CIVIL society organisations (CSOs) have urged President Joyce Banda to attend the African Union summit which has been shifted to Ethiopia after Malawi refused to host Sudan president Omar Al Bashir.

Bashir is wanted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) in the Hague for war crimes committed in the Darfur region of his country and ICC member states are obliged to execute the warrant of arrest for him issued in 2010.

Reading a statement at a press conference in Lilongwe, Executive Director of Civil Society Education Coalition, Benedicto Kondowe, said the bold move by the Banda government was a clear manifestation that Malawi would not compromise on anything less than justice and human rights.

The organisations urged Banda not to boycott the summit because of the AU insistence to invite Bashir, but to stand firm and attend it as expected.

“We encourage the president to attend the AU summit in Ethiopia, wear a bold face and continue with the position that Malawi has taken on condemning Al Bashir,” Kondowe said.

The CSOs also asked other African leaders to emulate Malawi, Zambia, South Africa and Botswana who declared that Bashir is not welcome within their borders.

“Malawi’s stand on this issue is a move in the right direction and we call upon all African countries and AU to emulate. Space is closing up on President Al Bashir in Africa and sooner or later the long arm of justice will take its rightful course,” he said.

When queried on speculation that the move not to host the AU summit because of Al Bashir had come about due to pressure from the international community, the CSOs said Malawi was under obligation to adhere to international treaties it signed.

“Human rights is not about donors only. Malawi is not alone in this decision. Tanzania, Zambia, South Africa and Botswana have all said they could arrest Al Bashir. Even the civil society had plans to protest his coming and attendance of the AU summit,” Gift Trapence, Executive Director of Centre for Development of the People, said.

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