The BBC is reporting that Sudan has demanded that next month’s African Union (AU) meeting be moved from Malawi and held at the AU headquarters following Malawian President Banda indicating that Sudanese leader Gen Omar al-Bashir is not welcome to Malawi.
Sudan’s foreign ministry was quoted as saying that the meeting was of the “upmost importance” and that Mr Bashir’s presence was required. Gen Bashir is wanted in The Hague after being indicted for war crimes in Darfur by the International Criminal Court (ICC). He denies the allegations. Now Sudan is insisting that its leader must take part in the summit, due on 9-16 July, because the agenda includes the ongoing tension between Khartoum and South Sudan. South Sudan seceded in July last year after decades of civil war. In recent weeks, the two countries have been close to all-out war over oil and undemarcated borders.
New Malawian President Joyce Banda said in May that she wanted Mr Bashir to stay away from the meeting in the Malawian capital, Lilongwe, fearing the “economic implications” of his presence in the country. She is trying to rebuild relations with donors, on which the impoverished country relies. They cut aid to her predecessor Bingu wa Mutharika’s government, accusing him of political repression and economic mismanagement.
Mr Mutharika, who died suddenly in April, also defied calls to apprehend Mr Bashir who visited Malawi in October 2011. After that visit, the ICC, which has issued an arrest warrant for Mr Bashir, referred the country to the UN Security Council.
Sudan says Malawi’s current position on Mr Bashir violates AU rules including an obligation to provide “the required propitious frameworks and environment for the summit”. Malawi’s Information Minister, Moses Kumkuyu, told the BBC: “The statutes of the African Union give freedom to member states to make their grievances known. We were only making our position known and that is not infringing on any statute of the AU.” Under the ICC statute, member states – of which Malawi is one – have a duty to arrest indictees.
Gen Bashir, publicly reviled as a war criminal by Sudan campaigners including Hollywood star George Clooney, dismisses the ICC charges as politically motivated and baseless. Since the arrest warrant was issued in 2009, he has been able to travel widely to countries including China, Chad, Qatar, Libya, Saudi Arabia, Kenya and Ethiopia – an embarrassment for the global court. ICC prosecutor Luis Moreno Ocampo, who finishes his term this month, said on Monday aid should be cut off to states that help Bashir evade arrest.
A Kenyan High Court ruled that Kenyan security now have an obligation in law to arrest President Bashir if he steps in Kenya again. He has not attempted to do so since the ruling was made early this year.