The ICC and Africa: Uncovering Affect in the Pursuit of Justice
The ICC and Africa research project explores the current tensions between international criminal justice and African regional bodies and seeks to understand contestations between human rights and rule of law activists and the current pursuit by those bodies to prosecute African leaders. Although initially a strong supporter of the International Criminal Court (ICC), the African Union (AU) has emerged in recent years as a strong opponent of the Court’s work. Not only is the ICC under criticism for its disproportionate focus on African cases, but also members of the African Union question the court’s basic ability to contribute to ongoing peace processes. The criticism raises a number of questions: Why are African national leaders defying calls for international justice by the International Criminal Court at a time when resolutions to global violence are so desperately needed? Are trials sufficient for achieving post-violence justice? Should international criminal trials be subordinated to other justice-producing mechanisms available on the African continent?
These questions have been rigorously debated by members of the AU and its critics on the African continent have produced two arguments: Those who say that they should internalize international human rights norms and bring them in conformity with international standards; and those who are interested in vernacularizing international human rights standards according to African sensibilities. The arguments are broad and yet they concern the viability of the ICC and its ability to achieve justice, especially as it concerns the extent to which justice can only be understood in retributive terms. This research project–shaped by current theoretical debates concerning the globalization of human rights, the anthropology of justice, and genealogies of affect–explores contestations over appropriate judicial practices in The Hague and in various regions of sub-Saharan Africa. It assesses the ways that particular conceptions of global ordering are mediated in contemporary judicial spheres and investigates how particular regimes of the past influence the ways that the present is mediated in complex spheres of signification and meaning. As such, this multi-sited and transnational study builds on my previous research on the ICC in Africa. The goal is to investigate dueling perspectives centered on the new developments of ICC-African cases and the resistance of African leaders to the extradition of African sitting presidents, including that of President Al-Bashir and President Kenyatta. As an interdisciplinary project, it analyzes the desires, fears, and concerns with African encounters and subordination to international law. The point of departure involves a recognition that decolonization led to the transfer of rudimentary political power to the formerly colonized but it did not eradicate the structures of domination that would eventually lead to continual marginalization of Africans on the continent (Grovogui). This sense of Africa’s marginality as deeply connected to colonial ordering is part of the essence of this project. Also central are contemporary issues related to “the new world order” and the place of African brokers, states actors, activists and victims in international affairs.