While Malawi is dithering on the matter of Sudanese president Omar Hassan Al Bashir, Zambia has broken ranks with most African countries on the issue and that it is ready to arrest him if he ever sets foot in Lusaka.
Malawi was asked by the international community to arrest Al-Bashir or bar his entry when he attended the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) summit in October last year. However, this was not done and Al Bashir is on the list of heads of state expected to attend the AU summit in Lilongwe in July.
“Al-Bashir is an international fugitive wanted on charges of genocide and other heinous crimes committed in Darfur,” said Elise Keppler, international justice senior counsel at Human Rights Watch. “As an International Criminal Court member, Malawi should arrest him, not host him.”
President Joyce Banda has requested the AU to tell Al Bashir not to come due to the implications of his presence but Sudanese Foreign Ministry spokesperson El Obeid Morawah said no host nation has a right to dictate on who attends or not.
“Sudan is a member of the AU; it has the right to attend the summit. The host country has no right to decide who comes,” Morawah said.
But Zambia’s stance is unequivocal. Foreign Affairs Minister Chishimba Kambwili told the media that Al Bashir would “regret the day he was born” if he tried to go to Zambia. This was in answer to a question on what Zambia would do with Al Bashir who has been to several African countries even with an ICC indictment hanging over his head.
“As signatories to the ICC, anybody indicted by the ICC and there is a warrant of arrest, we will arrest. If other countries have not done it, that their own problem. By and large, Zambia will follow the UN resolutions to which we have appended our signature”
“Let Al Bashir try to come to Zambia and he will regret the day he was born. Zambia is a sovereign state and we are not going to do something just because other people have not done it,” Kambwili said.
In a related matter, Malawi’s civil society organisations have formed a steering committee to strategize on the summit to ensure that the AU summit enhances democracy and human rights on the continent but are not yet decided on Al Bashir’s case.
Member of the steering committee, Undule Mwakasungula who in his capacity as chairperson of Human Rights Consultative Committee (HRCC) had called for protests against the ICC wanted man, said the committee will now have to come up with a consensus.
“Right now individual groups in the civil society have taken up position on the issue, but as committee we are yet to come up with one. We will definitely make sure we come up with one position,” said Mwakasungula said.
Among the NGOs that have signed up on the committee are NGO Coordinating Network, Malawi health Equity Network (MHEN), Human Rights Consultative Committee (HRCC), Media Institute for Southern Africa (MISA), Malawi Electoral Support Network, Coordination of the Rehabilitation of Environment Civic and Political Space, Oxfam and Civil Society Education Coalition (CSEC).
The communiqué says African Governments have to live up to their past commitment to further the values of African integration, democratic governance and human rights.