Leaders to Strengthen African Court

According to AU Monitor, African Union (AU) member states will only refer cases to the International Criminal Court (ICC) as a last resort when the African Court of Justice is established with criminal jurisdiction.

This is one of the proposals in the draft convention that seeks to establish a legal framework to address the root causes of refugees, returnees and internally displaced persons. The convention will be tabled before the heads of state summit for consideration.

Addressing the press at Speke Resort Munyonyo, the AU director of political affairs, Emil Egnimbe, said ministers attending the executive council meeting had unanimously adopted the proposal. ‘The African Union is doing its best to resolve the problem of impunity. We have put in place the African court of people and human rights, but it cannot judge criminals,’ he said. ‘We are bridging this gap by establishing the African Court of Justice which will have criminal jurisdiction. When we get our own court we will be required to judge our own people in Africa as opposed to referring our cases to the ICC.’

Members agreed to solve all problems that lead to displacement in Africa by themselves in a collective manner. ‘We have established early warning systems on conflicts, and a panel of the wise to resolve them before they occur, including an African stand-by force,’ he said. The document that will culminate into the Kampala declaration will require the ratification by 15 member states to become effective. ‘We are going to start sensitisation from here and so far the indication we have got is that many member states are ready to sign it,’ he said.

Under the Kampala declaration member states will be obliged to offer basic services to refugees from member states. ‘Displaced persons are often abandoned and left on their own. IDPs are supposed to be catered for by the host state,’ he said. The Kampala declaration will define the responsibilities of host nations, humanitarian organisations, NGOs as well as armed groups.

Six heads of state were expected to attend the summit. They are Iddris Deby of Chad, Faure Gnassingbe of Togo, Rupiah Banda of Zambia, Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe, Sheikh Sharif Ahmed of Somalia and the leader of the Saharawi Arab democratic Republic, Mohammed Abdelaziz.

South Africa was expected to send home affairs minister Dlamini Zuma, foreign affairs minister Moses Wetangula for Kenya, and Rwanda by Prime Minister Bernard Makuza, while Burundi was expected to send the first vice- president Yves Sahinguvu. It was not yet clear whether Libyan leader and current chairman of the African Union Col. Muammar Gadaffi would attend the summit.

The Sudanese government has dispatched interior minister Abbas Goma’a and the refugee commissioner, Mohamed Ahmed Al-Agbash to represent their leader, Omar el-Bashir, who is indicted by the ICC over war crimes in Darfur.

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