Home / China / View

Change of guard to spur African efforts

By Bob Wekesa | China Daily Africa | Updated: 2013-11-08 10:10

China's presidency of un security council may help tilt the scales of justice

When China's envoy to the United Nations, Liu Jieyi, recently took the reins at the Security Council for November, it was an immediate relief for the African Union in general and Kenya in particular.

Liu indicated that China would be supporting the African Union resolution for deferral of the cases of crimes against humanity facing Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta and his deputy William Ruto at the International Criminal Court at The Hague. Going by the raucous altercations the matter has caused so far, this will be one of the most-watched items on the UN agenda.

China's turn at the rotating monthly presidency of the UN Security Council couldn't have come at a more opportune time for Kenya and African nations, with several African Union envoys in New York pushing for deferral, or even referral of the cases back to Kenyan courts.

Over the past couple of weeks, African leaders have turned the heat on Western countries, principally the US, Britain, France, the three permanent members of the council thought to be against moves to let Kenyatta and his deputy off the hook. Accusations have been flying fast and furious, with most African leaders expressing their displeasure at Western countries.

In May, Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn raised the heat when he accused the ICC - and by extension, the West - of "hunting Africans", a charge that introduced a racist angle to the matter.

In September, a majority of African heads of state came short of instituting mass withdrawal of African signatories to the Rome Statute set up by the ICC, which establishes four core international crimes, including war crimes and those against humanity.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon was said to have reached out to several African leaders, promising to look into the issue and dissuading them from taking that drastic step, which would have dealt a deathblow to the ICC.

This background provides a canvass against which China's presidency of the Security Council should be analyzed. Foremost is the fact that China has not only sought local mechanisms to deal with African problems, such as those facing Kenya and Sudan, but has maintained a foreign policy of non-interference in the internal matters of sovereign states.

On the other hand, commentators from the West, among them scholars and leaders, have maintained the position that Kenyan and other nationals accused of crimes against humanity must face justice at The Hague if their own judicial mechanisms cannot rise to the occasion. In the case of Kenya, some leading Western thinkers have held that letting off Kenyatta and his deputy would amount to impunity.

Whichever way the AU's bid for deferral of Kenya's case goes, it is evident that China and Russia are today being seen as counterweights to what some consider hegemony over Africa by Western powers.

Indeed, the collective discontent by a majority of African leaders against the West is one of the stable promulgations issued by China and African countries during consecutive forums on China-Africa cooperation. This in turn introduces a South-South cooperation dimension in the face of what many in the developing world consider South-North geopolitical imbalances in the international arena.

Should China and Russia's support for the AU position be vetoed by the US, Britain and France as well as the other Western non-permanent members of the Security Council, the possibility of a mass withdrawal of the 22 African states in the ICC is on the cards.

If on the other hand Western countries see the writing on the wall and relent, this could be seen as a win for African countries in their efforts to have their way in the UN system. In all these scenarios, China would have scored in endearing itself to Africa and most African leaders.

Equally, a win for the AU and Kenya in the coming days with the support of China could be framed a step toward reform of the UN system where African countries have been clamoring for a permanent seat on the Security Council on the basis they constitute the biggest block of UN member states, but are poorly represented.

However, even if the AU and Kenyan cause is lost, it would still be seen as event that should spur further efforts by African states to use their numeric advantage as leverage in the UN reform agenda.

The author is a research associate at the Journalism Department of the University of Witwatersrand and PhD candidate at Communication University of China. The views do not necessarily reflect those of China Daily.

Editor's picks
Copyright 1995 - . All rights reserved. The content (including but not limited to text, photo, multimedia information, etc) published in this site belongs to China Daily Information Co (CDIC). Without written authorization from CDIC, such content shall not be republished or used in any form. Note: Browsers with 1024*768 or higher resolution are suggested for this site.
License for publishing multimedia online 0108263

Registration Number: 130349