Botswana has broken ranks with the African Union and the Southern African development Community as has taken a position against the regional and continental call to withdraw from the International Criminal Court (ICC).
This comes in the wake of reports that Botswana risks isolation from the African and SADC block as other members states were already pulling out of ICC.
In the region, South Africa and Namibia are on the verge of severing their ties with ICC. South Africa was recently at odds with the ICC when it refused to arrest Sudanese President Omar Al-Bashir during an AU summit in South Africa. For its part, the Namibian government has approved a recommendation by the ruling Swapo Party for the country to withdraw from ICC.
There is an outcry that the ICC’s record is flawed and it lacks credibility in Africa and its detractors argue that its application of law is selective and seemingly targeted towards African and Arab leaders.
Responding to questions from journalists on Friday, following her return from the Assembly of African Union meeting, Foreign Affairs Minister Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi said that ICC needs to be protected by Africa and SADC instead of “being destroyed by us because it is our own creation.”
She said the establishment of ICC was a noble idea with good intentions and questioned the wisdom of withdrawing from the court without coming up with an alternative because it was created by Africans with the belief that it would protect the ordinary man from ruthless leaders.
“It is there to protect the rights of powerless citizens who find themselves being abused by their rulers. It is an instrument that protects the rights of those who cannot speak or defend themselves; therefore ICC needs to be protected and not be destroyed by us,” she insisted.
The Minister said at the just ended Assembly of the African Union, Botswana insisted that before Africa considers debunking or pulling out of the ICC, member states should also consider the positive things that the Court could do.
“ICC should be protected and not be destroyed by people who do not want to see good things coming out of Africa. Whose creation is ICC; it is our own creation,” she said. Venson-Moitoi said some countries had not signed to be members of the ICC and they have their own reason adding that current members states should find an alternative instead “of dumping ICC.”
“We should not dump it now because as Botswana we believe that we should analyse and fix it because some governments can turn bad at times and it is the average men on the streets who suffer,” said Venson-Moitoi.
She conceded that the call by some African countries to withdraw from ICC was overwhelming.
“I cannot say it is a SADC position. Botswana used to be a lone voice and we believe we are right. So we must be cautious as to how we pull out,” she said.
Asked if Botswana does not risk being isolated from the region and the continent ,Venson-Moitoi defended Botswana’s position saying isolation is not something new to the country.
“We have been isolated before. For instance we have been alone on the death penalty and lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender issues,” she said.
Moitoi said while the Assembly of the African Union expressed the commitment of the African Union and its member states to fight impunity in accordance with the Constitutive Act, it raised deep concern over the ICC’s bias against Africa.
Venson-Moitoi said it reiterated a call for the withdrawal of cases against Kenya and Sudan.
“The Assembly decided that the Bureau of the Open Ended Ministerial Committee should urgently undertake consultations, including with the United Nations Security Council, in order to engage on all issues that have been consistently raised by the African Union, among others its call for already proposed amendments to the Rome Statutes,” said Venson Moitoi.