Resisting the International Criminal Court: Analysing African Anti-impunity Antipreneurialism

Event summary by our intern Ally Sinjab:

In his recent talk, Dr Kurt Mills delivered a novel analytical framework for capturing African “antipreneurialism” towards the anti-impunity norm advanced by the International Criminal Court (ICC). If a norm entrepreneur seeks to change some normative status in an issue area, then a norm antipreneur seeks to preserve the status quo and frustrate entrepreneurial initiatives. Anti-impunity, non-exemption from punishment, is a norm the ICC and state parties to the Rome Statute represent. African antipreneurialism, then, means a resistance to this norm. Resistance takes two forms: (a) tactical resistance involving calls for mass withdrawal from the ICC, or (b) strategic resistance by the invocation of other norms to displace the anti-impunity norm. These include the state sovereignty, anti-imperialism, Afrocentrism and “African solutions for African problems” norms. Both forms of resistance take place in “sites of contestation,” which include the United Nations Security Council and the African Union. However, the codification of norms in treaties, such as anti-impunity in the Rome Statute, does not de facto render them the normative status quo. Rather, adopting a constructivist approach, Dr Mills argued that actors are able to decide when norms apply as to selectively preserve their interests. Dr Mills also cautioned that entrepreneurs and antipreneurs are not pure, self-contained or dichotomous categories. Rather, they are opposites on a continuum of attitudes about, and behaviours towards, norms. Thus, African antipreneurialism towards the anti-impunity norm is not absolute. Rather, it is a resistance to the anti-impunity norm being a prescriptive norm, and an interest in it being a permissive norm. This would enable more discretion on when and how to apply it in African states as to preserve their interests – albeit in a way which may yield some impunity.