Is Africa Recalibrating? Gambia Joins ICC Exit Bandwagon

Is Africa Recalibrating? Gambia Joins ICC Exit Bandwagon

Gambia, the home nation to the International Criminal Court (ICC) chief prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, has announced its decision to withdraw from the Hague-based court.

The tiny West African nation’s decision is likely to fuel fears of possible violence as it heads to presidential election in December, where President Yahya Jammeh is eyeing  a fifth term in office after he scrapped presidential term limits.

Jammeh seized power in 1994 through a military coup. Bensouda served as Jammeh’s Justice Minister and Attorney General until 2000 when he fired her.

“This action is warranted by the fact that the ICC, despite being called the International Criminal Court, is in fact an International Caucasian Court for the persecution and humiliation of people of colour, especially Africans,” Sheriff Bojang, Gambia’s Information Minister, said in a televised address, Reuters reported.

Gambia becomes the third African nation after South Africa and Burundi took similar decisions last week. Kenya and Namibia have also declared their intention to withdraw.

South Africa was drawn into a dispute with the ICC for hosting the indited Sudanese president, Omar al Bashir, during the African Union (AU) summit in Johannesburg last year.

The Hague-based court is yet to comment on Gambia’s decision, which has sparked fears of a mass pull-out by African nations.

Jammeh unsuccessfully tried to have ICC investigate European nations that he said were responsible for the unclear deaths of at least 2000 African immigrants in the Mediterranean as they tried to illegally cross into Europe, last year.

Last week, Sidiki Kaba, president of the Assembly of State parties (ASP) that founded the ICC treaty through the Rome Statue of 2002, urged African governments to reconsider their withdrawal and instead work with the rest of the world to fight impunity which has led to massive violations of human rights, AFP reported.

African has the leading number of cases on trial at the international court.

In 2012, Charles Taylor former president of Liberia became the first former head of state from Africa to be sentenced by the court when he was handed a 50-year jail-term.

The Hague-based court convicted him for the war crimes in neighboring Sierra Leone during its civil war in the 1990s.

Laurent Gbagbo, former president of Ivory Coast, is currently on trial for crimes against humanity committed after the disputed presidential election in November 2010, The Washington Times reported.

The decision by Gambia is likely to raise concerns among the international community, in a continent where the fight for political power has led to massive violations of human rights and civil wars.