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Following The Issue

The Call for Africa to Arrest Former President George Bush

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Putting Trouble in Africa’s Pocket

The Issues Desk wishes to look at Amnesty International’s recent call for either of three African countries to which former President George Bush were to visit to arrest the former president for international crimes. The countries are Ethiopia, Tanzania and Zambia.

Frankly, Amnesty International is one of those international organizations that we regard highly, not because of its name, but because of the kind of work it has done and is doing in the interest of humanity, justice, good governance and accountability around the world.

Amnesty International’s audacity and tenacity to call for the apprehension of President George Bush is a move that further stamps the organization’s unbiasedness and seriousness. The organization called for and supported the arrest and trial of Charles Taylor. It called for and supported the arrest and trial of Laurent Gbagbo. They are two former African leaders. Amnesty International called for the trial of the late Muammar Gaddafi. He, too, was an African leader. It has also called for the trial of Omar Al-Bashir, another African leader.

Who would be brave to accuse Amnesty International of supporting the arrest and trial of only African leaders in the face of its open and sustained campaign to arrest and prosecute George Bush for international crimes, including torture?  The organization has lived up to the true meaning of its name and functions.

Many have said that the failure of the International Criminal Court to issue an arrest warrant on George Bush or about prosecuting him shows that the ICC is biased towards leaders of developing or African countries. Those accusing the ICC indicate that, besides the late Milosevic of Bosnia-Herzegovina, all the other leaders whose arrests have been announced, or whose trials have started, are African leaders.

It is not only the ICC that is silent on the arrest or trial of George Bush. All western governments are silent on it, too. Great Britain has said nothing about it. France has said nothing about it. Canada has not said a word. Australia is no different.

On the arrest and trial of Charles Taylor, they were all on it day and night. They continued the campaign until Taylor was arrested and sent to The Hague for prosecution. And there are reports that they – the same western governments – will see to it that he Taylor is found guilty and imprisoned somewhere in their world. The mention of Taylor in this fashion does not suggest that I oppose his prosecution.

They – the same western governments – got behind Laurent Gbagbo until he was arrested and sent to The Hague. Like in the case of Taylor, it is believed that he, too, will be found guilty, no matter what, and will be imprisoned somewhere in their world. Discussing the arrest and trial of Laurent Gbagbo does not in any way presuppose that I am against his prosecution.

The same western governments sought the arrest of Gaddafi. They issued an arrest warrant and wanted him apprehended and prosecuted badly. And it is believed that he would have been found guilty, no matter what.  I would have really loved to see Gaddafi stand trial.

The same group has been seeking the arrest and subsequent prosecution of Omar Al-Bashir of Sudan. They want him to be sent to The Hague. They may stick behind it tenaciously until he is arrested and dragged before the Court. Am I against his prosecution? Not at all.

The point being made is that many believe that western governments and leaders are quick to support or announce the prosecution of African leaders who are believed to have committed war crimes or crimes against humanity, but the same governments and leaders refuse to say anything about the arrest or prosecution of leaders of powerful nations or western countries, leaders who, too, are believed to have committed similar crimes.  There is the argument that the talk about the arrest and trial of all these African leaders is all about the West’s desire to “punish” certain African leaders for things they (the African leaders) did or refused to do. It is said that it is more about international politics than about international justice, and that there is no fair play in it, as it is done selectively.

But, again, when one considers the entire scenario, one soon realizes that it is in Africa where the governments and leaders have suffered their people the most. It is the place where the governments relish suppressing their own people, including the opposition. Yoweri Museveni remarked recently that he would put the opposition leaders of Uganda in his mouth, chew them and spit them out. It is Africa that has Paul Biya, Robert Mugabe, Yoweri Museveni. It is the same Africa that had Samuel Doe, Muammar Gaddafi, Adi Amin, Charles Taylor and Laurent Gbagbo. If it is about instituting justice for the poor and the voiceless, then it may not matter much whether it is only African leaders who are being prosecuted or not.

The Call to Arrest George Bush

Some believe that certain powerful leaders like Vladimir Putin of Russia and former President George Bush of the US have committed crimes against humanity. It is said that Putin has committed war crimes and crimes against humanity against the people of Chechnya. Some say Bush committed war crimes against the people of Iraq. Still, others say that he is guilty of water boarding, which is a form of torture under international law. The Bush administration has admitted to it. Mr. Bush himself, as well as former president Cheney, has admitted using water boarding to extract information from individuals they arrested in the “war against terror.”

In spite of this, no western governments or leaders have suggested or campaigned for the arrest or prosecution of Mr. Bush. The International Criminal Court (ICC) has not issued an arrest warrant on Bush or suggested the possible prosecution of Mr. Bush. In essence, Bush’s case is unlike Taylor, Gbagbo, Taylor, Bashir and others whose arrest orders were announced and known by almost all citizens and governments.

In the absence of this information, how can Amnesty International ask African countries to arrest Mr. Bush? Does Amnesty International want to put Africa against the United States or the rest of the western world? This is what our people would call “putting trouble in Africa’s pocket.” No, Africa’s pocket is too small for such a trouble. The trouble doesn’t fit there.

Leave Africa alone on this one. It is too feeble for such trouble. Like the Rock mentioned in Daniel Chapter 2, Africa will feel it if it knowingly falls onto the Rock. It will feel it even more if the Rock falls onto it. Leave Africa out of this one. It lacks the resources to deal with the trouble.

But why should Africa be the continent to arrest a US President, whether former or current, when that president has not even been indicted by an international court? Why should Africa even be asked in the process, when there is no arrest order? That trouble is too big for Africa’s pocket. It is too huge for Africa; it can’t get over it. It is wide for Africa; it can’t get around it.

If an African country arrests Mr. Bush, where will that African country take him? To an African court? To the International Criminal Court? By the way, by what authority would Africa be carrying out the arrest? No courts have indicted him for any crimes against humanity.

Africa, through Nigeria, arrested its own son, Charles Taylor, and handed him over to the International Criminal Court. Africa, through the Ivory Coast (although through the help of the West) arrested its own son, Laurent Gbagbo, and handed him over to the International Criminal Court. Some African countries are making efforts to arrest Omar Al-Bashir. In fact, Kenya has issued an arrest order on Bashir, saying that it will arrest him if he enters Kenya.

Africa has done a lot in a short period, but to arrest a former US President, especially when that president has not even been indicted by an international court, nothing but putting trouble in Africa’s small and patched and hole-ridden pocket. Africa is not ready for it. It is a responsibility that Africa would like for the countries of the West to shoulder. America is a country of law, not men. Ivory Coast arrested its own son. Amnesty International could ask the United States to arrest its own son, too. Africa arrested Taylor. North Africa could also arrest Bush.

Asking Africa to arrest Mr. Bush is tantamount to putting bad luck in Africa’s closet. It is tantamount to putting trouble in Africa’s pocket. It is tantamount to inviting problems in Africa’s destitute life. Leave Africa alone on this one. It is already burdened with numerous problems it is unable to solve. Africa cannot arrest Bush, will not arrest Bush, and should not arrest Bush. Let the West do it.

Believe me, my people. We will never stop following the issues.


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