The School of Security, Diplomacy and Peace Studies at Kenyatta University hosted a two-day International Conference to reflect on the prospects, the challenges and the future of international criminal justice in Africa since the adoption of the Rome Statute in 1998, a multilateral treaty that established the International Criminal Court (ICC).
The International Conference was organised and hosted by Kenyatta University in partnership with the Open Society Initiative for East Africa (OSIEA). It was organised to mark the 20-year anniversary since the adoption of the Rome Statute.
On the first day of the Conference, the Vice Chancellor Professor Paul Wainaina, in his welcoming remarks, emphasised the need to have a frank and open discussion on the role of the International Criminal Court because from its inception its journey has not been smooth. He underlined that the International Conference provided a platform for academic discourse where scholars and experts shared ideas regarding international criminal law. Mr Kennedy Ogeto, the Solicitor General of Kenya, was the Guest of Honour. In his keynote speech, he narrated how and why the early enthusiasm that African States had shown towards the International Criminal Court had dwindled. Part of the reason being that African States and the African Union felt that the ICC is disproportionately biased against Africa. Justice Richard Goldstone, a former prosecutor for the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) and the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), gave a candid assessment of the challenges and also achievements of the International Criminal Court. Other keynote speakers included Professor Mark Drumbl, Professor Sirleaf Matiangai, Professor Gilbert Khadiagala, Professor Makau Mutua and Christopher Mohony.
During the conference researchers, scholars and practitioners from diverse regions and countries of the globe viz Netherlands, New Zealand, South Africa, Germany, Ghana, Kenya and Zimbabwe presented 18 papers. This added a rich diversity to the nature of the discussions held and fundamentals issues of concern were deliberated upon in the two days.
From the deliberations and discussions the participants recommended the need to: a) Establish an international commission of truth, justice and reconciliation b) Strengthen domestic and regional courts in order to complement the International Criminal Court; this is because the ICC is the court of last resort c) Enhance victim participation, representation and reparations d) Strengthen the ICC’s internal systems for efficiency, e) Develop political will f) Rethink the concept of justice and, finally, g) Depoliticise the ICC.
The main output of the conference was a depoliticised academic forum to discuss prospects and challenges facing International Criminal Court in its mandate of ending impunity and promoting international rule of law. The international conference was one among very few, that are held on the African continent, a region much affected by the actions and interventions of the International Criminal Court. To date the majority of such discussions are held in Europe, which is out of reach for many African researchers and scholars. It was evident from the discussions during the conference that there are still many issues about the International Criminal Court that require unpacking. One of the key follow-up activity from the conference is the publication of some of the papers presented, in either a special journal or an edited book.