Editor's Note

Saying NO to the ICC is saying YES to atrocities

Government has just announced that it will spend K2 million on a consultative process to ask the people whether or not Zambia should leave the International Criminal Court (ICC). What a waste of money! The answer is no! Zambia will not leave the ICC. The ICC is a world body designed to prosecute those who commit the gravest atrocities, but a group of African leaders believe the ICC is influenced by its, mainly European, funding countries to the detriment of, well… African leaders. The spectacle culminated in February, when the African Union adopted a strategy for – voluntary – mass-withdrawal from the ICC. However, a closer look reveals that this is driven by a rather small group of countries:

South Africa, the first country to officially apply to leave the ICC, has just withdrawn its application, after a court declared it unconstitutional and invalid. South Africa fell out with the ICC after it allowed Sudanese President Omar Al-Bashir to visit.

Gambia – under former president-cum-dictator Yahya Jammeh Bostwana – was also for a withdrawal, but all that changed under new president Adama Barrow.

Kenya, a vocal critic of the ICC, after it began looking into President Uhuru Kenyatta‘s role in post-election violence that claimed over a thousand lives in 2007, is currently too busy preparing for a general election in August to bother about the ICC.

Burundi is the joker in the pack. After the UN infuriated President Pierre Nkurunziza by accusing officials of orchestrating torture and killing of political opponents, Nkurunziza actually signed a decree in October 2016 for Burundi to leave the ICC, but nothing has been heard since.

Other countries in support of withdrawal from the ICC include Chad, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Libya, Madagascar, Namibia, Senegal, South Sudan, Sudan and Zimbabwe, many of which, but not all, have a rather strained relationship with democracy.

The ICC should certainly not give an impression of honky-dory-ness – if this is not the case. If the world body is biased, the African “uprising” will hopefully comprise the catalysts for reforms. However, reforms can best be achieved from the inside out. Leaving the ICC serves no purpose.

Camilla Hebo Buus, Editor Zambia Weekly
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This week’s picture

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This Week’s Exchange

Nic Cheeseman, professor of democracy and international development, Birmingham University, UK, stated:

“Until now, Zambia’s progress under multi-party politics has been quietly impressive. Over the last year, though, things have changed. (…) According to the Conference of Catholic Bishops – one of the most influential bodies in the country – Zambia doesn’t deserve to be called a democracy (…) it has become a dictatorship – or getting there. Many Catholic leaders were seen to be sympathetic to the PF, when it won power under Michael Sata in 2011, so what has changed? This is not the first time that a Zambian president has sought to consolidate his authority by manipulating state institutions. Nor is it the first time that opposition leaders have been arrested, or civil society groups intimidated. In the recent past, these moments of high political tension have often been resolved peacefully, (…) but it’s unlikely that Lungu will cede his quest to remain in office. First, key civil society groups such as the trade unions have been weakened by privatisation, informalisation and unemployment. Second, the Constitutional Court, that’s responsible for interpreting the constitution, was handpicked by Lungu. Third, Lungu’s case is more complicated than Chiluba’s. In 2001, the second president had served two full terms in office and wanted one more. Today, Lungu is arguing that he should be allowed to have a third term because his first period in office did not count, as he was just serving out the final year of Sata’s term. All of this means that Lungu is likely to get his way. (…) Opposition protests are inevitable, as is some civil society criticism. If past form is anything to go by, Lungu’s government will respond with threats and intimidation.”

Ruling PF party deputy secretary general Mumbi Phiri reacted:

Cheeseman is nothing but an attention-seeking professor, who thinks he can lecture us about democracy. The people of Zambia spoke through the vote, and their wishes must be respected by all, including Cheeseman. Cheeseman creates the impression that there was a letter authored by all Catholic bishops, which labelled Zambia as a dictatorship. For the record, that was an opinion expressed by the archbishop. (…) It is irresponsible for Cheeseman to compare ours with late President Frederick Chiluba’s third-term bid. The view that the current constitution allows President Lungu to seek re-election (…) is before the courts of law. (…) the PF will respect the outcome of the court system. President Lungu’s good governance record remains solid. It was President Lungu’s administration that took the referendum on the proposed Bill of Rights to the people. (…) it was UPND leader Hakainde Hichilema who campaigned against it. It is President Lungu’s administration, which allowed for the 50%+1 clause in the constitution, the running mate clause, and reduction of presidential powers. President Lungu believes in an independent judiciary. (…) Today, Zambia has a Constitutional Court, something that was unheard of in the history of our nation. While the opposition petitioned the Constitutional Court, President Lungu remained calm until the matter expired. We wish to correct the view that human rights of politicians in trouble with the law are being violated. Citizens, who are also politicians, and on trial, have appeared in court within a week of being charged, and (…) for continued trial. The due process of the law is clearly being followed to the letter. Professor Cheeseman‘s daydream, that Zambia is falling from grace because of HH’s arrest, is a lie. Zambia remains a shining example of democracy not only on the African continent but world over.”