AU Equatorial Guinea summit of denial of justice for ordinary Africans – Shame on African leaders & the AU!

2 Jul

By Keffyalew Gebremedhin – The Ethiopia Observatory (TEO)

Theoretically, 2014 being the Year of African Agriculture and Food Security in Africa, it also was the main agenda of the Malabo African Union (AU) summit, which was held from June 20-27, 2014 in Equatorial Guinea. The discussion and the adoption of decisions was preceded by statement of the AU’s Commissioner for Rural Economy and Agriculture Tumusiime Rhoda Peace, who called on the leaders to renew their commitments to transform Africa’s agriculutre, ensuring its priamary target is the need “to address the challenges of hunger and malnutrition.”

Towards this end, the commissioner rather seemed to try to entice the summiteers by reminding them that by 2050 the world population would reach 9.6 billion and global food demand would increase by over 60 percent. Therefore, Africa’s food market, which already by 2030 would grow to $400 billion, she called on the leaders to recommit to seize “the considerable opportunities that exist for Africa” and take actions to accelerate the structural transformation of the region’s agriculture for food and nutrition security.

If the past is any guide, especially those who followed the OAU’s Lagos Plan of Action of 1980 or the many similar decisions of the AU, we all know that nothing substantive would come of this. I read an article once in which an expert insinuated that if there is any uncertainty in what is being sought to achieve, extend the target date to as far as possible. Similarly, since the final postscript on this and states’ performances would not be in before 2063, one cannot say much about it for a long time to come.

Moreover, there are many other immediate problems that demand the attention of African leaders. Therefore they have to be preoccupied with the AU’s continuity, for which they approved for 2015 a budget of $522.1 million. There was also on the agenda for the leaders to instruct their functionaries to evolve the African Common Position (CAP) on the Post 2015 development agenda, as a region, which has shown the least satisfactory performance on many of the eight United Nations Millennium Development Goals (MDG).

Close to the heart of African leaders actually was the discussion and decision on the protocol granting sitting presidents immunity from prosecution for war crimes, which came in the form of Amendments to the Protocol on the Statute of the African Court of Justice and Human Rights, which brought about the fury and condemnation of African civil rights groups.

Not that African leaders are known to be sensitive to such reactions from their leaders, the language of the protocol was clear in stating, “… no charges shall be commenced or continued before the Court against any serving African Union Head of State of Government, or anybody acting or entitled to act in such capacity, or other senior state officials based on their functions during their tenure of office.”

Writing on African Review Ms. L. Muthoni Wanyeki notes, “The hand of the government of Kenya, in its frenzied lobbying in defence of those sitting in the presidency and vice-presidency, is clear. But the amendments go beyond the old arguments about presidential immunities that even the Constitution of Kenya no longer wholly recognises. To other “senior state officials.” The meaning of state officials is clear. The meaning of “senior” is not.”

She concludes by registering her disappointment by the extent to which the “amendment undermines the entire proposal to grant the African Court criminal jurisdiction.” On the contrary, she laments, the Malabo action by the leaders would only ensure justice to remain one-sided, i.e., “affecting non-state actors suspected of committing international crimes.”

The lead story on the Malabo summit on Al Jazeera summed the whole thing with one cute paragraph: “African leaders gathered for a continent-wide summit voted to give themselves and their allies immunity from prosecution for war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide at a new African Court of Justice and Human Rights.”

The cruel joke of the Equatorial Guinea summit is that the leaders at Malabo agreed for the African Court of Justice and Human and Peoples Rights “to try 14 international crimes including genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes, piracy, corruption, mercenaries, money laundering and unconstitutional changes of government.”

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