Mr Peter Wendoh
Mr Peter Wendoh

Mr Peter Wendoh of the Konrad Adenauer Stiftung (KAS), Nairobi, has called for the promotion of effective justice and accountability in Africa.

He said effective justice and accountability mechanisms could not be anchored on the presumption that ordinary citizens were guilty until they prove themselves innocent while the elite were innocent until their guilt is proven.

Mr Wendoh, who is the Project Advisor of the Rule of Law Programme for Sub-Saharan Africa, KAS, said there could never be room for double-standards and, therefore, any mechanism established must apply equally and fairly across board.

He said justice and accountability were at the core of the work of the Rule of Law Programme.

“It is an open secret that the question of implementation and institutionalisation of international criminal justice in Africa has witnessed much debate and controversy.

“In my view, the genesis of this challenge emanates from inadequate response to, and appreciation of, whose justice we are pursuing and who is to be held accountable,” he said.

Mr Wendoh said this at the opening of the International Justice Symposium, 2019 at the Kofi Annan International Peacekeeping Training Centre (KAIPTC) in Accra.

“It often appears that justice and accountability mechanisms mooted on the Continent are meant to apply to everyone else except to the duty-bearers, mechanism formulators and the responsible enforcement agencies,” he said.

The two-day symposium, which was formally opened by Chief Justice Sophia Akuffo, is on the theme “West Africa International Justice – Leadership, Challenges and Opportunities”.

It is being organised by the Wayamo Foundation, the Africa Group for Justice and Accountability (AGJA) in collaboration with the KAS’s Rule of Law Programme for Sub-Saharan Africa, with support from the KAIPTC.

It seeks to examine and explore the contributions and ongoing challenges facing West Africa in the fight to achieving meaningful justice and accountability for atrocities in the sub-region.

Mr Wendoh said the KAS had been a strong supporter of effective, independent and efficient local mechanisms in the fight against impunity with the international mechanisms only playing a complementary role.

“In order to achieve this, we reckon that, first, the people must be aware of their rights; they must be able to demand and defend these rights, and ultimately, they must have trustworthy avenue for redress in the event of violation.”

He said promotion and protection of the rule of law was one of the top priorities in the work of the KAS; stating that “it is against this backdrop that in 1990 the Foundation rolled out a transnational, worldwide Rule of Law Programme to complement its global projects with specific focus on rule of law development.”

Mr Wendoh said it was gratifying to note that in spite of the numerous challenges facing the Continent, it was not all doom and gloom.

He cited the West Africa experience since the establishment of the Special Court for Sierra Leone in 2002, to the establishment of the Extraordinary African Chambers that tried and convicted the former President of Chad, Hissène Habré, for atrocities committed during his rule as examples.

Another was the experience of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), which brought to the fore the gravity of acts of rape and sexual violence leading to their classification as crimes of genocide.

He said this was enough prove that homegrown mechanisms could work and that Africa could contribute to the development of international criminal justice.

He said the Malabo protocol was another positive attempt to institutionalising of International Criminal Justice in Africa.

Justice Hassan Bubacar Jallow, the AGJA Chair and Chief Justice of The Gambia, said the AGJA was a non-governmental organisation, which supports efforts at strengthening justice and accountability measures in Africa through domestic and regional capacity building and provision of legal advice to African Governments free of charge.

Air Vice Marshall Griffiths S. Evans, KAIPTC Commandant, said West Africa had demonstrated commendable efforts in developing and supporting international criminal justice systems, but the need to build national legal systems and reinforce regional mechanisms was a priority, which could not be underestimated.

Mr Christoph Retzlaff, the German Ambassador to Ghana, said the appeal for the promotion of universal rule of law and the support for a strong judiciary for international justice was a priority for his country.

Madam Bettina Ambach, the Director, Wayamo Foundation, said the symposium sought to explore the contributions of West Africa to global justice and the continued challenges to justice for atrocious crimes in the region.

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