27th January, 2017
The plan by members of African Union (AU) to collectively withdraw from the International Criminal Court (ICC) may suffer a setback as Nigeria and some other countries objected the proposal.
The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama, disclosed this in an interview on Friday in Addis Ababa.
Onyeama explained that there was a strategy adopted by AU for collective withdrawal from the ICC which Nigeria did not subscribe to.
The minister said that when the issue came up during a meeting, several countries kicked against it.
He said Nigeria and others believed that the court had an important role to play in holding leaders accountable, hence Nigeria fully stood by it.
“Nigeria is not the only voice agitating against it, in fact Senegal is very strongly speaking against it, Cape Verde, and other countries are also against it.
“What they (AU) do was to set up a committee to elaborate a strategy for collective withdrawal.
“And after, Senegal took the floor, Nigeria took the floor, Cape Verde and some other countries made it clear that they were not going to subscribe to that decision,” he said.
According to him, a number of countries also took the floor to say that they needed time to study it before they acceded to that position.
He said that Zambia, Tanzania, Liberia, Botswana and host of others were not willing to withdraw from the court.
While faulting AU position on ICC, Onyeama stressed that each individual country willingly acceded to the 1998 Rome Statue on the setting up of the court.
“Each country free and willingly acceded to the Treaty, and not all of the members of the AU acceded, each country acceded individually exercising its own sovereign right.
“So each country, if they want to withdraw has the right to do that individually,
“The issue is that the AU which was not a party to the Rome Statues which established the court, should not be developing a strategy for a collective withdrawal for something that each country entered into individually.
“Those who feel they want to withdraw should do that individually.”
In what seems to be a continental domino effect, three African states in 2016 publicly declared their intention to withdraw from the court.
The countries include Burundi, South Africa and The Gambia, with the reports that Namibia, Kenya and Uganda were contemplating withdrawing from the ICC.
The court has repeatedly been criticized by African states as an inefficient, neo-colonial institution of the Western powers to try African countries.
This argument is supported by the fact that nine of the ten situations under investigation, with three others under preliminary investigations, involve African countries.
However, as noted from a social shorthand by the European Centre for Development Policy Management (ECDPM), “the rift is often caused by a neat difference in priorities.
“Where one gives more importance to peace processes, while the other gives more weight to obtaining [international] justice.”
African state parties to the Rome Statute make up the biggest regional membership, comprising 34 of the 124 members.
From 2009, African countries have called for collective withdrawal from the ICC but some countries have pushed back.