John Campbell

Africa in Transition

Campbell tracks political and security developments across sub-Saharan Africa.

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Improving the ICC’s Image in Africa

by John Campbell
January 13, 2012

The ICC's deputy prosecutor Fatou Bensouda (L), who will start as chief prosecutor in June, greets Ivory Coast President Alassane Ouattara in Abidjan June 28, 2011. (Thierry Gouegnon/Courtesy Reuters) The ICC's deputy prosecutor Fatou Bensouda (L), who will start as chief prosecutor in June, greets Ivory Coast President Alassane Ouattara in Abidjan June 28, 2011. (Thierry Gouegnon/Courtesy Reuters)

This is a guest post by Asch Harwood, Africa program research associate at the Council on Foreign Relations.

The International Criminal Court is expected to announce its decision (possibly next week) about whether to proceed with its charges against the “Ocampo 6,” the Kenyans accused of involvement in provoking violence following that country’s 2007 elections.

In anticipation, the International Crisis Group has issued a brief emphasizing the potential impact of these proceedings on Kenya’s upcoming elections.

Specifically, the report acknowledges the importance of the ICC to send a signal that “entrenched impunity for wealthy and powerful politicians will not be permitted to endure.” However, given the possible consequences on ethnic tensions, “if the ICC process is to contribute to the deterrence of future political violence in Kenya, the court and its friends must explain its work and limitations better to the public.”

The ICC regularly is accused of having a bias against Africa. (Currently, all its cases are in Africa.) As the Economist notes, “these days the ICC’s biggest opponents are in Africa,” and the African Union has spoken out against its proceedings.

The ICG’s recommendations are worth noting, particularly as the ICC’s new chief prosecutor and former Gambian justice minister Fatou Bensouda will replace Luis Moreno-Ocampo in June, giving the court a new opportunity to position itself as an objective arbiter of justice.

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