The Umbrella for Democratic Change fully endorses the position recently adopted by the African Union (AU) on the International Criminal Court (ICC).
At its annual heads of state summit in Ethiopia a fortnight ago, the AU called for mass withdrawal from an international tribunal that those taking this decision feels it has been specifically set up to go after them. The decision is non-binding but South Africa and Gambia have already withdrawn from the ICC.With only Botswana as the consistent dissenter, African countries see the court as a vestige of western imperialism, hellbent on trying Africans but letting western culprits get off scot-free.The ICC prosecutor has opened investigations in the Central African Republic, Ivory Coast, Sudan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Kenya, Libya, Mali and Uganda. Those who have been referred to the ICC include former Ivory Coast president, Laurent Gbagbo and his wife, Simone Gbagbo; Sudanese president, Omar al-Bashir; DRC politician-cum-warlord, Jean-Pierre Bemba;Kenyan president, Uhuru Kenyatta and Deputy President William Ruto; former Libyan leader, Muammar Gaddafi and his son, Saif al-Islam Gaddafi; and the leader of a Ugandan rebel group, Joseph Kony.
From what UDC spokesperson, Moeti Mohwasa says, it doesn’t look like the AU would have to worry about Botswana being caught out of formation in the event this loose confederation of opposition parties assumes official power. Mohwasa says that it is clear that the rest of the continent is not happy with the ICC and that as an African country, Botswana should march in lockstep with other African countries on this and other issues.
“We should avoid isolating ourselves from the rest of the continent. We are Africans first and members of the international community second,” says Mohwasa adding that UDC supports the AU’s recent position on mass withdrawal from the ICC.
Nobody knows what will happen in October2019 when Botswana goes to the polls but in the event of UDC takes over the reins of government, one practical implication of Mohwasa’s statement would be the country’s withdrawal from the ICC. Such withdrawal make for an interestinghypothetical scenario. Supposing that anyone associated with the current government (which fully supports the ICC) is wanted by the ICC, the UDC wouldn’t hand that person over to the court.
As the South African Ambassador to Botswana recently pointed out in an interview with Sunday Standard, the country’s position on the ICC is not principled. While Botswana has continually reaffirmed its commitment to cooperating with the ICC, it never states that such cooperation does not include handing over American war criminals to the ICC. Ten days before President George Bush paid a brief, six-hour visit to Gaborone in 2003, Botswana became the second in Africa (after Gambia) to sign the Bilateral Immunity Agreement (BIA) with the United States. In terms of this agreement, Botswana has pledged not to extradite American citizens to the ICC tribunals unless those tribunals are established by the United Nations Security Council or if America expressly agrees to the surrender. In return, Botswana receives aid “contingent on the continuation in force of the BIA.” Given this set of circumstances, few countries would want to rub themselves in virtue when the ICC issue comes up but somehow Botswana manages to do that.