Malawi’s opposition United Democratic Front (UDF) is demanding the government arrest Sudanese president Omar Hassan al-Bashir.

Bashir arrived in Malawi last night to participate in the 15th Heads of state and government summit of the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA), which ends in the capital, Lilongwe today (Friday).

COMESA is a regional trade bloc made up of 19 countries from eastern and southern Africa.

Humphrey Mvula, UDF’s director for research, says Malawi would be “aiding and abetting” Bashir, given the arrest warrants issued against him by the International Criminal Court.

“It will sound unethical and wrong for us to be found in a situation where we are seemed to be breaking the dictates of the international community,” said Mvula.

The Hague-based Court has accused the Sudanese leader of committing war crimes and crimes against humanity, in particular against the people of western region of Darfur.  Khartoum dismisses the charges as without merit.

Some analysts say it is unlikely the indicted Sudanese leader will be arrested, since they say it was Malawi that invited him to participate in the conference. Mvula agreed to the assertion, and adds that President Bingu Wa Mutharika’s government seems to be, in his words, “coy” about the ICC arrest warrants against Bashir.

“There is a warrant which is still valid and which I think is waiting for execution by any government that is a member of the ICC. So, it becomes quite precarious for a country like Malawi to be seen to be working against the dictates of the ICC,” said Mvula.

He adds that the country is obligated to arrest the Sudanese leader, since he said, Malawi is a signatory to the Rome Statute which established the ICC.

“As a [government] that believes in democracy and that believes in the rule of law, it is inordinate that we should be inviting, particularly, a person who is indicted,” said Mvula.

Officials of the government were not immediately available for comment, despite repeated attempts to reach them.

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