What if Global Leaders fell from Grace for War Crimes as Quick as they do for Corruption?

Imagine a world in which global leaders were held accountable for war crimes as quick as they are held accountable for corruption.

According to Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index of 2017, majority of global states have made minimal progress in ending corruption. In comparison to previous years, this inability of states to tackle corruption is nothing new. In order for countries to function effectively politically, economically and in other spheres, it is important that global leaders take charge by improving governance, increasing transparency and increasing accountability.

From South Africa’s Jacob Zuma, Brazil’s Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva and South Korea’s Park Geunhye, leaders are being held accountable for corruption. Park, has been sentenced to 24 years in prison and fined Sh18 billion for multiple charges including bribery and abuse of power. Jacob Zuma who resigned in February has been charged with corruption pertaining to an arms deal that occurred in the 1990’s. Although adjourned until June 8 2018, he is facing 16 counts of corruption, racketeering, fraud and money laundering. Brazil’s Lula, surrendered himself to the police after evading arrest. He is now serving 12 years in prison for corruption after having accepted a luxury apartment from a construction company as a bribe.

President Park Geun-hye visiting Indonesia | Republic of Korea | flickr


The holding of leaders accountable for corruption does not end with these three leaders. Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Natenyahu is under investigation for bribery. Former prime minister of France Nicholas Sarkozy was arrested in March 2018 over allegations that the late Libyan leader Colonel Muammar Gadaffi, illegally funded his first presidential campaign.

It is commendable that these former leaders have been/are being held accountable for their corrupt ways. The same does not apply to war crimes in which many innocent people lose their lives. Pursuing accountability when leaders and former leaders perpetrate war crimes is a complicated and politically charged process.

Since the crisis in Syria began in 2011 between the government and opposition groups, the crisis has escalated into a civil war in which over 500,000 people have been killed. Most recently, in April, medical and rescue organisations in Syria stated that more than 40 people were killed in a suspected chemical attack. The Syrian government insisted that these allegations were false. Since 2013 23 United Nations Security Council resolutions have been passed on chemical weapon use, humanitarian access and peace talks. Unfortunately, none of these resolutions have been fully implemented. The UNSC and the international community have therefore failed to uphold their duty to effectively protect Syrian citizens.

Syrian rebels in combat in Qaboun (Damascus) | Damascus: Part Of The Running Battles In Qaboon Neighborhood 29-4-2017 | wikimedia commons


Response from key states has also been worrying. In 2014, the United States  formed an international coalition to launch air strikes against the Islamic State and eventually sent 2000 troops to the country. In response to the April chemical attack, Donald Trump through twitter expressed that he never said when an attack on Syria would take place. It could therefore be very soon or not so soon at all.

The level of uncertainty when it comes to taking action in Syria is unnerving as innocent people continue to die at the hands of their own government. This is not to say that if more robust action was taken innocent lived would not be lost.

Less uncertain is Russia’s response in Syria. The Russian government has for a long time supported the Assad government and on many occasions blocked resolution by vetoing UN resolutions. Countries are consumed with politics such that they lose sight of the fact that people need protection and that it is there duty to protect these people.  All parties in these conflicts particularly leaders who should strive to protect the citizens they serve must be investigated and held accountable for their actions.

Another  saddening example is that of Democratic Republic of Congo which is led by Joseph Kabila who inherited his job following his father’s death. The country was embroiled in war from 1998-2003 and many fear it is headed in the same direction. President whose presidency Kabila whose leadership is illegitimate has still not called for an election. At the end of 2017, protests broke out and violence has increased. In rural areas, the violence is worse. Over 4 million people have been internally displaced. It has been predicted that the army offensive which was launched at the beginning of the year may have displaced another 370,000 people from their homes. At least 10 of Congo’s 26 provinces are gripped by violence and many refugees are flocking to neighbouring countries.

The UN has declared a humanitarian crisis in Congo however Kabila insists that there is no humanitarian crisis in the country even as millions continue to starve and many continue to die.

It is obviously easier to prove corruption and war and crimes attached to them are a lot more political with countries consumed by their own strategic interests. In the attempt to end conflicts and protect people, many have to die. It is unfortunate that for strategic reasons the world sits and watches people die at the hands of their own leaders. Yes, all crimes are not equal however a world in which leaders upheld international standards, states put aside their strategic interests and are quickly held accountable for their actions would be a more peaceful world.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Best of Africa.

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