ICC and Africa: The case of Zambia

Boniface Cheembe, SACCORD
The Southern African Centre for the Constructive Resolution of Disputes (SACCORD) has been helping popularize the results of public consultations held in Zambia in 2017 on the country's future at the ICC - an overwhelming 93.3% of those who participated voted to stay with the Court. Now, according to SACCORD Executive Director Boniface Cheembe, civil society is making sure the government does not turn its back on this concrete endorsement.

During the 28th Summit Assembly of the African Union (AU), the body passed a non-binding recommendation for mass withdrawal of African countries from the International Criminal Court (ICC). Following this recommendation, the Zambia’s President Edgar Chagwa Lungu returned home and upon arrival informed the nation that the Government will undertake consultation meetings on whether Zambia should withdraw or not from the ICC.

This pronouncement was quickly followed up by the Minister and Ministry of Justice, which within the shortest possible amount of time found resources amounting to K2 million for consulting Zambians in 30 districts out of over 100 districts in the ten provinces of the Republic of Zambia. The consultations were scheduled to start at the end of March, 2017 and ended on 20th April, 2017.

SACCORD and other like-minded stakeholders got concerned about the seeming deliberate haste with which the Ministry of Justice had started undertaking the consultation. Our concern was largely on account that many Zambians had very little knowledge or information on the ICC and for a consultation process to start asking them on whether the country should simply remain or withdrawal was seen to be rather unfair to the people.

The second major concern was the political will shown to mobilize resources over a consultation process, which to many Zambians did not require expenditure of resources over other pressing priority major matters such as holding a referendum to enact the Bill of Rights.

The third major concern was fear that perhaps the Government had already a predetermined position, hence the rushed consultation process.

In view of the above concerns, SACCORD working with other CSOs in Zambia and internationally started a process of developing a position paper on the reasons why we thought Zambia should not pull out of the ICC. Some of the international partners included the Human Rights Watch (HRW) who provided a lot of technical support to the messaging regarding the ICC. In addition, the consortium considered it important to undertake sensitization and awareness creation on radio and tv to the masses most of whom had no knowledge of the ICC.

The position paper covered different aspects of the ICC and these included background to the ICC; jurisdiction of the ICC; composition of the ICC; procedures and stages of the cases at the ICC; regional judicial review; jurisdiction of the African Court on People and human rights and recommendations.

Check out "Zambia's Membership to the International Criminal Court: A Civil Society Position" for SACCORD's analysis and recommendations to the government of Zambia, the AU, and the ICC.

Statement by SACCORD on the CSO position on Zambia's membership to the International Criminal Court.

The submission eventually contributed to the results that the Ministry of Justice shared with the nation following the consultation process where over 90% of Zambians overwhelmingly opted to remain as part of the ICC. The results reflected the hard effort on the part of civil society in undertaking sensitization and awareness creation work.

The work of civil society in the case of Zambia is a good example of how other African countries can contribute positively in providing a conducive environment for the leaders of the continent to accept the ICC.

The above requires consistent effort so that the people of Africa have a greater understanding of the continent.

Since the announcement of the results by the Ministry of Justice SACCORD has continued with work around the ICC and the idea is to not let this issue be an ad hoc one but rather one that is constantly on the public agenda. Therefore, with support from the Coalition on the International Criminal Court (CICC), the organization has continued implementing a series of public forums on the ICC.


Follow SACCORD's campaign in the news

SACCORD wants Zambia to remain an ICC member (15 February 2017)

Civil society group warns of political tension (12 April 2017)

91% Zambians reject proposal to exit ICC (20 May 2017)

Zambians Overwhelmingly vote to remain in the ICC (23 May 2017)

SACCORD commence public meetings to protect ICC consultation outcome (30 May 2017)

ICC consultation outcome an opportunity to influence other African countries-SACCORD (5 June 2017)



The Southern African Centre for the Constructive Resolution of Disputes (SACCORD) is a Zambian based Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) that was formed in 1999 to deal with issues pertaining to peace, security and democracy in Zambia and the Southern African region. SACCORD promotes peace and democratic governance for the people of Zambia through peace building, strengthening local democracy, nurturing local and regional partnerships as well as holding duty bearers accountable for better service delivery.