Africa and justice

BY: Enoch Darfah Frimpong

     We must soldier on in our resolve to reform our politics and institutions. Respect for the supremacy of the constitution in resolving disputes between fellow citizens is the surest foundation of our democratic society.” Regardless of whether they agree with the judgement or not, Kenyans must be proud of how speedily and decisively they have dealt with this dispute.

This contrasts very favourably with how the election dispute in Ghana following the December 7th poll has been handled.

Despite the fact that Ghana has a smaller electorate and a larger Supreme Court, in Ghana’s case, the importance of timeliness has been recognised only in the breach, by all participants. The petition was filed just before the deadline and since then, virtually everyone involved has dallied even while the disputed winner has proceeded to take office and is governing.

It is truly a blessing, in Ghana’s case that those who said “All-die-be-die” did not, in the end, mean it literally. While sharing the opposition NPP Chairman Jake Obetsebi-Lamptey’s hope that the election challenge might make violence after future election disputes less likely, I fear that the handling of this dispute might make violence after future disputes more likely.

The delays in this case, coming after the experiences of Nigeria and Uganda, coupled with the likelihood that the Supreme Court will be compelled by circumstances to leave things alone, will make it more likely that future losers will take their case to the streets instead of the court. The court and all involved owe our nation a timely resolution so that Ghana would move on. Ghana needed a speedy affirmation or denial of Mahama’s mandate so that Nana could move to Jubilee House or retire.

Ghana failed that test spectacularly. And for what it is worth, it must be recognised that resolving a presidential election dispute after the disputed winner has been sworn in is, to put it mildly, impractical. Perhaps, the Kenyans were spurred to decisive action by the 2007 experience and the Constitution that arose from it.

The verdict in Kenya and the lack of one in Ghana invites reflection on our continent’s long and tortured relationship with Justice. Indeed, no continent or people have suffered more injustice than Africa and Africans.

The list is endless and includes:

The slave trade partition of Africa, Apartheid, colonialism and the Sudanese civil war

While most of the things listed here can be blamed on outsiders, they had local collaborators. Not only that. Currently, with the outsiders gone, we have taken over and are perpetrating against our own people, injustice on a gargantuan scale. The key operators in the Rwandan genocide, the Ivorian election dispute, the Liberian and Sierra Leonean crises, the last Kenyan election dispute that led to over 1,200 deaths and the slow-burning Congo genocide/civil war are or were Africans.

Indeed, the culture of impunity in Africa is such that even when international organisations like the International Criminal Court steps in to mete out justice on behalf of defenceless victims, they are demonised and the quest for justice is turned into an attack on Africa’s sovereignty and dignity. For instance, it is widely believed that Uhuru Kenyatta and his running-mate, William Ruto, benefitted significantly from their indictment by the International Criminal Court in connection with the 2007 Kenyan post-election violence.

According to Ayo Johnson, Director of Viewpoint Africa, “Kenya sent a loud message to the ICC--- don’t interfere,” Johnson continued to my astonishment, “And it does not matter if you brand our leaders as criminals. Many Africans have lost faith in the ICC and views it as targeting African leaders and failing to discharge fair justice amongst non-African leaders.” The ire of Kenyans may have been stirred by comments by US Assistant Secretary of State, Johnnie Carson that “choices have consequences”, intended to undermine support for Mr Kenyatta ahead of the Kenya vote.

Mr Kenyatta was indicted by the ICC for his alleged role in funding militias that carried out reprisal attacks after the 2007 elections. He may indeed be innocent but the view that political support and the desire to thumb our noses at the ICC can reward potential murderers with high office should trouble every African. The fact that the ICC has not prosecuted other criminals and murderers around the world should not be used as an excuse for defending possible mass murderers on our continent.

Our continent is in need of genuine justice, on many fronts. Injustice is not only found in the justice system—it exists socially and politically as well.

We need the strength to rise up and stop the killing of the innocent in Congo DRC.

We need just leaders to rise and stop the exploitation of our natural resources for the benefit of the few.

We need the moral courage to stop the use of our children as child labourers while their immense potential goes unrealised.

We need to stand up for our women as they struggle for control over their bodies and property and to give their children a better start in life.

Next, those who complain about the fairness of the ICC must enforce justice here on our continent.

If the Kenyan Supreme Court can resolve this election dispute, why are Kenyan courts not trying those involved in the 2007 post-election violence?

Even while recounting the historical injustices against Africa, let us lift our voices and be moved to action against those on our continent who are perpetrating injustice against us now.

Finally, we must vote wisely. If we support possible mass-murderers and gargantuan thieves and crooks with our votes and our money, we undermine our historic quest for justice. We must fight the perception that most of those who care about injustice in Africa are non-Africans.

The best way to keep the ICC and other outsiders from meddling in Africa is to give our victims home-grown justice. Let us move forward—together.

Article by Arthur Kobina Kennedy