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Africa's 'jungle men' with blood on their hands

Fred Muvunyi
Fred Muvunyi
October 30, 2017

Burundi has walked away from the International Criminal Court, claiming the court punishes those the West doesn't want in power. DW's Fred Muvunyi says these anti-court lobbyists have blood on their hands.

President of Burundi Pierre Nkurunziza
Image: Imago/Xinhua/E. Ngendakumana

Burundi officials have called the International Criminal Court (ICC) "arrogant," saying the tribunal was "contemptuous towards us" and wanted "to pursue victims instead of their persecutors."

Why did Burundi decide to call it quits? It boils down to one word: impunity. 

Africa has two very different sides. It has leaders who have understood that their power comes from the citizens. This group is mostly based in western and southern Africa.

Even the remnant dictators in this part of the region would not risk their positions by daring to leave the court. They know the citizens would take to the streets the very next day to call for their resignation.

Only 'jungle men' question the role of international justice

But the continent also has rebel leaders. These people have ascended to power by the barrel of a gun. They left jungles and were sworn in to lead, but they never changed their ways. They still behave like jungle men. This type of leaders is found in the east and central African regions. Most of the people in this region have lived under oppression for many years.

It's the second type of leaders who are questioning the role of international justice. Burundi's despot leader Pierre Nkurunziza has allegedly orchestrated the horrendous crimes since May 2015.

In September 2016, a UN Commission of Inquiry confirmed there were grounds to believe the government's operatives killed, tortured, raped, imprisoned, and persecuted citizens, following Nkurunziza's controversial third term in office.

The UN team urged the ICC to investigate these violations. Nearly 500 people were killed. At least 3,400 people were arrested; many of them were tortured.

Two years down the road, about 300,000 Burundians are exposed to cholera in refugee camps in Rwanda, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Tanzania. Many young girls are exposed to sexual abuses in these camps.

It's important to stress Burundi's walkout from the ICC does not threaten the court's legitimacy. Instead, it shows how perpetrators on the continent are trying everything they can to get away with murder.

Stop giving aid to Burundi!

What pains me as an African is that the international community is aiding and abetting all these crimes by pouring out aid money to countries like Burundi.

In the end, their money helps buying the weapons to kill innocent civilians. It strengthens national death squads and helps despots muzzling the opposition, the media, and civil society organizations.

Fred Muvunyi (photo: DW)
Fred Muvunyi works for the English for Africa desk

Nkurunziza has started a process to change the constitution which will keep him in office until 2034.

Believe it or not, this process will cost even more lives of Burundians. 

It's long overdue to put a stop to this. The international community should not be sleeping while Burundi brothers are dying in the hands of a despot.

Even though Burundi has now left the court, the ICC should still carry out - even speed up - its investigations. Sanctions should quickly be imposed on the country and its leaders.

Despite the harsh criticism by some African leaders: the court is not targeting Africa, it's fighting for justice in Africa - and it's not nearly doing enough compared to the many heinous crimes committed against humanity on the continent.

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