Leaders of multiple African countries announced Feb. 1 that they have backed a "strategy of collective withdrawal" from the International Criminal Court (ICC). Prior to this week's African Union (AU) summit, the AU issued a document seen by Reuters that proposed a coordinated withdrawal unless the ICC is reformed. The AU claims that the ICC is improperly focusing on prosecuting individuals from African countries, and its exit could be significant, as almost a third of the ICC's member countries are African. The AU and the ICC have had a tumultuous relationship over the course of the past year. In July an AU advisory board accused the ICC of narrowly focusing its investigations on African government leaders since its inception in 2002. The AU's Economic Social and Cultural Council (ECOSOCC) recommended that members quit the ICC should Rome Statute signatories follow through with a proposed amendment allowing the prosecution and arrest of sitting heads of state. Human Rights Watch stated that giving sitting leaders immunity would defeat the purpose of the ICC's creation.
As Morocco is readmitted to the African Union at the continental body's 28th summit in Addis Ababa, it is pushing for the suspension of Western Sahara, placing the AU in a difficult position. The AU has long backed self-determination for the Moroccan-occupied territory, and recognized the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR) as the representative of its people. Morocco dropped out of the Organization of African Unity (precursor to the AU) in 1984 in protest at the SADR's admission to the body. At Addis Ababa, Rabat won the backing of a simple majority of AU members for its return to the body. Among the dissenting votes was South Africa, whose ruling African National Congress (ANC) issued a statement calling the readmission of Morocco an "important setback for the cause of the Saharawi people." Rabat stopped short of explicitly demanding the AU withdraw its recognition of the SADR, with King Mohammed VI saying in a statement: "On reflection, it has become clear to us that when a body is sick, it is treated more effectively from the inside than from the outside." SADR's Foreign Minister Mohamed Salem Ould Salek, howver, said Morocco's readmission represents "a victory of the Sahrawi people since Morocco had finally accepted to sit alongside its neighbor, Western Sahara." (Africa in Fact, Feb. 1 via AllAfrica; BBC News, Sahara Press Service, SPS, Jan. 31; The East African, Jan. 30 via AllAfrica)
The UN on Oct. 27 adopted a resolution—hailed by disarmament campaigners as an important landmark—to launch negotiations in 2017 on a treaty outlawing nuclear weapons. The resolution was approved at a meeting of the First Committee of the General Assembly, which deals with disarmament and international security matters. A total of 123 nations voted in favor of the resolution, with 38 voting against and 16 abstaining. The resolution will set up a UN conference beginning in March next year, open to all member states, to negotiate a "legally binding instrument to prohibit nuclear weapons, leading towards their total elimination." Among the 57 co-sponsors of the resolution, Austria, Brazil, Ireland, Mexico, Nigeria and South Africa took the lead.
A South African deputy minister said Oct. 10 that the nation will leave the International Criminal Court (ICC), opining that the court has "lost its direction." Following criticism for ignoring an ICC directive to arrest the president of Sudan, Obed Bapela of the ruling African National Congress (ANC) told reporters that South Africa will continue to uphold "the flag of human rights" independent of the ICC. Bapela indicated that powerful ICC member nations "trample" human rights and pursue "selfish interests," and some African leaders have questioned the ICC's indictment of Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir as being another in a long line of decisions biased against Africans.
The Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessment this week issued a report on the Obama administration's planned "modernization" of the US nuclear arsenal, finding it could cost $704 billion between 2015 and 2039. The biggest chunk will likely be borne by the Navy to develop a replacement for the Ohio-class nuclear submarines. Together with maintaining the warheads themselves, this will amount to some 70% of the cost estimate. The Air Force will see costs break $4 billion a year between fiscal 2029 and 2031 to bring online the next-generation Long Range Strategic Bomber. (Air Force Times, Aug. 5)
An estimated 40,000 marched through central Cape Town July 16 to protest the Gaza "massacre" at South Africa's parliament. The city came to a standstill at midday as marchers handed a memorandum to the chair of the parliament's international relations portfolio committee, Siphosezwe Masango. MP Magdalene Moonsamy of the Economic Freedom Fighters opposition party addressed protesters at the parliament's gates, saying, "We pledge solidarity with the people of Gaza." The march was organized by the Muslim Judicial Council and the COSATU trade union federation. Marches held Palestinian flags and banners with messages such as "Israel is a racist apartheid regime." (City Press, Johannesburg, July 16)
Two were killed Jan. 13 as South African police fired on protesters at the townships of Mothotlung and Damonsville, where residents are angry at having been without water services for a week. The townships are on the outskirts of the northern city of Brits, near the nation's platinum belt, the scene of recrnt labor unrest. Access to water is a constitutional right in South Africa, but many northern townships have been intermittently without water over the past two years due to infrastructure decline linked to corruption and mismanagement. (PoliticsWeb, South Africa, Jan. 21; AFP, Jan. 14; Sky News, Jan. 13)
Obama's notorious handshake with Raúl Castro at the Nelson Mandela memorial in Johannesburg yesterday is prompting requisite outrage from all the predictable quarters—beginning with Florida's Republican Congressional delegation. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen called the handshake "nauseating and disheartening," while Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, also the offspring of Cuban immigrants, said "the president's friendly demeanor with Raúl Castro is reflective of his policies to the Castro regime and every other terrorist dictatorship." Sen. Marco Rubio said Obama "should have asked [Castro] about those basic freedoms Mandela was associated with that are denied in Cuba." (USA Today)