Windhoek International Relations and Cooperation Minister Netumbo Nandi-Ndaitwah has explained government’s reasons for withdrawing from the International Criminal Court (ICC) as a signatory, saying Namibia joined the ICC immediately after Independence due to the weakness of internal institutions at the time. She said government in 1990 inherited weak institutions from the architects of apartheid, hence the decision at the time to look abroad for interim assistance. She was responding to the news that Cabinet, on the request of the Swapo Party, has resolved that the country should withdraw from the ICC – whose recent actions are seen as a deviation from the original mandate. For now Namibia remains a full member of the ICC, pending certain technical requirements that must be met before it can withdraw. Yesterday Nandi-Ndaitwah said Namibia’s participation in ICC activities is no longer a priority, as the country now has its own robust and functional governance institutions. Asked when the withdrawal from the ICC will be effected, Nandi-Ndaitwah said, “It is not even a priority as to when Namibia will withdraw.” Namibians should concentrate on issues of serious concern, such as poverty eradication, rather than on the ICC, she suggested. “We’ve set ourselves a target of eradicating poverty in this country. Therefore, we must concentrate on and plan how to deal with the development of this country. The ICC is not a priority,” she said. “Our institutions were weak when we joined the ICC, as we were just coming [from exile]. We must have trust in our own institutions and Namibians should not just continue saying ICC, ICC. For what?” She said there is currently a discussion ongoing between the African Union (AU) and the ICC to deal with widely held perceptions that the court is targeting African leaders only. The outcome of that discussion will help Namibia decide whether to reconsider its plan to withdraw or not. “I don’t know why the Namibian people are really concerned about the ICC. What benefits are Namibians getting from the ICC?” Nandi-Ndaitwah asked yesterday. “I keep saying Namibia joined the ICC immediately after we gained our Independence, and at that time we didn’t have our own institutions. Now, with our strong governance institutions, both at the executive, parliament and judiciary [level]… are we now saying our people don’t have confidence in our own institutions? “You have countries like America who have confidence in their own institutions and they did not sign up for the ICC,” she noted. In June last year, New Era reported that Nandi-Ndaitwah said Namibia would not hesitate to withdraw from the ICC should proposed amendments made by the AU not be considered. The AU, of which Namibia is a member, has over many years been calling for the Rome Statute to be amended, so that cases before the ICC against incumbent leaders can be deferred until their terms of office end. “Sitting presidents should not be subject to prosecution, because they were democratically elected by the masses to lead them. And now out of nowhere you have an international instrument that interferes with the will of the people,” she said at the time. That same month Zimbabwean leader and AU chairman at the time Robert Mugabe criticised the ICC after Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir narrowly evaded arrest in South Africa. “This is not the headquarters of the ICC. We don’t want it in this region at all,” Mugabe was quoted as saying. Omar al-Bashir is wanted by the ICC for alleged war crimes, including charges of genocide, linked to the conflict in the Darfur region. The ICC in turn denied allegations of discrimination and pointed out that most cases are brought to the court by African countries themselves. Late last year, the Legal Assistance Centre (LAC) also expressed its unhappiness over plans by the Namibian government to withdraw from the ICC. The LAC said it was one of the organisations that formed part of a coalition that encouraged Namibia and other countries to ratify the Rome Statute that created the ICC.
New Era Reporter
2016-03-11 09:26:06 2 years ago