Legal hurdle to block Africa’s pullout from ICC

Lawmakers from member states of the International Conference of the Great Lakes Region have invoked another legal hurdle that is likely to make withdrawal from the International Criminal Court much more difficult.

A clause in the ICGLR Protocol is likely to put the Members of Parliament on a collision course with the regional heads of state who have been campaigning for Africa to sever ties with the ICC.

In 2013, a group of African leaders protested the court’s indictment of sitting Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta and called for the continent’s withdrawal from the court en masse. Leaders from Kenya, Uganda, Sudan and Rwanda, which are members of the ICGLR, have since condemned the ICC and supported the intended pullout.

However, more than 20 MPs from the 12-member ICGLR who met at Serena Beach Hotel in the Kenyan Coastal resort of Mombasa on November 6 and 7 agreed that the Protocol does not allow member states to pull out of ICC unless it is amended by consensus. The MPs met under the auspices of the Forum of Parliaments of the International Conference on Great Lakes Region (FP-ICGLR).

“The heads of state will be asked to pay attention to the withdrawal — much as they may object or not — as a bloc to amend the Protocol,” said Nathan Byamukama, an official with the ICGLR. “However, whatever decision it is will have to be by consensus.”

The protocol requires member states to co-operate with the ICC to curtail impunity that could escalate to genocide in the region.

The MPs are to raise their concern with the Summit in January to bring to order the heads of state that continue to attack the court, which is based in The Hague, the Netherlands, in disregard to their ICGLR obligations.

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FP-ICGLR executive secretary Prosper Higiro, who challenged Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame in the 2010 elections, is set to table the proposal for withdrawal from the ICC before the Summit for discussion on January 15.

The FP-ICGLR is a framework of dialogue between parliamentary institutions among the ICGLR member states that support the governments’ efforts in development and conflict prevention. The MPs are relying on Article 24 of the ICGLR Protocol to convince African leaders that withdrawing from the ICC — which means pulling out of the Rome Statute — will jeopardise the fight against genocide and other international crimes.

“We realised that the ICGLR Protocol on Genocide ties us to the ICC,” Ugandan MP Onyango Kakoba, who attended the Mombasa meeting, told The EastAfrican. “We can’t just walk away from the ICC we will have to amend the Protocol.”