By Henry D Gombya
The African Union has been forced to move its July summit from the Malawian capital Lilongwe to Addis Ababa, the Ethiopian capital, after Africa’s only second female head of state vowed to arrest Sudan’s President Omar Hassan al-Bashir, who has been indicted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) for crimes against humanity.
Malawian President Joyce Banda who came to power in April this year following the sudden death from a heart attack of President Bingu wa Mutharika, is struggling to restore diplomatic relations with Western countries that Mutharika had severely damaged, especially when he expelled the British ambassador following the diplomat’s criticism of the Malawian leader in leaked reports exposed by Wikileaks. Banda, a novice in world politics, has since her inauguration been wooing Western leaders as her government struggles to balance the books and revive the country’s dire economic standing. Lalawi is one of the world’s poorest countries.
Following Gen Bashir’s indictment by the ICC, the outgoing ICC prosecutor, Louise Moreno-Ocampo called for aid cuts to countries that fail to detain the Sudanese leader. As an ICC member state, Malawi is obliged to arrest Bashir if he enters its territory. During Bingu wa Mutharika’s presidency, Malawi angered international donors who have provided about 40 per cent of its budget funding when it hosted Gen Bashir last year.
In a statement issued Monday, the AU said: “Following the withdrawal of Malawi [from hosting] the 19th AU summit meetings and after consultations among member states, it has been decided that the 19th summit will be held at the African Union headquarters in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, on the same dates.” Last month, Malawi asked the African Union to prevent Bashir from taking part in the event, saying his visit would have “implications” for its aid-dependent economy.