– Fixing with this choice a history of suspicious African diplomacy –
The AU gathering organized for the eve of the historic June 16, 2015 South African student-uprise celebrations is drawing swiftly to its end. This gathering is historic for it brought together African leaders on a necessary agenda paving the way to sever the umbilical chord of colonial and imperial influences that has many tentacles entrenched in Africa even long after African countries have claimed their independence. However, this historic occasion in my assessment was hijacked if not marred by the ICC instruction of an arrest warrant of Omar Al Bashir a sitting President of a sovereign Sudan.
As the court ruling was expected the chattering class of which I am one was debating and analyzing on the ramifications and implications of this threat of an arrest. The issue that divided South Africans along the centre split remains : South Africa is a willing signatory to the Rome Statute that gives credence to the existence of an ICC, however the challenge of what this treaty in signatory means in praxis for an enmeshed reality of ICC cases terribly skewed to have already had 40 African Leaders indicted when Europe and the West is not present in such large numbers or significance. As we all know the reality of George W. Bush and Tony Blair, who ensembles the case of treason committed by the ICC for not having indicted both these former leaders of USA and Britain respectively.
The debates raged that South Africa betrayed itself as a signatory of this convention and thus casts a long shadow of uncertainty on its actual seriousness of the ICC.
Let me then in the beginning make it clear, I am all for the arrest of and trying of a Omar Al Bashir for the crimes he committed. However, as important as that is, we dare not confuse matters. I do not think South Africa and the AU summit should have been the place or space for this threat of arrest be actualized.
Perhaps the pertinent question question in my mind was whilst this this is a legal case which found a legal court in declaration after Bashir winged out, it was not just a legal case but a very politically loaded case. It became a very difficult choice yet a necessary choice.
Let us now therefore explore why South Africa with good conscious could have made this tough decision:
I call it the choice between present even future Western reprisal and a choice for a fragile African Unity.
- When South Africa decides on this choice not to arrest Al Bashir it stands in the line of a questionable diplomacy for African unity for it started of on a back-foot when our entry into African policy articulation as was evidenced with the Mandela pronouncements of the Nigerian poet Kenneth Sarawiwa. The unintended consequences of SA entering into this fray, plausibly may have sped up the process of the actual execution of the poet.
- In that same tradition again on the Zimbawe elections outcome there was a time when pressure was exerted on South Africa to arrest Mugabe the elected leader of a sovereign State of Zimbabwe. SA refused and opted for what is now called quiet diplomacy. We need not forget the COSATU and SANGOCO Coalition’s attempt to exert pressure on Zimbabwe when they were stopped at Beit-Bridge thus abandoning their attempt to have an observer mission in Zimbabwe. One may assert that the outcome of SA involvement in Zimbabwean elections is in this season evidenced in Mugabe as African Elder Statesman.
- When we make this choice today it is out of a very consciousness of the time Kenya a Sovereign State blew up in 2007. This occasion saw Archbishop Desmond M. Tutu showing up to legitimize the indecent haste for the induction of Kibaki as president when the signing-off of the election results still proved questionable. This same moment saw the ANC delegation led by Cyril Ramaphosa being asked to leave because our model of government of national unity and negotiated settlements were found not workable. (This model however worked for us in the IRA and Britain setting which has matured into a working relation context)
- When South Africa makes this choice it is thus a confirmed necessary one, for we have never so glaringly been here before as with the adoption the UN Resolution 1973 that found South Africa and Nigeria lending credence to the invasion of Libya and ultimately the murder of Muammar Gaddafi. It is also not coincidental that South Africa and Nigeria at this very AU gathering was clearly reminded of this collective African compromise by a rejuvenated and politically relevant if not resuscitated statesman none other than Robert Gabriel Mugabe. South Africa thus shares a fragile relations context with other African states notwithstanding its critical role in African context.
- It must be understood and accepted that the ICC lost its credibility and therefore SA registers this protest in calling the International Community to say as important as a ICC may be, it cannot be a compromised one when the measures for indicting presidents shows a clear ambivalence and truculence in charging George W Bush and his counterpart Tony Blair for having committed the same crimes for which it shows Al Bashir and other African Leaders out as having contravened therefore worthy of indictment.
- When SA chooses to ‘violate’ this treaty as a signatory it does so less in ignorance but in a clarion consciousness of the demands for the need for a non- compromised, fair, transparent and equitable International Court of JUSTICE.
- South Africa’s choice can thus be appreciated as one for African Unity. It is a choice South Africa makes because the Unity of Africa regardless to how fragile it portends warrants in this season to be the predominant aspect if Africa has any hope of truly untying the proverbial Mary-Mary shackles of colonialism and victimology thus accelerating an African democracy model.
- On another level South Africa’s choice is proving that contrary to the temptation of those who want to separate South Africa in convenience for their personal self-interest from Africa, as distinct in an only form of exceptionalism having a proverbial space above other sovereign Africa an states, that South Africa is an African State.
- We as South Africans are beginning to act in that knowledge whilst we claimed before yet we have never so categorically shown in worldview stance our Africanness. This moment is historic perhaps this is what was needed when we succumbed to undue pressure to an adoption of the UN Resolution 1973 that butchered an African leader and destroyed a thriving Libya leaving blood on our hands. South Africa thus unequivocally says, never, never yes never again will the unity of Africa be sacrificed at the altar of Western Appeasement.
- When South Africa allows Al Bashir to leave SA it cannot be assumed SA with this it is condoning what Al Bashir did and what he must account for. However SA is aware it cannot be an extension of a colonial sheriff role to do the work of those who have shown an unwillingness to bring Bush and Blair to account for their roles in Iraq on the sophistic claim of weapons of mass destruction.
- South Africa thus refuses to be a part of those who disrespect as non-signatories the very ICC of which it claims a custodianship of credibility thus forcing all but themselves to adhere and obey.
- When South Africa proves conscious to make this choice it proves a good host for even affording the court case that sought to actualize the arrest to go ahead, confirming SA a constitutional democracy that respects the judiciary as a crucial cog of its democracy.
- South Africa understands that the Sudanese President Omar Al Bashir was not visiting SA on holiday or some excursion but he was here as a member of the AU representing his Sovereign State, who was called here by a gathering only hosted by South Africa. South Africa therefore cannot be jeopardising the intentions of the African Union in exerting itself as uniquely empowered to bring the legitimate gathering of duly constituted AU members in disrepute.
- South Africa with allowing Omar Al Bashir to leave our shores proves matured to accept that whilst it may in this season of FIFA scandal be the convenient centre of gravity for claims of corruption it dare not prove soluble but must stand its ground and take its stands in its natural African kaftans.
- South Africa is not raising the issue of the imbalance of the ICC as an institution in its preoccupation with African leaders as its target here in June 2015 for the first time, for that debate was raised long ago. The consequence of the justice meted out in the ICC is now culminating in a due protest as now registered by South Africa, choice in this season. It is thus the second coming of the murmuring of an uneasiness in the fulcrum of a moment of defiance and due protest.
- South Africa in allowing Al Bashir to board his plane, makes it emphatic that it is not in the business of making history in having a sitting president and AU member attending a AU gathering be arrested in a host country only because the host country is a signatory of ICC legal framework.
In conclusion I dare assert as difficult as the choice was for South Africa to make, it was made easier by the very ICC whose practices of an ambiguity in meting out justice seeking for the victims of those who rule with impunity proved itself not a trustworthy entity.
Therefore as Al Bashir arrives safe home today South Africa says unequivocally let the ICC find the necessary means to arrest him and make him account for the crimes but not at the hand of South Africa who merely hosted the AU gathering duly constituted to entertain a due agenda which was consciously hijacked by typical narrow interest.
I sleep tonight better because South Africa is an African State and finding comfort in its kaftans of Africanness attuned to make tough decisions and having learned from the outcome of the decisions now defined as the travesty of a Libyan experience.
I am a proud South African and the African Renaissance dream lives, regardless to how a lusty western media may present this.
Clyde N. S. Ramalaine
A Political Commentator