As Bensouda Takes Over
Tuesday, June 19, 2012
The Gambia’s own Fatou Bom Bensouda on Friday June 15, officially assumed office as the Chief Prosecutor of the Hague- based, UN-backed International Criminal Court. Let the world join The Gambia in particular in celebrating the achievement of this determined, merited Gambian, and African woman.
Fatou Bom Bensouda, though among hundreds of thousands of celebrated sons and daughters of this tiny country of ours, called The Gambia, nonetheless, stands out as one of the most illustrious. Having begun her bright career here in her country of birth, she faced challenges - daunting ones. But if you are looking for one that has successfully transformed challenges into opportunities, Fatou Bom, as she is fondly called at home, is the right person to apprehend.
In doing this editorial commentary, time and space is undoubtedly the paper’s greatest enemy in exploring her background, the route she has taken, and the challenges she faced, as well as her achievements. One thing that is however clear is that she was not cultured in a way different from majority of Gambians. Average Gambian is intelligent, trustworthy, fair and honest. She is ambitious, but driven by necessity rather than greed. Fatou’s success therefore challenges us all, as individuals, and a nation. It is a recognition of the fact that once our potentials are unlocked, our chances of becoming world’s giants from a dwarf nation, are huge.
For it is in pursuance of that necessity which motivated Bensouda to study what was a not-so-fancied aspect of law then, to become The Gambia’s first maritime law expert. Necessity was what forced her to accept the unsecured job of Justice Minister in a shaky cabinet and when rule of law was grossly regarded, and impunity was rife in The Gambia. Moreover, she landed in Tanzania to help provide justice for Rwandans shattered by genocide. Still determined to do more, she picked up a job at ICC as Deputy Prosecutor. With ICC’s damaged reputation, on the brink of losing the trust of the world, Bensouda was available to rescue that institution from losing its credibility.
As Bensouda takes over, we hope that she would bring about the much-needed change in ICC’s modus operandi. It is quite true that victims of atrocities in Africa badly needed justice, but it is not as well wrong to observe that ICC has been biased. Bensouda’s nine-year tenure in office should therefore work hard on dispelling the widespread view that the court’s pursuit for justice is selective. This would help in ensuring justice in the world as it would imbue confidence in the parties to the Rome Statute and non- parties that ICC is not an imperial tool that punishes criminals from vassal states, leaving out the those from imperial nations.
As Bensouda takes over from Ocampo as AU’s choice for the job, we hope that the latter would not make her job difficult by refusing to fulfill its obligations to the Rome Statute. Bensouda needs strong co-operation of African state parties as well as African civil society. This is especially more crucial in the case of those that have arrest warrants hanging over their heads for alleged crimes they committed. These include some African leaders, who continue to defy ICC, thanks to AU’s indecision.