Botswana’s information minister says Gaborone will continue to provide resolute support for the International Criminal Court (ICC) in spite of strong opposition from some African countries.
Jeff Ramsay dismissed concerns that a diplomatic clash could be looming between Botswana and other countries like Kenya and Uganda which question continued African support for the ICC.
They and other critics say the court only targets Africans, including Sudanese President Omar Hassan Al-Bashir, for war crimes and crimes against humanity.
“We are in dialogue with both countries about all sorts of issues including multilateral issues. So, I don’t think one issue about the ICC could cause a rift. We have very good relations with both Uganda and Kenya and we cooperate in many areas,” said Ramsay. “After all, the United States is not a member of the ICC, and yet we have good relations with the US as well.”
Kenya’s parliament recently voted to pull out of the ICC. It has charged Kenyan deputy President William Ruto with laying a key role in the country’s 2007-2008 post-election violence. The conflict left about 1300 people dead and tens of thousands displaced from their homes. Kenya President Uhuru Kenya faces similar charges. Mr. Ruto’s trial began in late September, while the president’s trial is scheduled for November.
African heads of state and government plan to meet in Ethiopia’s capital, Addis Ababa on October 13 to decide whether to follow Kenya’s lead of pulling out from the ICC.
“We will be at the meeting at some level, and we will be listening to our colleagues. Our ears will be open, but we are resolute in terms of standing by the principles of the International Criminal Court,” said Ramsay. “We are not only a party to the Rome Statute, but we were the first African country to ratify the Kampala amendments, which widened the court’s scope of prosecuting crimes against humanity.”
Ramsay said it is unlikely that his government will end support for the ICC.
“I do not want to speculate. Of course, there are going to be discussions about the ICC at the summit, but withdrawal will be an extreme step,” said Ramsay.
A majority of members of the African Union (AU) are signatories to the Rome Stature that established the international court.
Ramsay however did not confirm whether Botswana President Ian Khama will attend the African leaders’ summit.
“Not as far as I know but, that still needs to be confirmed. Certainly Botswana will be represented at some level,” said Ramsay.