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Rwanda’s justice: example to all?

I do not wish to counter the stand our leaders have taken against the International Criminal Court. They have argued that it is a racist court and have decided that Kenyatta should not attend their trials. I want to take their decision a step further.



Article written by Bill, a Kenya-based journalist

I am not writing this piece to pick an argument with my president or any of the African heads of state who met in Ethiopia, under the auspices of the African Union. They decided that Uhuru Kenyatta should not appear in The Hague for his case, scheduled to start on 12 November.

People argue that the ICC is a racist court and have decided that Kenyatta and his deputy should not attend their trials. I only want to take their decision a step further. They have said countless times that our sovereignty as Africans is on trial at the court, and one may want to listen to what they say.

Backed by political will
On countless occasions, they have also argued that African problems need African solutions. And even here, one may also want to give them an ear. In fact, they are right. Home-grown solutions are the best way to solve problems. They are closer to the people, easy to follow, easy to trust, and sustainable, when backed by political will. Please read that again – ‘when backed by political will’. For instance, Rwanda’s gacaca courts are often cited as the best example of how grass-roots mechanisms can bring justice to the doorsteps of a majority of victims of gross human rights violations.


And if we dig around the roots of our forefathers, we will find a myriad of such mechanisms that were used to solve disputes both within clans and among people of different clans. So we are not the first ones to suggest African solutions for African problems. Indeed, that is the very basis on which the pan-African movement was launched half a century ago.

Binding ties between our people
So then, is there something that our current heads of state should be telling us that is new and departs from earlier calls to look for home-grown solutions? I think there is just one thing: they need to tell us that they have resolved never again to lead us into problematic situations. In other words, they should show a resolve to create more binding ties between our people.

GacacaIt is unfortunate, for instance, that in Kenya, 50 years after independence, we still conduct our politics on the basis of ethnicity, and negative ethnicity for that matter. Our leadership is about who commands the largest ethnic group, and therefore about who has to unite with whom to achieve the necessary numbers. Of course, politics is a game of numbers, but why have we always identified these numbers in terms of ethnic groupings, when we know that the ethnic chalice was poisoned a long time ago? Why?

Why have we been unable to bring people together on the basis of a common goal that unites them, for instance as professionals within a certain field? Why have we never seen leaders who are put forward by, for instance, the association of accountants in Kenya, or by the association of media personalities? Why do we always turn back to our tribes every time an election is announced? Why?

Be realistic
That’s why I think the best way to solve Africa’s problems is not to look for solutions but to avoid causing the problems in the first place. That doesn’t mean failing to acknowledge existing problems. No. It is important to be realistic. All I am saying is: we need to set up all the right structures, avoid leadership squabbles, and all will be well. Avoiding causing ourselves problems means that we will not need to sit and start arguing about finding local solutions. The problems will simply not exist.

So, while the African Union resolves that the ICC is racist and that we need to do away with it, I feel it is important that we get reassurances from our leaders that the dirty politics of former years will not be endlessly repeated. After all, it is this that brought us to the ICC in the first place. This to me is what ought to be the million-dollar resolution. And I feel that every African has a role to play in bringing it about.

ICC, The Hague. Kenya trial

ICC, The Hague. Kenya trial

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