Out of sight, out of mind

The last paragraph of article 25 of the Constitution of Rwanda states that no Rwandan shall be extradited no matter the crime committed or outstanding international arrest warrant issued. 
Oscar Kabbatende
Oscar Kabbatende

The last paragraph of article 25 of the Constitution of Rwanda states that no Rwandan shall be extradited no matter the crime committed or outstanding international arrest warrant issued. 

Potential international criminals should nonetheless be aware that the courts of Rwanda can and will try you for crimes committed abroad if these crimes are defined as such by our penal code so the sum of the advantages of running to Rwanda and not getting rendered to a foreign court is that your friends and family can visit you easily and you are sure that you will not be sentenced to a firing squad at the end of it all. 

I have not had the opportunity to read the constitution of Ivory Coast but from the way former President [and failed election rigger] Laurent Gbagbo was shipped off to the International Criminal Court [ICC] at The Hague, it’s safe to assume that the Ivorian Constitution does not have an equivalent to our article 25.

My understanding of the ICC was that it was a court of last resort in the event that the courts of a signatory nation were unable or unwilling to try violations of international humanitarian law [war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide].

 In effect Ivory Coast decided to admit that their judiciary was incapable of trying the former President and instead exile the man to a foreign country in keeping with French colonial best practices [circa mid-20th century]. 

If Ivory Coast was like Somalia with no functional court system, this decision may have been understandable but as the news came out last week, I could not help thinking that for the second time in year’s time they had embarrassed the continent.

First, Gbagbo rigged the elections and plunged his country into a civil war and now his predecessors were displaying a surprising lack of confidence in the country’s judiciary.

I have often thought that the whole emphasis on national dignity was misplaced, an effort better spent on improving the socio-economic circumstances of a country’s citizens [it is hard to be poor and dignified], but last week showed that perhaps there is something to all this talk of agaciro after all.

The Republic of the Union of Myanmar [you may know it simply as ‘Burma’] is back from the cold. Last week, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was in the country to applaud it on recent political reforms and to signal a softening in the US position to the country.

As usual no conversation about Burma is complete without mentioning Nobel peace prize winner and long-suffering house arrest veteran, Aung San Suu Kyi.

One happy result of the reforms in Burma is that this heroine and her party can finally participate politically. It has taken about 23 years for Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi to win a lot of what she has been fighting for all these years.

This got me thinking about how many of our politicians decide to go into exile and flog their agendas to foreigners in the hope that they may persuade a powerful nation to intervene on their behalf.

Another instance of lack of confidence in the people they intend to lead and a belief that all good things come from the developed world. In short, low self-esteem.

Even, supposing the wild allegations of killer squads and heavy-duty repression were true, change will not come from a soapbox in a faraway country to a foreign audience. Countries of the communist East, Apartheid South Africa and some of the Asian tigers had some really politically repressive regimes but they were overturned or reformed by the people led by citizens who stayed and fought for what they believed in.

Some paid incredibly high prices for these beliefs but remained undeterred in their struggle for positive change. In the meantime, Rwanda’s self declared agents of change prefer to do things the easy way and wonder why few pay them much heed.

okabatende@gmail.com

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