By Leyland A.King
June 14, 2017
I do my best to keep up with the mystifying politics and personality of Donald Trump. I have to. The last century is chock full of instructive episodes of human destructiveness. One does not have to look closely to see the lessons which mankind might have to learn all over again.
There is much to worry about, but just for today, I want to focus on one of the issues that have had slight attention. It is the posturing again over Cuba. An independent country situated in the northern Caribbean. It does not threaten any country and for generations live in peace with its neighbors.
Shortly after President Barack Obama and Cuban authorities announced and began normalizing relations, culminating in his productive visit to Cuba, opening ties leading to changes in the status of travel, repatriated funds, diplomatic channels, business investment and much more. There was joy Cuba. And hope for a better life for its eleven million citizens. Quickly, the howling started in America.
Governor(R) Cris Cristie bellowed his outrage. He claimed that the agreement should not have been made until after Cuba hands over all Americans asylum there. Something the U.S never considered reciprocally.
Senator(R) Marco Rubio after his recovery from shock piped up with five decades old political rhetoric that he has to know won’t bear fruit. He hopes that his constituents don’t know that.
Governor(R) Rick Scott of Florida, a state hoping to be the major trade hub of America -sea, and land- revealed his indignation and vowed to reinstate the embargo on the people of Cuba.
The hypocrisy would be jarring, were it not originating from Trump’s GOP. With millions of people in American jails and disenfranchisement normalized, that freedom and democracy thing is as hollow as a suit in the Capitol.
But Donald Trump, the granddaddy of political and business disasters, chimed in this week with a statement that has dire consequences for over eleven million people in Cuba. It must be noted that Trump’s companies, like many others, reportedly violated United States law vis-a-vis sanctions against Cuba.
This is wrong. It is morally and ethically wrong. It is incumbent on just citizens of America to speak up, despite the certainty that we’ll be ignored anyway.
The United States put an economic embargo on Cuba 55 to 57 years ago. The international community of nations strenuously objected. It did not matter to us. Cuba was later put on the U.S list as state sponsors of terrorism. The rationale eludes me. There has been no successful lobbying on Cuba’s behalf. Nothing stops the lawless coercion and re-isolation of Cuba, by only the United States.
Today, the European Union are the largest foreign investors in Cuba. Many other countries enjoy opportunities for investment. So what is Trump’s issue? It’s definitely not the stated freedom and democracy for the Cuban people; the nation is no threat to the U.S or the international community. The people who do not have the freedom to travel to Cuba at will are the American people. Over 100 countries do not need a visa to travel to and in Cuba. What is this freedom we boast about then?
Yes, I’ll make a wild, incredible guess. Trump will dialogue with Cuba, the embargo will be lifted and suddenly there are lucrative Trump Towers and Trump entertain venues dominating the beautiful island’s cities and coasts as America brings them democracy and freedom….yet again!
X millions of people were murdered in their home countries by their own armies, militias, police, political thugs or mere fellow citizens riled to riotous actions. Women and children bore the worst of the suffering through displacement, property loss, rape and kidnappings for soldiering, sale and sex slavery. Many, including forcibly effeminated men, have been mutilated,dismembered and sometimes, their lifeless bodies thrown into the limited water resources, deliberately to spread disease and starvation. This is our world…candidly.
If the barbarity makes a 2 minute spot on the evening news, we spectate, shake our heads in disbelief and resign to inaction. To be cognitively comfortable though, we have to create internal narratives. Some are heartless. Some are ugly. Some just plain, ordinary silly.
Doubtless, human history has never been pretty; the unpalatable truth is that we have not changed that much. Only the roles and observers are altered as whose turn it is to bleed, to wail and bury comes around. It is blatantly exigent that we do better. If an appeal to conscience does not stir what’s left of our souls, surely the fact that we have Leviathan, ready at hand, to poison or fry us all in one day, ought to be a fearsome motivator.
x millions of lives were lost in WW1. Shocked into preventing a repeat we strove for amity through the League of Nations. Just twenty years later we discarded that organisation and clubbed our foes mightily. That was WW2. Then came the United Nations paralysis, alliances, pacts and what have you. Meanwhile, we have numerous wars, atrocities…sometimes reported. My own belief is that as long as we have five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council, each with veto powers, we are condemned to eternal wars and early extinction. There is no right or wrong in that international body of puppeteers. Strategic and economic interests have paramountcy. We have one august international body left. The International Criminal Court which, in my opinion, is fast moving to irrelevancy through compromise and inconsistent support.
Founded in 1998 and based in The Hague, the ICC is a permanent tribunal mandated to prosecute individuals for (a) genocide (b) crimes against humanity and (c) war crimes. At this time the ICC has no jurisdiction to prosecute for crimes of military aggression. There are 122 signatory states the majority being African. The United States, Sudan and Israel have served notice that they no longer intend to be parties to the binding Rome Statute which underpins the ICC. Russia has signed but not ratified the treaty. China and India, along with 41 other countries decided not to play…at all.
The ICC has been tarnished by criticism that Africans are more likely than others to be brought before the court. Very true indeed. But does that mean accountability ends? There have been 8 prosecutions conducted by the ICC to date. All were from African countries. Some of the complaints originated from African states themselves. It is also true that Africa’s painful colonial history certainly plays into the common refrain of “tool of western imperialism” and the ingrained forbearance to publicly censure criminal leaders. On the other hand, many African countries have weak civil institutions, political cultures of first past the post elections compounded by strong ethnic identities. This is where structural change, with international help, needs to take place, in conjunction with prosecutions. Absent that, leaders will continue to abuse and murder their opponents with impunity.
Noteworthy, is the fact that Kenya’s Deputy President, William Ruto and Kenya’s President, Uhuru Kenyatta are both charged and required to appear before the ICC. They have asked for, and been granted, postponements for various reasons. President Omar al-Bashir is currently under the ICC indictment for genocide and war crimes perpetrated in Darfur.
At a recent African Union summit, the 54 member states tabled for serious consideration two very troubling resolutions, (a) that the AU states renege their commitment to the governing Rome Statute and (b) that heads of states must be immune from prosecution. Confronted with blistering criticism from Human Rights Watch, Senegal’s Justice Minister and others, the proponents shied away. Bishop Desmond Tutu, Nobel Peace Prize Laurette and recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, not only expressed outrage, but started a petition with a goal of 1 million signatures. The outcry was sufficient to have them rethink their positions.
African leaders, all leaders, must eschew convenient arguments of victimhood and work arduously to protect the fundamental human rights of all citizens. The more developed world must regard Africa as countries and people, not merely places for resource acquisition or strategic pawns. The global shrinkage has moved all our neighbours closer. The catastrophes are no longer happening “over there”. Failure to act now may have consequences for each of us on the planet. We are fast approaching the point of destabilisation on a global scale. It is not too late, yet. The choice is ours.
By Leyland King