The Non Respect Of International And National Laws By African Nations: The Case Of Cameroon, Nigeria, DR Congo, And Kenya

Respect for the rule of law has been very difficult in contemporary times with nations and countries frequently coming into conflict with human rights defenders and rights organizations which are frequently challenging these governments. In recent times, some African countries have taken the lead in their lack of respect for international laws to which they are signatories, as well as with their own national legislation that is duly promulgated into law.

The accentuation of this practice has been made relevant by the huge appetite for political power and the quest of politicians to impose their personal agendas over the national agendas. In this light, powerful politicians, especially at the national level, have imposed their personal political might over and against that of the sovereign state. This has presented a difficult situation for human rights defenders but most especially for the populations of these countries. In this flagrant disrespect of international and national laws, there now remains no other jurisdiction to intercede on behalf of the nationals of these countries.

Moreover, even the intervention and communications of foreign bodies and organizations have not prevented the levelled playground from becoming undulated. With most international laws and instruments protected and regulated by the United Nations, they have become helpless and unable to intervene in these cases because it presents more of an advocacy phase than an enforcement of jurisdiction. In one of its recent communications, the United Nations expressed its disappointment over the lack of respect of international and national laws by Nigeria and Cameroon in the transfer of some arrested persons from the former to the latter.

Four countries in Africa have distinguished themselves in the flagrant disrespect of international and national laws, exposing their citizens to the mercy of nature. There may be many countries but for the sake of this study and with recent happenings, we have singled out Cameroon, Nigeria, Democratic Republic of Congo and Kenya.

The International and National Juxtapositions and the Breakdown of Order

In the meantime, the international and national responses have been limited to public communications aimed at condemning some of these acts while other acts seemingly go unaddressed despite their disastrous consequences on the local populace. Rather than serving as a correctional measure, the problem persists and the brunt of the consequences is borne by common citizens of these states.

In the Democratic Republic of Congo (D.R. Congo), President Joseph Kabila’s second official mandate as President came to an end on December 31, 2016, but more than a year on, he has still maintained himself as President of the Republic through military power. Despite a negotiated settlement brokered by the influential Catholic Church of the country between the government of President Kabila and the opposition which granted the incumbent another year, he has still projected himself at the helm of the country. In reality, for more than a year now DR Congo has failed to organize elections despite calls from the church, national agencies, international bodies, and opposition parties.

Kenya presents a similar case pertaining to political and democratic mutations which have witnessed an unprecedented setback in recent days. In August 2017, the country organized Presidential elections which instead opened a spiral of backward trends as they were annulled by the Supreme Court. In October of the same year, rerun elections were organized but were boycotted by the main challenger to the incumbent President Uhuru Kenyatta.

Despite being sworn in last November 2017, the troubles were far from over as opposition strongman, Raila Odinga also staged a “mocked” swearing-in ceremony for himself in January 2018. The political and democratic maneuvers were transferred to the media where the government sealed three media houses (KTN, NTV, and Citizen TV) for their planned coverage of the “mocked” swearing-in ceremony.

Despite the ruling by the Kenyan High Court, the government, using its political might, rejected the decision of the court outright and imposed its own by refusing to reopen these media channels. Kenya now finds itself in a situation where the rule of the law is abused by the same people who swore an oath to protect the law.

Meanwhile Cameroon and Nigeria, because of their long borderline have found themselves in the same situation caused by the political upheavals unfolding in the Anglophone regions of Cameroon. In the meantime, Nigeria is being accused of having arrested at least 47 persons consisting of people fleeing from political persecution, refugees and some asylum seekers from Cameroon and transferred them back to their country of origin without due process. Among these people is the leader of the movement clamouring for a separate state for Anglophones is Ayuk Tabe Julius, known as the Ambazonia Republic, as well as some of his close aides, and other individuals from Cameroon.

Most of them were arrested on January 5, 2017, and have since then remained incommunicado until January 29 where Cameroon’s Communication Minister, Issa Tchiroma Bakary announced that they had been transferred to Yaoundé. However, the accused still remained incommunicado and have never been seen by their lawyers and doctors in contrast to their nationally and internationally protected rights.

Political Illegality versus Conventional Legality

The question facing these countries is that of the political will of governments faced with conventional norms and legality. The imposition of the political will of these regimes and governments exposes once again the slim delimitation between the executive, legislative and judiciary arm of government. Rather than these three arms acting as a check on each other, the political arm has remained preponderant, pocketing both the judiciary and the legislative arms, and making the two to be subjected to the former.

D.R. Congo’s government challenged decisions of the legislative arm of the government that makes the laws, and according to the constitution, President Kabila was to step down in December 2016 which he rejected. Even a negotiated settlement prolonging his mandate to December 31, 2017, was still not considered tenable by President Kabila’s government. It argued that the conditions were not satisfied to organize an election. However, the non-organization of the election is further worsening the political and social conditions in the country with protests and loss of lives recorded.

In the case of Kenya, which is considered as the East African giant, the government committed a political miscarriage by tempering on the rights of the media and also violating a court decision. A free media is a prerequisite for democracy. A society is only considered democratic as per its level of press freedom. The press acts as a check and balance to the government’s policy and defends the opinions of the citizens. Limiting the press in Kenya meant the government is limiting the democratic match and violating the rights of the people and the very constitution the government was elected to preserve.

Kenya’s case is double-edged because the government violated the constitution as presented by the legislature and also suppressed the judiciary following its refusal to implement a court decision to reopen the channels. The United States has many media houses which imposingly challenge and insult the President and government agents but in the spirit of maturity and democracy, none of these media houses have ever been shut down.

The situation in Kenya is tantamount to a military takeover where the constitution and democratic institutions are suspended. In such a case, the state apparatus becomes dormant while the politicians steering the state machinery emerge superior.

The cases of Cameroon and Nigeria have taken an international tone with the two governments conniving to arrests individuals without warrants and transferring them from one country to another. It should be noted that Cameroon and Nigeria have several diplomatic accords but none of them addressed the issue of extradition. In the present case, apart from those arrested in an open war-front, persons arrested by either Cameroon or Nigeria must be presented before a court for the extradition to be established or challenged by the parties involved.

In the course of this, the arrested persons must have access to their lawyers which is a basic human right. This is in pursuance of international and national legislation. However, since January 5, when they were arrested in Nera Hotel, Abuja, they have not yet been seen by their lawyers, doctors or family members. Even the announced transfer from Abuja to Yaoundé is still being seen as a myth because Yaoundé based Lawyers have also been denied access to their clients.

In its disapproval of the trend of events, lawyers of the arrested persons in Nigeria and Cameroon have expressed their dismay at the flagrant disrespect of legal norms. The United Nations have also expressed its consternation following these developments.

The Cameroon and Nigeria case also presents an episode of political diplomacy overriding national and international laws. Cameroon and Nigeria have both used their diplomatic connive being enjoyed in the fight against Boko Haram to erroneously exploit a situation which is winning them more enemies at home and abroad than friends. Moreover, it is exposing the frailty of the democratic and human rights policies of these two states. Both regimes have virtually hijacked their legislature and judiciary and are merely imposing the political ambitions of the regimes and leaders and not the nations.

In all these cases, regimes and politicians are gradually becoming more powerful than the state. This gives a broader assignment to future generations which have to deal with the challenges of nation-building based on institutions and not personal wills. This highlights the challenges of Africa as exposed by former United States President, Barack Obama while addressing Ghanaian parliament in 2009. He preached stronger institutions for Africa and not stronger politicians and regimes. Close to ten years after, the recent happenings are proof of the fact that the continent is still strongly embedded in the greatness of its regimes and politicians than state institutions.