Your Most Reliable and Dependable Source

Former Ivorian President Walks Free

For eight years, he cooled his heels in the cozy confines of a jail room at the International Criminal Court in the Hague, Holland, awaiting his fate.

On Tuesday, he learnt he was a free man; Laurent Gbagbo, the former president of the Ivory Coast whose intransigence — stubborn refusal to give up the presidency after losing an election in 2010 —- led to a brutal civil conflict and ghastly fraticidal bloodletting, can now breathe easy and look confidently towards heading back home and rehabilitating his political career.

It was not supposed to end this way; Gbabgo had earned the wrath of the international community for single handedly plunging his nation into conflict which ultimately left thousands dead and injured.

In the eyes of the world, Gbagbo’s ill-advised action was a breach of international norms; he had committed crimes against humanity and therefore deserved, much like Charles Taylor, the former Liberian strongman and other African dictators who had deliberately violated the rights of their citizens, to spend the rest of his natural life in the slammer, prison.

Fortunately for Gbagbo, ICC prosecutors failed to bring a solid case against him; they were unable to prove beyond any reasonable doubt that the once combative and uncompromising Gbagbo had indeed committed crimes against humanity despite stark evidence.

Give it to his defense team; it did a yeoman’s job of convincing ICC judges that the former president had been framed by his detractors and therefore was innocent of the charges.

The ICC’s acquittal of Gbagbo is a stunner, a great shock and a huge let down for millions of Africans who had looked up to it for justice against those who blatantly violate their human rights. The hope and confidence once reposed in the court have been shattered.

This is not the first time the ICC has profoundly disappointed Africans; in 2010 the current president of Kenya, Uhuru Kenyatta and his then political opponent, and now deputy President William Ruto were found not guilty of crimes against humanity by the court. The two were accused of being the brains behind the massacre of more than 1,400 people in the post-election violence that racked Kenya in 2007.

The court’s decision will go a long way to embolden political leaders in Africa, especially the autocrats among them bent on perpetuating their rule, who will now feel that they can get away with murder, literally, and no one will come looking for their skulls.

Come to think of it, critics of the ICC are giddy, extremely excited like kids in a playground; they will break open the champagne bottles at this latest public humiliation of the court; they are livid, incensed that the court only targets Africans for prosecution they argue, and point to other violators of human rights across the world who go scot-free. If the critics have their way, the ICC would be non-existent, abolished altogether.

However, for those who cherish the idea of an international institution capable of dishing out punishment to the politically powerful and financially connected, who would otherwise escape or thwart justice, the ICC remains a ray of hope and an embodiment of everything that is good about our troubled world.

Comments are closed, but trackbacks and pingbacks are open.