Why Rwandan President Kagame Criticizes ICC?

Paul Kagame at world economic forum on Africa. Photo: Wikimedia Commons
Paul Kagame at world economic forum on Africa. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Paul Kagame doesn’t like International Criminal Court (ICC) based in The Hague. He often denounces ICC publicly. His complicated past in the Rwandan political spectrum and his approaches to the regional political chaos have turned ICC and Paul Kagame at odds.

Who is Paul Kagame?

Some say Paul Kagame is a visionary African leader who transformed a war-torn landlocked African country into one of the fastest growing countries in Africa. But his critics are not satisfied with his ‘success stories’. In critics’ eyes, Mr. Kagame is a tyrant who silences any potential dissent voices ruthlessly.

Mr. Kagame has been the president of Rwanda since 2000 according to the official account. But his strong presence and influence in the Rwandan politics can be dated back since the end of Rwandan civil wars in 1994. After the Tutsi rebels (RPF) defeated the ruling Hutus, a national unity government was formed in Rwanda. Pasteur Bizimungu, a Hutu leader, became the President and ‘chose’ Paul Kagame, the leader of Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF), as vice-president.

Paul Kagame was the de-facto leader with his control over the military of Rwanda. He was elected president of Rwanda in 2000. Mr. Kagame has been winning all the elections of Rwanda ever since with more than 90 percent of the votes. He arrested the former President Bizimungu after he established the Party for Democratic Renewal (PDR) in 2003. Under the powerful if not authoritarian leadership of Kagame, no alternative leader to challenge him has yet emerged in Rwanda.

What does Kagame Say about ICC?

Paul Kagame, the President of Rwanda, frequently criticizes the International Criminal Court (ICC) for ‘bias against Africa’. Recently, Mr. Kagame accused the International Criminal Court (ICC) of failing to serve justice. President Kagame said: “The ICC was supposed to address the whole world, but it ended up covering only Africa.” Referring to his reiterated criticism and disapproval of The Hague based International Criminal Court, Kagame said: “From the time of its inception, I said there was a fraud basis on which it was set up and how it was going to be used.”

Rwandan President Kagame’s criticism of the ICC, however, is nothing new. He has been criticizing ICC over the years and as he says: “I don’t believe I have been proven wrong.” Mr. Kagame accused ICC of being “politics disguised as international justice” and that was one of the reasons “Rwanda did not become a signatory to ICC.”

Is ICC Biased against Africa?

Rwanda’s Paul Kagame is not the only African leader to criticize the International Criminal Court (ICC). Many African leaders criticize The Hague based intergovernmental organization and an international tribunal of being biased against Africa. Even the African Union (AU), a continental union consisting of all 55 countries, passed a nonbinding resolution encouraging the member states to mass withdrawal from ICC.

In pursuit of knowing the opinion of the mass African people about their leaders’ allegations against ICC, The Hague Institute for Global Justice conducted a research in 5 Kenyan regions. According to the research as published in The Washington Post, “Only 34.3 percent of participants agreed with the statement: The International Criminal Court, ICC or The Hague is biased against Africa…. A plurality of respondents, 46.2 percent, disagreed, and 19.5 percent remained neutral or said they did not know.”

Why Kagame Criticizes ICC?

African leaders like Omar al-Bashir, who are wanted by The Hague based ICC have political gains as they criticize (and fear) the International Criminal Court (ICC). Why Paul Kagame, a visionary who transformed Rwanda from ashes into the pathway to emerge as the Singapore of Africa, fears and criticizes ICC so often? These searches, however, lead us to a complicated part of Kagame’s unique political career.

As a rebel leader turned successful politician, Kagame is a unique figure of Africa who led his country towards a better life when many other African leaders are constantly failing to meet the basic necessities of their people. With the formation of a so-called unity government in 1994 when ethnic conflicts turned Rwanda into ashes, Kagame gradually achieved the much required international support and he became the iconic figure of Rwandan unity and development.

But Kagame must not forget that his actions, as the leader of Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF), killed tens of thousands of Hutus including innocent women and children in 1994 and the subsequent years. According to a U.N. report published in 1997 about Rwandan mass murders and genocides, when around a million Rwandans were killed and the majority of who were Tutsis, more than 200,000 Hutus were also murdered by the Rwandan forces.

The 1997 U.N. report says: “The majority of the victims were children, women, elderly people and the sick, who were often undernourished and posed no threat to the attacking forces…if proven before a competent court, could be characterized as crimes of genocide.” Paul Kagame, again, must not have forgotten that he has played a role in the ensuing wars in the neighboring countries that assumed to have cost the lives of 5 million people.

What can ICC do about Kagame?

Fatou Bensouda, a top ICC prosecutor says: “The victims deserve justice, the victims are Africans, and in the absence of the ICC nobody else is giving them justice.” She also had been quoted by Rwanda Info as saying: “We will investigate anybody anywhere regardless their positions… if the tribunal for DRC crimes was to be created today, we could arrest Kagame as I speak.”

Paul Kagame, however, doesn’t believe in the justice of ICC. According to Kagame: “Rwanda did not become a signatory to ICC because this was not justice.” President Kagame says: “When they commit crimes, and they have committed many against Africa, why doesn’t it apply to them? When Rwanda speaks about this, we are told, we should not be speaking about anything that paints some people in a dark light.”


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About Masum Billah 36 Articles
Masum Billah is a Staff Writer for The GeoStrategists. A Graduate from the Department of International Relations at the University of Dhaka, Masum Billah is a human rights activist. He writes columns on human rights, foreign policy, and terrorism.
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