Mucheleka cautions African leaders against withdrawal from the ICC
By Malawo Malawo
PATRICK Mucheleka has cautioned the African Union membership against scheming to withdraw from the ICC.
And Mucheleka says Africans need the International Criminal Court (ICC) to keep the continent’s despotic leaders in check.
At the recently held African Union (AU) summit in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, African leaders cautiously backed a strategy of collective withdrawal from The Hague-based ICC.
The summit proposed a coordinated withdrawal unless the ICC was reformed.
Almost a third of the ICC’s 124 members are African.
In October last year, Burundian President Pierre Nkurunziza signed legislation to allow the east African country to withdraw from the ICC.
The decision to quit the ICC followed a bitter dispute with the international community over the human rights situation in that country.
And President Edgar Lungu, on his departure for Botswana on Monday afternoon, loosely talked about possibilities of the country withdrawing its membership from the ICC.
Commenting on the strategy to exit the ICC, Mucheleka, a former Lubansenshi independent member of parliament, explained that pulling out would advantage African presidents as they would maim and kill citizens of respective countries without restraint in an effort to retain political power.
“Withdrawing or scheming to withdraw from the Rome Statute that African countries, on their own, signed is too retrogressive. What is obtaining in the African Union itself is that there is divided opinion – it’s not everyone who is in agreement of pulling out of the ICC. If you followed the election of the African Union chairperson, one of the issues which actually contributed, from what I hear, to the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Kenya (Amina Mohammed) losing out is because she was perceived to be one who was going to be used to, perhaps, compel African countries to pull out from the ICC, given what transpired with regards to the President of Kenya, Uhuru Kenyatta,” Mucheleka said in an interview in Lusaka.
“But what is important for African countries is to ensure that, first and foremost, we deepen our democracy. Within the African Union, there is an African Union Charter on elections and good governance, which calls for the African Union to avoid a situation where African Presidents begin to maim, kill their people with impunity. This is why we signed up to the Rome Statute so that African presidents are kept in check and if we pull out of the International Criminal Court, what we are going to have is a serious situation where some African presidents will be killing their own people in order to remain in power and they will be able to get away with it.”
He said without the ICC, African presidents would, most likely, stand in solidarity with each other to exterminate ordinary citizens.
“Even when they kill, they will not stand in solidarity with the ordinary people. African presidents will usually stand in solidarity with each other. [That’s why] we need the ICC to keep African dictators in check, especially those that have intentions of killing their own people in order to remain in power,” Mucheleka added.
He also appealed to Zambians not to accept to leaving the ICC.
“It’s like they (African presidents) are being forced [to subscribe to democratic tenets]! So, if they pull out of the ICC, what will be the result? The result will only be that of maiming and killing a lot of people for them (presidents) to remain in power. That is unacceptable and this is why we are calling for institutions within Africa such as the pan-African Parliament, the regional bodies like SADC, ECOWAS to be firm,” said Mucheleka.
“Citizens must be alert and engage on this matter and refuse to accept to leaving the ICC. We don’t have strong institutions within Africa that can be trusted to deal with issues of human rights violations. Even in this country, we have had people being killed, especially prior to the 2016 elections and somebody has to be held accountable for those deaths at some point. But where do you go when you pull out of the ICC [because] we don’t have institutions locally and regionally that deal with such issues?”