By Malinda Seneviratne and Chamara Sumanapala –
Recently some media reports from Kenya claimed that the African nation was planning to canvass support for a boycott of the Commonwealth Heads of Governments Meeting (CHOGM 2013) in Colombo. The Nairobi government denied this and the story faded away.
The story is interesting. It had nothing to do with the venue and the kinds of objections raised by Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper. It was about chiding the Commonwealth for its silence with respect to Kenya’s battle against the International Criminal Court (ICC). At a recent African Union meeting in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, the Kenyans garnered substantial support in its battle with the ICC. African countries charge that the ICC is biased as all cases currently probed involve African countries. Since one third of the member states of the Commonwealth of Nations are from Africa, any call for boycott would not go unheeded in the continent. That was the logic of the boycott call reported.
Boycott or not, Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta has a valid argument. He is correct in his assessment that the Commonwealth has done absolutely nothing to protect African leaders from being prosecuted by the ICC. The ICC might be having a valid case against the Kenyan leaders including the President and the Vice President, but if this is the case, the ICC could have and should have much better cases against some other nations for crimes committed against Commonwealth members. The USA continues to launch drone attacks in Pakistani territory ignoring the Pakistani government’s protests. India is repeatedly accusing Pakistan of harboring terrorists and encouraging secessionist groups inside India. Meanwhile, during the 1980s India trained and armed secessionist rebel movements in Sri Lanka. In 1987, India violated Sri Lankan airspace to drop ‘humanitarian aid.’ It is hard to recall if any of these acts solicited even a murmur of protest from the Commonwealth. Under such circumstances, Uhuru Kenyatta cannot expect treatment any better.
All this raises some interesting and important questions. Let’s start at home.
Recently, former Liberian President Charles Taylor was sent to prison by the Special Tribunal for Sierra Leone. He was declared guilty for aiding a terrorist movement which committed grievous crimes. The presiding judge Richard Lussick, emphasized that the world was “entering a new era of accountability” with this verdict. True. Now we can talk about states that subvert other states. This was a non-Commonwealth nation stepping on a Commonwealth nation. The Commonwealth didn’t feel constrained to object as a collective. If Taylor had erred, so too did Indira Gandhi and her son Rajiv, for Sri Lanka was India’s Sierra Leone. Still is, some might claim. The lady and her son are long dead, both assassinated with the latter by the very outfit bottle-fed by his mother and fattened by him, but what is relevant here is that it was a home vs. home affair, within the Commonwealth. Others in the household did nothing, not even whimper a protest. Perhaps it is because the Commonwealth is a product of worse kinds of transgressions that these border-crossings if you will do not warrant comment forget about loud objection. Or is it that the Commonwealth is only there for former rogue-nations to scoop up some feel-goodness now and then, with leaders such as David Cameron occasionally being possessed by the demon spirits of forefathers to say things like ‘I am going to talk tough to Sri Lanka (read ‘talk down’)’?
If Taylor was ‘outsider’ invading a fraternal member of the Commonwealth, the bloody US adventures using drones on territories of the Commonwealth (Pakistan) are a thousand times worse. Britain didn’t support Taylor, but are thick in complicity with crimes against humanity perpetrated by the USA. Will the Commonwealth drop its coyness and for once say ‘Elizabeth’s country is helping murder citizens of the Commonwealth’? Will David Cameron be required to answer ‘tough questions’ about Britain’s friendship with the USA?
*Malinda Seneviratne is the Chief Editor of ‘The Nation’ and his articles can be found at www.malindawords.blogspot.com