Malawi cancels AU summit over Al-Bashir

Channels Television  
Updated June 8, 2012

Malawi has said it will not host the African Union (AU) summit in July because of disagreements over the attendance of Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir.

Mr Bashir has been indicted for war crimes in Darfur by the International Criminal Court (ICC).

The AU has lobbied for the arrest warrant to be deferred and urged Malawi to allow Mr Bashir to attend.

“Much as we have obligations to the AU, we also have obligations to other institutions,” the vice-president said.

Malawi’s former leader, Bingu wa Mutharika, who died in office in April, had defied calls to apprehend Mr Bashir.

Since his death, his successor President Joyce Banda has taken steps to appease donors with a series of reforms.

The African Union will move a July summit from Malawi if the country keeps up its efforts to block the attendance of Sudan’s wanted president Omar Hassan al-Bashir, Malawi’s vice president said on Friday.

Malawi last month asked the African Union to prevent Bashir from taking part in the event, saying his visit would have “implications” for its aid-dependent economy.

Bashir is wanted by the International Criminal Court over charges he masterminded genocide and other atrocities during his country’s Darfur conflict.

As an ICC member state, Malawi is supposed to arrest him if he enters its territory – and the global court’s chief prosecutor on Monday said countries that failed to detain him should have their aid cut.

“The African Union has written us a letter informing us that if we don’t allow al-Bashir to come to Malawi, then they will move the summit to Addis Ababa in Ethiopia,” Vice President Khumbo Kachale told reporters on Friday.

Kachale said the cabinet had decided it was happy not to host the conference, which was focused on boosting trade between African countries and originally scheduled for July 9-16 in Lilongwe.

Malawi angered international donors, who have supplied about 40 percent of its budget funding, when it hosted Bashir last year when Bingu we Mutharika, who died in April of a heart attack, ruled the country.

African Union heads of state voted in 2009 not to cooperate with the ICC indictments, saying they would hamper efforts to end Sudan’s multiple conflicts and criticising the court for unfairly targeting African countries.

Bashir has since visited Kenya and Chad, both of them ICC members, as well as other countries – an embarrassment for the global court.

The July summit would be particularly important for Sudan because the agenda included talks over its relations with South Sudan, which seceded last year under a 2005 peace deal, Sudan’s foreign ministry has said.

The two countries are at odds over a long list of issues, including the position of the border, oil payments, debt and the status of citizens in one another’s territory.