African leaders insist universal jurisdiction should not be abused in any way

The purpose of Committee of Intelligence and Security Services of Africa (CISSA) is to assist the African Union and all its institutions, in effectively addressing the seemingly intractable security challenges, confronting the continent.

Caption: President Paul Kagame addressing the 13th Ordinary session of CISSA conference.

The purpose of Committee of Intelligence and Security Services of Africa (CISSA) is to assist the African Union and all its institutions, in effectively addressing the seemingly intractable security challenges, confronting the continent.


One of the emerging security threats Africa faces today, is the abuse of the principle of universal jurisdiction, by some judges in the west, who hide behind international law, to target African leaders.


This is the reason why “Countering the Growing Threat of Abuse of Universal Jurisdiction against Africa” was the theme chosen for the 13th CISSA conference.


Confronting this serious threat, calls for a unified stand among Africans and our institutions, including, the Intelligence and Security Services of our continent.

While giving his speech during the 13th Ordinary Session CISSA, 4th August 2016 in Kigali, President Paul Kagame said the high rate of participation here demonstrates that CISSA is both relevant and strong. 

13th Ordinary session of CISSA conference, Kigali Convention Centre.

“This is as it should be, because there is nothing routine about the duty to protect our citizens and our public institutions from harm. Intelligence services are the custodians of national, regional, and global security” said Kagame.

He went on to say that the continent’s commitments should be translated into action by disseminating the needed intelligence assessments to the African Union Peace and Security Council, in support of Agenda 2063, which reflects our common good as Africans, rather than narrow national interests.

For a long time, some parts of the world seemed more important than others and the lives of the people there, somehow more valuable. International responses generally reflected that unspoken hierarchy.

“But looking at the global state of affairs today, there is no longer any clear distinction between so-called strong and weak states. We are all affected, and more importantly, everybody has an essential contribution to make in finding solutions. It all speaks to the complex interconnectedness of the world we find ourselves in” said president Kagame.

Elsewhere on the continent, African leaders have been targeted by the ICC, and some governments put under pressure, to enforce the politically motivated indictments.

Rwanda, in particularly, has faced this threat since 2006, following indictments and arrest warrants issued against senior Rwandan officials, by French and Spanish judges. 

This trend ultimately led to last year’s unjustifiable arrest and detention in London, of Rwanda’s former NISS Secretary General while on official duty.

While addressing the intelligence chiefs, the Hon minister of Justice Busingye Johnston said universal jurisdiction in its original form, is basically national legislation that allows a State to bring criminal proceedings in respect to certain crimes irrespective of the location of the crime and the nationality of the perpetrator or that of the victim. 

It pertains broadly to the power of States to punish certain crimes irrespective of the place they were committed and by whom.

He elaborated that the fact that States are entitled to give their own courts universal jurisdiction over certain crimes as a result of a national decision and not of a rule or principle of international law, renders its application subjective in many ways. 

In 2006 and, later, one Spanish Judge in 2008 issued indictments against nine Rwandan senior officials and 40 of Rwanda’s highest military officials respectively.

“Overtime we have ended up with suspicion of abuse, weakened acceptance, tension and rejection.Judges on the basis of their convictions issued warrants that shocked our understanding and belief in international justice. It seemed to us that the Law was clearly being used a weapon of warfare.” Said Busingye.

According to the Minister, the contested application of the principle has created the perception that it is used by the powerful to paralyse or punish the weak. Obviously this has considerably threatened State sovereignty, international security and stability.

This was Rwanda’s first contact with the threatening and chilling side of universal jurisdiction. 

On the basis of an individual judge’s conviction, by a stroke of a pen, those who perpetrated the genocide became its victims, those who stopped it became its perpetrators and a country’s, a people’s, and history is turned upside down

He concluded by saying that the Universal jurisdiction is a double edged sword which can be a powerful instrument for the international system by protecting human rights and fighting against impunity once objectively applied. 

If however it is put at the service of political ends and fixes, it ends up infringing the principles around sovereign equality, destabilizes international relations and becomes morally and legally unsustainable. 

If universal jurisdiction cannot apply to the leadership of country A the same way it applies to the leadership of country B, for similar stuff, then its legitimacy is in peril, no matter which forces are at play.



1. We, Members of the Committee of Intelligence and Security Services of Africa (CISSA);

2. GATHERED in Kigali, from 4th to 5th August 2016 for the 13th CISSA Conference under the theme “Countering the Growing Threat of Abuse of Universal Jurisdiction against Africa”;

3. INSPIRED by CISSA’s raison d’etre “to assist the African Union and all its institutions to effectively address the seemingly intractable security challenges confronting Africa”;

4. MINDFUL of the prominent role of intelligence and security services in promoting sustainable peace and stability on the Continent;

5. ALARMED by the rate at which selective indictments and threats of arrest warrants against African leaders by the so-called “independent” western judges/courts threatens to reverse our strides towards stability; undermines sovereignty of targeted parties; creates tensions between communities and Nation States; inflicts suffering to citizens of targeted states due to unilateral imposition of sanctions;

6. CONCERNED by negative implication of the growing abuse of universal jurisdiction to the States sovereignty and dignity, as well as to national security of African states;

7. FURTHER concerned that the laws which were formulated to serve international good, are being abused and used as tools to enhance national interest and foreign policies of some countries;

8. REFERRING to the Decision of the AU Assembly on the Report of the Commission on the Abuse of the Principle of Universal Jurisdiction at its 11th Ordinary Session held in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt from 30 June to 1 July 2008;

9. FURTHER REFERRING to the outcomes of the 19th Summit of the African Union Heads of State and Government, including the need to review its relations with the ICC in the wake of the alarming targeted indictments against African nationals, especially African leaders;

10. COGNIZANT of African Union objectives as enshrined in article 3 of its Constitutive Act;

11. REAFFIRMING our adherence to the principle of universal jurisdiction;


13. Member Services EXPRESS their renewed commitment towards timely information sharing and integration of effort in order to effectively tackle the threats facing the Continent.

14. Member Services REAFFIRM to the pledge to deploy collective efforts to confront the growing threat of abuse of Universal Jurisdiction.

15. Member services DENOUNCE the triggering of application of the principle of universal jurisdiction by a single judge and recommend that the decision to set universal jurisdiction in motion should always be tested by higher judicial authority.

16. Member services URGE States applying Universal Jurisdiction to consult the concerned States before indicting their nationals.

17. Taking note of article 98 of the Rome Statutes, member services further EXPRESS concerns on the signing of supplementary agreements which undermine the applicability of international law in the favor of some powerful countries.

18. Member services REITERATE their resolve to share intelligence on timely basis regarding all International Non-Governmental Organizations (INGOs) and media organizations whose purpose is unclear or activities considered to be malicious. Member Services equally denounce criminalization and dehumanization propagated by these INGOs against Africans.

19. Member services RENEW the AU Appeal for a moratorium on all pending arrest warrants and prosecutions filed against African leaders or other high-ranking officials until discussions among all stakeholders are concluded and the current stalemate is resolved.

20. Member Services COMMIT to explore practical mechanisms of ensuring the respect of international law, particularly the immunity of State officials when applying the principle of universal jurisdiction.

DONE AT KIGALI, 5th August 2016


Group photo, 13th Ordinary session of CISSA conference.


1. The Heads of Intelligence and Security Services of Africa held their 13th Ordinary Session of the CISSA Conference in Kigali, Rwanda, from 01 to 06 August 2016, under the Theme: “Countering the growing threat of Abuse of Universal Jurisdiction against Africa”.

2. Conference was graced by the presence of His Excellency Paul KAGAME, President of the Republic of Rwanda. In his welcome remarks, President KAGAME, welcomed all the delegates to Kigali and expressed the full support and solidarity of the Government of Rwanda to the efforts undertaken by CISSA and the African Union to seek solutions to the myriad of security challenges affecting the continent, including fighting the abuse of universal jurisdiction against Africa and its leaders.

3. President KAGAME emphasised the need for intensive cooperation in the security realm taking into cognisance the transnational nature of crime as a result of globalisation. In this regard, he highlighted that the main tasks of intelligence are to provide stability, build prosperity and protect life. On the theme of the conference, he indicated that Rwanda has had more than its fair share of the abuse of the principle of universal jurisdiction due to the politicisation and selective application of justice. He concluded his remarks declaring the 13th Ordinary CISSA Conference officially opened.

4. In his opening remarks, the Outgoing Chairperson of CISSA and Director-General of the National Intelligence Agency (ANIGE) of the Republic of Equatorial Guinea, Honourable Minister JUAN-ANTONIO BIBANG NCHUCHUMA, gave an impressive account of his tenure as the Outgoing Chairperson of CISSA and urged the Incoming Chairperson to continue on that trajectory.

5. Mr Erastus MWENCHA, Deputy Chairperson of the African Union Commission, among other things, called upon African leaders to unite against the machinations of some powerful western countries bent on demeaning African leaders using the pretext of the application of universal jurisdiction.

6. On his part, the Chairperson of CISSA and Secretary-General of National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS) of Rwanda, Brigadier General Joseph NZABAMWITA, bemoaned the abuse of universal jurisdiction against Africa by some western countries and institutions. He alluded to the experience of Rwanda and other African countries on how the practice continues to undermine the integrity and the sovereignty of the African states. He emphasised the need for strategic and actionable recommendations to deal with this phenomenon.

7. Conference also received presentations on the theme of Conference from Rwanda, Equatorial Guinea, Kenya, Sudan and the five CISSA Regional Chairpersons; Algeria, Angola, South Sudan, Republic of Congo, with the West African region represented by Ghana. Conference took cognizance of pertinent issues from the presentations which included inter alia:

8. Africa believes in an International Justice System, based on equality of states, equality of all the people before the law, a system based on recognizable universal shared values.

9. African countries/leaders continue to suffer politically motivated allegations orchestrated by some western powers under the pretext of universal jurisdiction and remain targeted by some western judges or tribunals of universal jurisdiction and indeed more countries are likely to fall victim if nothing is done by African countries to counter the phenomenon.

10. The International Criminal Court (ICC) has deviating from its mandate and has been hijacked by powerful western countries to pursue their political agenda. It is increasingly acting as a proxy for these western countries to orchestrate their regime change agenda in Africa and persecuting the African leaders. Subsequently, CISSA rejects political manipulations, double standards and abuse of universal jurisdiction.

11. African senior officials remain targets of some western countries while perpetrators of heinous crimes on the African continent continue to get safe havens in Western capitals.

12. Emanating from the above presentations, Conference adopted a declaration in which Member Services reiterated the need to work together in confronting the Growing abuse of Universal Jurisdiction against Africa.

13. On core-business matters, Conference took stock of the gains that had been made since the 12th Conference in Malabo, Equatorial Guinea and re-affirmed its commitment to further enhance mutual confidence among members and to exchange intelligence to serve common objectives.

14. Conference deliberated and adopted the Roadmap towards a Conflict-Free Africa and Silencing the Guns by 2020, which would guide the core-business of CISSA for the next four years;

15. Conference acknowledged the current security challenges experienced by some African Countries and pledged to deploy its collective capacities to combat these threats;

16. Conference reiterated its commitment to continue to upscale functional collaboration and partnership with the AUC, the Regional Economic Communities/Regional Mechanisms (RECs/RMs), the African Centre for the Study and Research on Terrorism (ACSRT), the Fusion and Liaison Unit (UFL) of the Sahelo- Saharan Region, Inter-Governmental Action Group Against Money Laundering in West Africa (GIABA) as well as other African Strategic partners;

17. Conference commended the Government of Equatorial Guinea for reiterating its commitment to construct CISSA Headquarters gratis and the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia for providing 32 000 square meters of land for the construction of CISSA Headquarters;

18. Conference expressed gratitude to the National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS) of the Republic of Rwanda for the excellent logistical arrangements for the 13th Conference and the hospitality extended to all the delegates. Conference also requested that its gratitude be conveyed to the People and Government of the Republic of Rwanda.

19. Conference reaffirmed its acceptance of Nigeria’s offer to host the 14th CISSA Conference in 2017.


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