Africa, the ICC and the Moral Apostleship of President Trump

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It is hardly a secret that many Africans are very critical of the International Criminal Court (ICC), which they accuse of aggressively pointing its legal Fang to African leaders, while other notorious leaders around the world are, according to the accusers, left untouched. With this in mind, it is therefore not entirely a surprise to hear that some African leaders are seeking to withdraw their membership of the Hague based International Criminal Court (ICC). However, what might be surprising ““ and indeed, ironic ““ to many, is the reaction of the USA (or at best, its president) to African leaders` criticism of the ICC and their attempt to withdraw from the club.

While responding over the weekend in Nebraska, USA, to the question by a South African journalist on his opinion about the call of the African leaders to withdraw from the International Criminal Court (ICC), President Trump proposed that it is time to “recolonise“ Africans. He went further to claim that Africans are in fact living like slaves in their own lands, despite that African countries are indeed independent. Hear President Donald Trump:

“It is shameful for African leaders to seek an exit from ICC. In my view, these leaders want to have all the freedom to oppress their poor people without anyone asking them a question. I think there is no shortcut to maturity and in my view, Africa should be recolonized because Africans are still under slavery. Look at how those African leaders change constitutions in their favour so that they can be life presidents. They are all greedy and do not care about the common people. When I saw them gang up against ICC yet they can`t even find an amicable solution for the ongoing quandary in Burundi, I thought to myself these people lack discipline and humane heart. They can`t lead by example. The only thing they are interested in is accumulating wealth from poor tax payers. Before they think of exiting from ICC, they should first restore peace in Burundi and other war-torn countries rather than gathering like hyenas with the aim of finishing the poor people.“

Absolutely, very few individuals who are conscious of the African political situation, will doubt President Trump`s stand. The corruption in Africa is unimaginable endemic. African leaders can be incredibly greedy and insensitive to the suffering of their people. Are African leaders leading by example? Not really. Could it be that African leaders are criticising the ICC out of their selfishness? Most likely, yes. Some believe those African leaders who have problems with the ICC actually have skeletons in their cupboard. It is, therefore, right for one to argue that those African critics of the ICC, who have issues to hide, do, in fact, not have the moral quintessence to utter the criticism. That brings us back to President Trump`s criticism of the African leaders.

As much as one may question the African leaders` moral qualifications, we could equally ask ourselves whether, in fact, President Trump (or the USA for that matter) has the moral superiority to criticise the intention of the African leaders to leave the ICC.   It is not only on record that the USA is not a signatory to the ICC. As a permanent international criminal court, founded in 2002 by the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (Rome Statute), ICC tries to “bring to justice the perpetrators of the worst crimes known to humankind ““ war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide.“ The USA has been critical of the ICC because they are afraid that their soldiers could be held accountable for their atrocities outside the USA. Since the creation of the ICC, various US administrations have had different positions and attitude towards the Court. Regardless of the positions of the administrations, the shameful reality is that the USA has not ratified the Rome Statute ““ as such, it has not effectively recognised the authority or jurisdiction of the ICC (court). As of November 2016, as many as 124 states are members of the Court, while mainly undemocratic countries such as India, Indonesia, China have not signed or ratified the Rome Statute. Others like Israel and Sudan refused to ratify the ICC agreement after having previously signed the Rome Statute.   The question is: In view of the obvious reality, why does President Trump think he has the moral authority to criticise African leaders over the ICC? Would President Trump have levelled the same criticisms against other countries like Israel, the USA closest ally in the world, China, India and the rest for their refusal to recognise – just like the USA does ““ the jurisdiction of the ICC? Your answer is as good as mine.

As the global champion of democracy and human rights, the USA should have been the foremost supporter of the ICC, which tries to check war crime, genocide and other human rights and impunity abuses. If the USA would choose not to recognise the ICC, it means, therefore, it casts serious doubts on her morality and democratic evangelism. A Clear conscience, they say, fears no accusations. By refusing to be a signatory to the ICC, does President   Trump have the moral impetus to criticise African leaders for trying to withdraw their memberships of the ICC (not that one is in support of the withdrawal)? Doesn’t the refusal of the USA to recognise the authority of the ICC amount to impunity and freedom to oppress poor people or countries without anyone asking them a question? Have we forgotten the atrocities in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya and other places where the USA has left negative historical footprints behind? Those unfortunate footprints of the USA are still being seen everywhere in those countries.

Talking about Trump`s accusation of “Greed“ and “only thing they are interested in is accumulating wealth from poor tax payers,“ one might be tempted to challenge President Trump to not only release his tax returns to the public but also the companies and individuals he has done businesses with. Furthermore, it is on record that since being inaugurated as the USA President, President Trump has effectively used his position to advance his business interests. From his famous Trump Tower, which he has promoted and made a household name in many countries, including in “Muslim“ countries like Turkey (President Trump might not be the greatest lover of the Muslim community, but for sure, business is business!), to his Mar-a-Lago   Palm Beach retreat, which has incredibly increased President Trump`s financial gains. Since becoming the US president, the Mar-a-Lago is no longer just the place where President Trump goes to escape Washington stress, it has become a lucrative business venture. Once he became the President, the fees for the retreat was increased drastically, while paying members of the golf club and their guests use the presence of foreign dignities at the club to mingle and interact with President Trump and his guests. Equally, unlike any other USA president in history, President Trump has effectively converted the White House to virtually a family affair (or did I hear you say, ” business“?), with members of his family, most of them without experience or enough qualification,   appointed to high key positions. All these raise ethics and integrity questions, which have led many demonstrations in different countries and cities against   President Donald Trump.

In as much as one may condemn the attempts by some African leaders to withdraw their membership of the ICC  – and encourage the ICC to do more and investigate more leaders from outside Africa -, President Donald Trump of the USA should show his moral authority by first ratifying the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (Rome Statute). It is only by first recognising the authority of the ICC that President Trump can act as the moral apostle to preach morality and ethics to the rest of African leaders ““ and other world leaders, who have refused to recognise the ICC. Otherwise, President Trump will end up presenting himself as a shameless hypocrite, who lacks the moral credentials to lead or criticise other leaders. You cannot eat your cake and still have it, can you?