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Africa’s fly is so open right now

African heads of state pose for pictures ahead of the 25th African Union (AU) summit in Johannesburg.

African heads of state pose for pictures ahead of the 25th African Union (AU) summit in Johannesburg.

Published Jun 21, 2015


We tell the world Africa is open for business, only to get tangled up in our own much-ado-about nothing, says Victor Kgomoeswana.

Johannesburg - Africa’s fly is so open right now; Afro-pessimists will say it has always been. Afro-optimists like me are eating humble pie. We go around telling the world that Africa is open for business, only to get tangled up in our own much-ado-about nothing with the whole world watching.

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To make matters worse, instead of going to the heart of the matter, we blame the West, the US, colonial history, the International Criminal Court (ICC) and Santa Claus for not bringing us a sleigh to ride out of our state of underdevelopment.

The AU Summit came to Joburg to discuss matters of crucial importance – the Agenda 2063, how to optimise the resources of Africa, the Burundi crisis, Boko Haram, etc. With matters of such significance, we had no business getting derailed by President Omar al-Bashir. The Sudanese head of state left us nothing but his now-you-see-me, now-you-don’t blues.

Why did we not act on our own?

In the end, who remembers what the talks of the AU Summit were about? I bet Angelina Jolie got more media attention than the main agenda of the summit.

The rest of the coverage was about the South African Litigation Centre court bid to force the government to arrest and hand Bashir over to the ICC for alleged genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes in Darfur.

No question, any brutality against civilians should be punishable by whatever legally applicable means, ICC or not. But my simple question is, what took Africa so long to address the issue?

The ICC could only have become involved because the people of Sudan do not have the wherewithal to address it.

There is no smoke without fire as far al-Bashir is concerned. Former president Thabo Mbeki did more than most Africans to negotiate an end to the Darfur humanitarian crisis. His work led to the recognition of South Sudan as a sovereign state. Africa, evidently, is capable of sorting out its problems if it applies itself.

So why did it take a business tour to the AU Summit for the issue to resurface?

Was the AU content to let the issue go unattended, as long as al-Bashir remained in his own country? Any serious matter left unaddressed eventually leads to embarrassing episodes such as this.

Let’s deal with our own issues or the world will do it for us.

Whether al-Bashir was handed over is not as important to Africa as making sure we give the AU enough teeth to deal with Africa’s problems.

Far too often we let important issues go unchecked until it is too late or until an outsider steps in. We are then quick to blame the international community for being biased against us.

It happened with the no-fly-zone crisis, which some African countries voted for at the UN, only to complain when the crunch came. Evidently, we sometimes do not pay attention when handling important issues.

Sadly, not everyone lacks diligence when it matters most.

The credibility of the ICC is continuously being questioned. It dropped the case against President Uhuru Kenyatta, much to the delight of many in Kenya and across Africa.

Al-Bashir was seen being received with ululations in his capital city, Khartoum, on his return home after slipping out of South Africa on Monday.

There were even claims he was allowed to go because South African troops were held hostage in Sudan until his return.


If you asked the victims of the crimes committed by people allegedly acting on behalf of al-Bashir whether or not he should be facing charges at the ICC, some might be more interested in compensation for their losses. All would likely agree the outcome of the ICC prosecution would not undo the harm they suffered.

So, what should we learn from all this? That we should take ourselves seriously.

Africa’s time is now. We have to act with more intent and sense of urgency and not be blindly loyal to our leaders.

Sudan might be water under the bridge, but there are people in South Africa, Burundi, Uganda and many other African countries who blatantly refuse to deal with discontent among the masses.

In South Africa, the e-toll saga or the ongoing Nkandla saga drive home this point. Political figures refuse to listen, accept accountability or both, and get away with it. How and why? Because they claim to be “defending the revolution” by defending the indefensible.

The truth is, you cannot cover discontent with spin, nor can you silence it with violence. In the week that we commemorated the June 16 uprising of 1976, we should have known better.

We shouldn’t be questioning the legitimacy of the ICC unless we mean to withdraw from it. Al-Bashir is accused of waging war against his own people. Is he guilty or not? I can’t say; that is for the ICC or a similar body to determine.

Let’s therefore not accuse others of being biased against African leaders.

Instead, let’s act promptly against lapses of governance, corruption, or any impropriety before it grows into a humanitarian crisis on the scale of Darfur.

There will always be another al-Bashir incident with the ICC unless we learn to nip our social, economic or political problems in the bud.

* Victor Kgomoeswana is the author of Africa is Open for Business, anchor of CNBC Africa’s weekly show Africa Business News and anchor of the daily show Power Hour on PowerFM. He writes in his personal capacity.

** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Media.

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