Laurent Gbagbo, former president the Ivory Coast, has become the first former head of state to go on trial before the International Criminal Court at The Hague. He refused to step down after losing an election in 2010, and is accused of encouraging his militias and security forces to commit murder, rape and other crimes to keep him in power.
A very good thing that he should face trial, you might think, but that does not seem to be how other African rulers see it, and they appear to be using the African Union to try to hamstring the court.
When the ICC was set up in 2002, African leaders seemed pretty keen, but now the African Union has resolved to go on shielding President Omar al-Bashir of Sudan from facing charges of genocide in Darfur, and criticised prosecutions being brought against other African leaders such as Kenya’s deputy president, William Ruto, who is accused of orchestrating violence after an election 8 years ago.
Of course, the ICC is not perfect, and many leaders in Africa and other places who should face trial are powerful enough to escape, but surely it is surely in the interests of Africa’s people that some should face justice rather than none. If the continent’s rulers care about that.