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Gbagbo, Cote d’Ivoire leader, may face International Criminal Court

By Hugo Odiogor
Embattled Laurent Gbagbo may face trial at the International Criminal Court (ICC) for crimes against humanity if he allows his country to slip into a second round of civil war following his refusal to relinquish power in Cote d’ Ivoire, where hapless citizens and nationals of other countries have become targets of desperate attacks by people suspected to be supporters of the out of favour leader.

Former Liberia President Charles Taylor is facing similar charges.

The Hague-based ICC was set up in July 2002 in line with the  1945 Rome Statute of the body  which is a permanent United Nations tribunal. It was set up to prosecute individuals for acts of genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes and acts of aggression. Although the official seat of the court is in the Hague, the Netherlands, its proceedings may take place anywhere.

The creation of the ICC perhaps constitutes the most significant reform of international law since 1945. To date, the court has opened investigations into situations in northern Uganda, Dafur in western Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Central Africa Republic and Kenya. The court has indicted 16 people; including the president of Sudan, Omar Al Bashir. The ICC’s first trial of Congolese militia leader Thomas Lubanga  began on 26 January 2009.

By Hugo Odiogor
Gbagbo, who has become globally isolated, is suspected to be behind the attack on Nigeria’s embassy in Abidjan which is a clear violation of Nigeria’s sovereignty and territorial integrity in international law and diplomacy. Nigeria is to report the case and that of human rights  violation against the embattled Gbagbo to the ICC.

Diplomatic sources said the fact that the United Nations forcefully rejected Gbagbo orders to terminate its peace keeping mission in Cote D’Ivoire is a demonstration of the global village where leaders can longer behave the way they choose and hide under the clause of Westphalia Treaty of Peace to use the concept of equality of nations to plead non interference in domestic affairs. If Gbagbo allows a return of full blown hostility in the West African country, he would be held responsible. Civil war broke out in Cote D’Ivoire between people from the north and those from the south.

Defeated Gbagbo hails from the more economically endowed south which also has a pre-dominant Christian population.

So far, over 175 persons have been reported dead while over 300,000 people have fled to neigbouring West African countries for fear of losing their lives in the  outbreak of violence. The European Union  has placed limited sanctions on  Gbagbo and members of his family and officials. The World Bank also has placed a lid on the country’s access to international finance while the UN is considering far reaching measures that would be placed of Gbagbo.

Nigeria is expected to present a formal complaint of violation of its sovereignty and integrity when its embassy in Abidjan was attacked by unknown persons shortly after media reported that Abuja was considering granting a face saving asylum to  Gbagbo.

International relations and diplomacy analyst, Professor Kayode Soremekun, said “the attack of the Nigerian mission in Abidjan is a clear violation of the Vienna convention and all protocols of diplomatic practice which have evolved from Utrecht to Vienna and shows a fast descent to  anomie”.

According to him, even in the face of full blown war, diplomatic immunity is sacrosanct and must be upheld as a mark of reciprocity in international relations and diplomacy.

“The attack on the Nigerian embassy is irresponsible to say the least, but let us not forget that this was exactly what Mr. Charles Taylor did in Liberia in the early 1990s when he entered Liberia from the Burkinabe borders with his country,” the Dean of Centre for Development Studies at Covenant University Ota  said. “A state that is indifferent to the welfare of its citizens cannot be said to be an exponent of citizens diplomacy.

Citizens’ Diplomacy explains the rationale why and how governments behave in certain manner in international relations. We  live in a clime where the Nigerian state is indifferent to the welfare and safety of its nationals at home and abroad. If France, which has greater stake in Cote D’ Ivoire, could take steps to safeguard the lives of its nationals there,  then Nigerians should be given a reason why they should stay until the last minute before effort was  made to take them out of harm’s way”.

Soremekun explained that Nigeria should take severe measures against Gbagbo and his men  to show that as a moving force in Economic Community of West African State (ECOWAS), the African Union (AU) and the United Nations, he  is made to pay the price for  his dangerous power game.

Mr. Frank Igwebueze, who was rescued from Monrovia in early 1990, said the attack on Nigeria’s mission in Abidjan is a clear violation of Nigeria’s sovereignty  and those responsible should be made to face the consequences. He said Nigeria’s offer of asylum to Gbagbo was a goodwill  that was aimed at restoring peace to the West African nation, but the infringement of the country’s sovereignty is against international law and diplomatic protocols”.

Mr. Ezekiel Obinanabu, another victim who suffered amputation in Liberia, said Nigeria should not delay in responding to the situation in Cote D‘Ivoire because the envy factor that is associated with the industrious nature of Nigerians always make them the object of displaced aggression in conflict situations in Africa.

The 46-year old business man, who now resides in Gabon, said he lost everything to the rebels of National Patriotic Front of Liberia led by Charles Taylor when the former warlord singled out Nigerians for reprisal attacks over the perceived  anti- Charles Taylor policy of the then Gen. Ibrahim Babangida.

Yet another victim of the fratricide in Liberia, Mr. Titus Agbazuha, who was rescued by the ECOMOG troops and now  relocated to the United States told Sunday  Vanguard that he is “concerned that Nigerian foreign policy makers and operators have not learnt anything from what Nigerians went through during the previous conflicts in the sub region.”

According to him, the United States, which shares the same burden and exposure to envy, is always quick to advise  its nationals against travelling to troubled spots where their lives could be in danger. “They do not waste time to evacuate their non-essential personnel and finally they scale down  their operations, but Nigeria has never done such thing even to show displeasure for the misbehavior of regimes that fall out of norm”.


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