By Ofwono Opondo
Someone, once asked, if nations, like human beings, have feelings, which many pundits are still trying to find out, but apparently in vain. The Europeans, their nations, governments, and leaders, must be feeling so embarrassed and pained under the weight of their collective inability to appropriately respond to the current US administration on a number of fronts, from NATO, free trade and other thorny global issues that they jointly created, but are being left to solve alone.
Take this week’s public rebuke, by John Bolton, the new US National Security Advisor to President Donald J Trump, in a speech to the Federalist Society, when he threw down the gauntlet to the International Criminal Court (ICC), calling it a danger and an enemy to US national interests and security.
But, the apologists of the ICC, based at The Hague, Netherlands, who have been projecting that court, as an even-handed justice system with competent jurisdiction over matters referred to it, in dealing with ending impunity on genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity across the world, appear to be cowards, who won’t pick the challenge from Bolton, and fight.
In the speech, Bolton, fired broadsides, calling the ICC “ineffective,” “unaccountable,” “deeply flawed,” and “outright dangerous,” to US national interests and security, and threatened to impose sanctions and prosecute its judges, freeze their assets, or those of companies that deal with the court. Bolton was responding to ICC prosecutor’s request to start an investigation of U.S. officials for detainee abuses in Afghanistan and elsewhere, describing them as “utterly unfounded” and “unjustifiable.” He then threatened that the US will use any means necessary to protect its citizens and those of its allies from unjust prosecution by “this illegitimate court.”
Specifically, Bolton said, the US will not cooperate with the ICC and will provide no assistance to the court. And if the ICC “comes after the United States,” the U.S. will “fight back” by banning its judges and prosecutors from entering the US, freezing their assets, and prosecuting them in the U.S. criminal justice system. The U.S. will do the same for “any company or state that assists an ICC investigation of Americans.”
A week has since passed and there hasn’t been any public response from Brussels, where, the EU Commission president, Jean-Claude Juncker, instead, chose to divert attention, by floating a tantalizing, although unrealistic new economic deal, in an effort that is aimed at frustrating China’s re-invigorated engagement with African governments and peoples. It is getting too late for Europeans, to hoodwink Africans any further, that after over five hundred years of close engagement, including through direct colonialism, that Europe means well for Africa. Europeans’ collective desires are evidently, not to help or see Africa’s socio-economic transformation into an equal partner and player at the global stage. In their view, Africans must play peripheral and non-consequential fiddle.
And this should remind many Ugandans, of the incident in May 2016, when EU ambassadors led by their patron, Deborah Malac, the US ambassador here, walked out on President Yoweri Museveni, because he took a swipe at the ICC in reference to Sudanese president Omar Bashir, who was among the guest attending the inauguration ceremonies at Kololo Independence Grounds. And this had also come against the backdrop of President Museveni’s robust defence of President Uhuru Kenyatta and his Vice, William Ruto, who had been indicted by the ICC, before the charges collapsed like a pack of cards.
When the ambassadors stormed out, many Ugandans expected them to resign their respective posting in Uganda and return home, but well they are still here serving. Also, Bashir continues to maintain diplomatic relations with Uganda, other African, and world governments. That saga, and Bolton’s rebuke, should perhaps teach the European ambassadors and their local agents, new political etiquette, that maybe, they don’t have to always punch above their weight.
It may not be very well-understood by many, but it shouldn’t be forgotten, that the failed Arab-Spring, was a strategic plan by the United States, to create and spread instability in neighboring regions of North Africa and Arab Islamic countries as away to divide and weaken the growing strength of the EU. The EU members fell for it, falsely believing they could quickly find credible and durable allies to bid their game, but, have now been left to shoulder the fallout of illegal immigrants, Islamic State and the failed states that surround Europe.
I believe that every Ugandan with access to traditional and modern media reads the daily migration challenges in the EU, while Trump is holding it from far away wagging a very long stick. The long term geo-strategic ramifications of those immigrants entering Europe and the counter reaction from among a depressed European population are getting really scary.
As for John Bolton’s gauntlet, many in the global community would still challenge the ICC judges to go ahead with the Afghan and Guantanamo investigations, and not be cowed, if not for any other reason, but simply to demonstrate that justice should be served to all equally as a way to restore some public confidence in the international systems.