The announcement Malawi President Joyce Banda made that Malawi will ask the African Union not to invite Sudanese president Omar al-Bashir to the organization
summit set to take place in Lilongwe in July has infuriated the embattled leader.
President Banda on Friday told the media: “I have written them because of the economic implications this may have on Malawi.”
But al-Bashir who has already had to restrict his movements to a relatively small circle of friendly nations since his indictment by the International Criminal Court (ICC) in the Hague, has said Malawi has no right to make such a request.
“This will not happen, because the host country does not have the right to dictate who comes. This is according to the AU,” says Sudanese Foreign ministry spokesperson El-Obeid Morawah quoted in various international media, including the SADC.
“Since Sudan is a member of the AU, it has a right to attend the summit. The hosting country does not have the right to say who comes,” he adds.
This comes as the ICC has an arrest warrant out for al-Bashir for alleged crimes against humanity.
Last year, former president Bingu wa Mutharika’s government allowed al-Bashir to attend a regional trade summit, Comesa, citing “brotherly coexistence”.
The move, however, strained ties with donors, including the United States and European nations, who had already frozen projects in Malawi due to Mutharika’s suspected human rights violations and growing autocracy. Mutharika died last month of a heart attack.
President Banda, who inherited an economy on the brink of collapse from Mutharika, is treading cautiously not to allow al-Bashir because Malawi is likely to face economic sanctions if the Sudanese leader travels to the country.
On Friday, Banda said: “Let the AU decide on his position. [Al-Bashir] should forgive us this time as we are struggling to fix the economy.”
The move is the latest break from the past for Banda, who since taking office last month has tried to reform the country, ranked as one of the poorest in the world.
Last year, Britain expressed disappointed that Malawi hosted al-Bashir in defiance of the ICC arrest warrants.
The United Kingdom’s Minister for Africa, Henry Bellingham, MP, said the British Government expected Malawi to stand by obligations under the Rome Statutes and as a United Nations member State.
“I am disappointed that Malawi hosted President al-Bashir of Sudan today (14th October) in defiance of International Criminal Court arrest warrants for war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide.
“We support the work of the ICC as an independent judicial body. All countries should cooperate with the ICC investigations in accordance with UN Security Council Resolutions, and the particular legal obligations of States Party to the ICC,” Bellingham stated.
But the Mutharika’s administration laughed off the call to arrest al-Bashir, wondering whether organisations and countries calling for the arrest of Sudanese president do not know his home country.
Amnesty International also pressed Malawi to arrest wanted al-Bashir and surrender him to the ICC.
Mutharika in March last year said African leaders should only ever be tried domestically for their crimes, not by the ICC.
If Malawi fails to arrest president al-Bashir, it would be in violation of its obligations under the Rome Statutes of the ICC, which it ratified on 19 September 2002.
Since the Darfur conflict started in 2003, more than 300 000 people have been killed, thousands raped and millions forcibly displaced.
An arrest warrant for al-Bashir was issued by the ICC in March 2009 on charges of crimes against humanity and war crimes. A further arrest warrant with three charges of genocide in Darfur was issued in July 2010.