Saturday, October 12, 2013

African leaders seek impunity while migrants die off Europe's shores

Barely a week after Italy registered its worst disaster involving African migrants off the coast of Lampedusa, the African Union convened in Ethiopia for its fifteenth extraordinary meeting to discuss an unrelated issue -- Africa's relationship with the International Criminal Court (ICC) and a possible pull-out by African countries.

Divers in Italy have recovered more than 300 bodies of African migrants who died when a boat carrying them to Italy capsized off the coast of Lampedusa on 3 October 2013. European and Italian officials responded promptly to the disaster and Italy decided to hold a state funeral for the shipwreck migrants. The world is yet to hear from the African Union and African leaders, including officials from countries where the migrants originated.

Rather than convene a special meeting to discuss the plight of countless Africans fleeing the continent, the African Union convened a special two-day summit to discuss a possible pull-out from the ICC.

In my opinion, the decision by the African Union to discuss a pull-out from the ICC in the wake of the Lampedusa migrant boat disaster is misguided and shows that the African leaders are more interested in protecting themselves from prosecution for the worst crimes, including crimes against humanity, genocide and war crimes. Leaders who work in the interest of their people would rather convene a meeting to tackle a problem that claims the lives of thousands of their people, including women and children.

Another boat carrying more than 200 migrants reportedly capsized in the Mediterranean one week after the Lampedusa tragedy. Italian and Maltese ships and helicopters were scrambled to the scene to search and rescue surviving migrants - while African leaders were in Addis Ababa to condemn the ICC for targeting them. This, in my mind, is a disgrace and a clear case of selfishness and misplaced priorities demonstrated by African officials -- especially considering the fact that many of the migrants flee Africa due to bad governance, human rights violations and failed policies implemented by the same officials.

In my view, Africans will continue to embark on life-threatening journeys across the Mediterranean in search of safety and a better life for as long as lack of leadership persists in the African continent. African officials - many of whom are repressive and corrupt puppets of the West - need to stop focusing on themselves and work for the greater good of Africa and common Africans. The ICC at this point should be the least of their concerns -- mindful of extreme poverty, gender inequality, high infant mortality, poor maternal health, HIV/AIDS, malaria, food insecurity, corruption, human rights violations and the fact that according to the International Organization for Migration, 25,000 people fleeing Africa have died in the Mediterranean in the last 20 years, including 1,700 in 2012. [Source] If you ask me - in light of recent African deaths in the Mediterranean, the extraordinary plight of African migrants should have been top on the agenda of the fifteenth extraordinary session of the assembly of the African Union.

*Image: African Union

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