light to those who commit genocide. If they are not arrested, they and their followers will know they can literally get away with mass murder. They will kill again, and the massacres could become full-scale genocide.
The tragedy is not perpetrators of such inhumanity, but those who keep silent and assist such regimes, specially the main role players like the U.K. and U.S.A. Ethiopia is the second largest aid recipient from the U.K. next to Pakistan. The aid is incremental showing 2010/11: £241m, 2014/15: £390m & change: +61.83 – a total aid 2010-2015 accounts to £1.325bn. In both cases, this does not include military and the so called security investment. It is difficult to convince one that this money did not contribute to such inhumane acts as far as there are ample evidences for doing so.
Sometimes, it is bewildering to complain of dictators on their own for their injustice acts as far as they are supported in any aspects by democrat countries like the U.K. and U.S.A.. Their support of such totalitarian regimes like Ethiopia does escalate the fragile condition of the region in general, and that of Ethiopia in particular, rather than alleviating the problem. Therefore, it is time for the West to listen to different stakeholders of the country and settle this fragile and ferocious condition before it gets beyond reach.
* Dr. Gizaw Tasissa can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org