Joyce Banda is the President of the Southern African nation of Malawi. She took office after the death of Bingu wa Muthirika on Friday, April 6, 2012., a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.
The Irish Times - Tuesday, June 12, 2012
Malawi cancels summit plan over Sudan dispute
BILL CORCORAN in Cape Town
THE MALAWIAN government has said it will not host an African Union summit in July because the continental body has insisted that Sudanese president Omar al- Bashir, wanted on charges of genocide, be allowed to attend the meeting.
The decision by Malawi’s new president, Joyce Banda, marks an about-turn in the country’s position towards Mr Bashir, who is wanted by the International Criminal Court for genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity in Darfur.
Ms Banda’s predecessor, Bingu wa Mutharika, who died in office in April, had defied calls to apprehend Mr Bashir and allowed the Sudanese president to enter and leave the southern African country in October 2011.
In a recent letter to the Malawian government, the AU insisted that Mr Bashir be permitted to attend the summit, scheduled for July 9th to 16th, despite the arrest warrants pending against him.
However, Malawi’s vice-president Kumbo Kachali told journalists that although his country had obligations to the AU, it also had other commitments that needed to be considered.
“After considering the interests of Malawians, I want to inform [them] that the cabinet met today and decided it was not interested to accept the conditions by the African Union, therefore Malawi is not hosting the summit,” he said.
Malawi is party to the Rome Statute, which created the International Criminal Court, and requires member states to co-operate with the court.
While some African governments – such as Kenya, Chad, and Djibouti – allowed Mr Bashir, the first sitting head of state to be indicted by the ICC, to enter their countries freely, others have refused.
Mr Bashir has denied all the charges, saying they are politically motivated, but he has been careful not to travel to countries he feels might honour their commitments to the international court.
Human rights organisations have hailed Ms Banda’s decision as an example to other countries across Africa. “Malawi has done right by Darfur victims today,” said Undule Mwakasungula, director of the Malawi Centre for Human Rights and Rehabilitation.
Ms Banda, southern Africa’s first female president, has taken a number of decisions to appease the international donor community, which had halted direct aid to Malawi because of her predecessor’s authoritarian rule.