By Tendai Ruben Mbofana
On a daily basis, the world is encountered with shocking and disturbing reports of atrocities in countries such as, Burundi, Central African Republic (CAR), South Sudan, Nigeria, Somalia, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), to name just but a few.
These atrocities have resulted in the cruel deaths of millions of innocent defenceless people.
The 2014 statistics by the Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project (Acled), from just the four major conflict zones on the African continent, show that 13,508 civilians were reported killed in the war in Nigeria, 2,116 deaths in CAR, 1,817 in South Sudan, and 4,425 in Somalia.
Burundi’s current conflict is reported to have claimed the lives of over 240 people.
Millions of people have been displaced, forcing some to flee to neighbouring countries as refugees.
I have not even included statistics from the other conflict zones, such as the Dafor in Sudan, and Mali – where similar atrocities have been taking place.
Additionally, statistics from past atrocities, such as in Rwanda, Zimbabwe (whose 1980s casualty toll is approximately 30,000, according to available statistics), Central African Republic (CAR), Sierra Leone, Liberia, and others, are not included – but clearly not forgotten – and will never be forgotten.
What is most disturbing about these atrocities is that civilians are always the major casualties, as they are easy targets, due to their defencelessness.
However, we need to take a closer look a how these conflicts begin.
Although, the causes of all the conflicts on the African continent can not be bundled into the same group, there is one outstanding cause – leadership struggles.
Today’s conflicts in Burundi and South Sudan, and past ones in Zimbabwe (in the 1980s and 2000s) and Liberia are the typical examples.
The South Sudan conflict was ignited when President Salva Kiir sacked his deputy Dr. Riek Machar in 2013, subsequently accusing him (Machar) of a coup attempt.
This led to the beginning of a bloody conflict in December 2013, in what had become Africa’s youngest nation – where nearly everyone had placed their hopes for the continent.
The Burundi atrocities began when President Pierre Nkurunzinza, who ruled the country since 2005, refused to step down after he reached the constitutional presidential term limit in 2015.
This led to widespread riots leading to a multitude of deaths.
Let us also not forget that when President Nkurunzinza came to power in 2005, Burundi was just coming out of a terrible genocide – between 1993 and 2005 – which claimed the lives of over 300,000 people.
As the modus operandi of most of the conflicts on the African continent is about power, is the continent learning anything?
In Zimbabwe, we are faced with similar power struggles amongst the leadership of the ruling party, and by extension, the government.
The Zimbabwe president in December 2015, during the ZANU PF conference, bemoaned – albeit belatedly – the involvement of the security sector in the politics of the land – as that has the potential to lead to conflict.
Zimbabwe, indeed, is headed on a very dangerous course. A very dangerous one, indeed!
It does not take a rocket scientist to compare what is happening in Zimbabwe and what happened in South Sudan and Burundi, and the subsequent conflicts.
As the picture is so glaringly clear, why are our leaders so intent in leading this country to civil conflict by being so adamant in their leadership struggles?
With such disturbing examples as Burundi and South Sudan, should not our leaders be focussed more on preserving the unity and peace in Zimbabwe, thereby setting aside their personal ambitions for the common good of the country?
Does the county not come first? Are people’s lives not more important than who amongst these leaders becomes the next president?
Did our leaders not learn anything from Zimbabwe’s own history of conflicts?
Are these leaders recklessly prepared to see the bodies of innocent Zimbabweans strewn all over the country, in their self-serving interests in staying or becoming the president?
The answer to all of these is unfortunately a yes.
These African leaders would not care even if every single man, woman, child, baby, was to die, as long as they stayed in power or attained power.
This is where the issue of the International Criminal Court (ICC) comes in.
Africa and Africans need this court to help them put an end to this wanton disregard for human lives by African leaders.
These leaders can not be allowed to kill innocent lives with impunity – just so that they stay in power or claim power.
Who is going to answer to all those millions of lives that have been lost on the African continent due to power struggles?
If ever blame is to be placed at the door of the ICC, it is that they are not doing enough for Africa, and have let down the continent.
Actually, ICC institutions should be strengthened, such that it has more teeth and be prepared to use them.
Currently a lot of leaders are allowed to go scot free, just because the ICC, either has no jurisdiction or does not have the capacity to arrest and bring to justice these leaders.
An embarrassing case in point is the incident in 2015, when the ICC blamed the South African government for failing to arrest the Sudanese President when he attended the China-Africa summit.
Why is the ICC not capacitated to deal with such issues as the capture of a wanted person on an international arrest warrant?
If such incompetencies are allowed to continue, then our African leaders would never be held accountable for their actions, and there will never be any deterrent for those planning to carry out similar atrocities.
Africa is bleeding, and the world is watching with folded arms because they fear to be labeled racist for targeting African leaders.
A racist is not someone who wants to see Africans protected from their brutal leaders, but a racist is someone who watches helplessly whilst our leaders butcher their populations.
The African continent needs the ICC at this time more than ever before.
If the ICC is biased towards African leaders, then we should count ourselves very blessed and highly favoured.
If there are five households where there is gross domestic abuse, and the police seem to be more interested in only responding to reports of just two of these households – whilst ignoring the other three – then who should be complaining?
The two households where the police seem to have a desire to respond to the reports of domestic abuse, or the other three where the police seem not to be interested in taking any action?
Obviously, the other three households should be the ones complaining, as they are not being afforded justice.
Similarly, it should not be Africans complaining over the alleged bias of the ICC, but the other continents where their leaders’ atrocities are receiving a cold shoulder.
African leaders’ call to leave the ICC speaks volumes of their sinister objectives.
These are the very people committing the atrocities, so why should they be allowed to determine whether they should be held accountable or not.
That is just plainly ridiculous!
How can a criminal be afforded a choice to be bound by law or not! Seriously!
Mechanisms should be put in place that ensure that the rights and lives of the ordinary people of the African continent – and indeed the world – are protected and these countries’ leaders should not have a say in the matter, especially considering that they are the major perpetrators of the atrocities.
The ICC should be seen to be effectively working to protect Africans.
If the African Union wants to set up its own structures to hold to account any violators of human rights, then African leaders should not be provided with an opportunity to chose whether they should be bound by the African court or not – neither should they have a say in its structure and operations.
It is very unfortunate that the people of Africa have to cry out to outsiders for protection from their own leaders.
In an ideal world, that should not be the case, as we will have leaders who put the interests and the welfare of their nationals first – above any personal ambitions.
Such is what is expected of any leader. Leadership is about self-sacrifice not self-preservation.
The Obamas (US President) and Camerons (UK Prime Minister) of this world do desire power – that is why they got into politics – but they will never massacre their own people just so that they remain in power.
They respect their people’s choices, so if it is time to go, then it is time to go.
It would the shocker of the millennium if Barack Obama would go to the US Congress and Senate and ask them to amend the Constitution so that he may run for a third term.
So what is the problem with our own leaders? Power is sweet and potentially addictive to everyone, but why is it that African leaders can not handle it – vane maramba doro ekutonga.
It is time that the continent and the world came together to put an end to these atrocities by African leaders.
Every drop of African blood spilt should be accounted for, and institutions such as the ICC should be empowered to deal with these effectively without fear – as African lives matter!
° Tendai Ruben Mbofana is a community activist, communications specialist, journalist, and writer. He writes in his personal capacity. He welcomes and appreciated any feedback. Please call/WhatsApp: +263782283975, or email: tendaiandtinta.mbofana@gmail.