At the Ukraine Accountability Conference in The Hague last month the international criminal court’s (ICC) chief prosecutor, Karim Khan, urged world leaders: “In all situations across the world where international crimes are committed, we should feel the same urgency for action and for cooperation.”
A few days ago the head of the World Health Authority, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, has suggested that racism is partly to blame for the lack of international interest in the conflict in Ethiopia’s Tigray state.
Social justice must be for all – not just for whites.
The ICC has only targeted “anti-western” African leaders while brutal UK- and US-backed leaders in Africa continue to kill and maim with impunity. Nowhere is this more evident than in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) where Paul Kagame, president of Rwanda, has been fuelling some of the world’s bloodiest and nastiest killings. The slaughter and the raping, looting and displacement has not stopped.
In 2003, at the UN general assembly, the then DRC president, Joseph Kabila, called for the creation of an international criminal tribunal for the DRC to hold perpetrators to account. The appeal, echoed by Congolese civil society groups, was ignored, with the UK, US and a host of western governments looking the other way while giving Kagame guns and money to operate as he pleased. So far it has targeted only “low hanging fruit” including Thomas Lubanga, the ICC’s first ever conviction in March 2012, then Germain Katanga and Bosco Ntaganda. What then is the ICC’s purpose in Africa if it cannot investigate a president over “aiding and abetting” some of these crimes?
By 2008, when UN investigators arrived in the DRC to look into crimes committed before 2002 – when the ICC has no mandate – more than 5.4 million Congolese people had died in the 10 years since a rebel group called Rally for Congolese Democracy (RCD) was formed to loot the Congolese minerals.
In 2010, the UN published a 550-page report calling for the creation of a Congo tribunal to try 617 international allegations involving, among others, troops under President Kagame’s command in the DRC. That recommendation was ignored.
There are 5.6 million Congolese people internally displaced across the country. Another 27 million people, including 3.4 million children, are “acutely food insecure”. A 2011 US study estimated that 48 women were raped every hour. In 2017, UN investigators discovered 80 mass graves in the diamond-rich Kasai province. In 2019, the UN unearthed another 50 mass graves in Bandundu.
Where the victims of war are white, the ICC has already opened its own probe, its chief prosecutor has visited frontlines and sent its largest-ever field deployment and an international Ukraine war crimes tribunal to put Vladimir Putin in the dock is already in the pipeline.
Why then are the US and UK refusing to back the creation of an international criminal tribunal for DRC?