Africans stampede out of the ICC

01-glenford02After 14 years, the neocolonial judicial farce of an International Criminal Court (ICC) may be unraveling. South Africa has joined Burundi in serving notice that it is starting the process of withdrawing from the ICC.

The decision by President Jacob Zuma’s government has caused panic in the West, which fears it might touch off a mass withdrawal of Africans from the ICC at the African Union Summit meeting in January. There were similar fears of a mass African walkout when the ICC indicted Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta for crimes against humanity in 2012. The ICC dropped those charges two years later.

From its very inception, in 2002, the ICC has been a court for Africans only, a tool of the United States and the former colonial powers. Of the six cases that are currently, or soon to be, on the docket of the ICC, all involve indictments against Africans. It is as if the only high-placed criminal politicians in the world live in Africa.

In Rwanda, the ICC has acted as a prosecutorial service for Paul Kagame, the Tutsi dictator. Despite abundant evidence that Hutus were also massacred during the Rwandan civil war, and that Kagame’s forces deliberately provoked the bloodbath, the ICC prosecuted only Hutus and opponents of the Kagame regime.

The U.S. is the most hypocritical player of all. Washington is not even a member of the ICC – and never will be, since the U.S. is unwilling to be judged by any global authority. The U.S. voted against creation of the court when the issue came up for a vote at the United Nations in 1998. Yet, Washington uses the ICC as a threat against African leaders that resist U.S. domination – like Burundi’s President Nkurunziza.

South African President Jacob Zuma can count on his African National Congress legislative majority to support a withdrawal from the ICC. It’s a welcome move on Zuma’s part, but it doesn’t make up for South Africa’s vote, five years ago in the UN Security Council, for a “no-fly zone” over Libya. That shameful surrender to U.S. pressure resulted in the overthrow and death of Muammar Gadaffi, a great friend and material supporter of the South African liberation movement.

Let’s hope that Zuma is now signaling that he will pursue a foreign policy that is more independent of the United States.

Glen Ford is executive editor of


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