The acceptance by the United Nations of The Gambia government’s request to withdraw from the Rome Statute has not come as a surprise to activists and rights campaigners.
The UN said The Gambia will not be a member of the international tribunal as of November 2017 but Sidi Sanneh, a diplomat and the country’s former Minister of Foreign Affairs said the unilateral decision by President Yahya Jammeh, the country’s 51-year-old ruler, will not absolve the regime of its responsibility for any crimes against humanity, genocide or war crimes in the period that it was under the jurisdiction of the court.
The Gambia’s withdrawal was not debated in parliament, but in The Gambia, where the ICC Chief Prosecutor served as chief law enforcement officer, Jammeh’s public declaration are supreme to the constitution.
“It is only natural that Jammeh and his coterie have now grandstanded the issue of Pan-Africanism, characterizing the ICC as anti-African,” said Vanguard Africa’s Jeffrey Smith.
President Yahya Jammeh’s anti-Western rhetoric and Islamization of The Gambia has gained him support in the country, as he preys on the political apathy in the nation of fewer than two million people.
“It is a way in which to gin up animosity towards the West, while simultaneously appealing to a segment of the electorate suspicious of outside interventions and ultimately protecting themselves from having to answer for their myriad brutal crimes over the past two decades.
The Gambia has been described as the North Korea of Africa and its President Yahya Jammeh as a modern day Adi Amin Dada, whose regime has been accused by UN Human Rights Rapporteurs of torture, enforced detention, and extra-judicial executions.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon said Burundi, The Gambia, and South Africa are sending a wrong message on their commitment to justice urging them not to withdraw.
(Reporting and Writing by Sainey Marenah; Contribution and Additional Writing by Sam Phatey; Editing by Sam Phatey)