Malawi said on Friday it will not host the African Union summit in July because the bloc insisted on inviting Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir, wanted on international war crimes charges.
“After considering the interests of Malawians, I want to inform Malawians that the Cabinet met today and decided it was not interested to accept the conditions by the African Union, therefore Malawi is not hosting the summit,” Vice President Khumbo Kachali said on state radio.
Kachali said the country had received a communication from the AU commission that as a host country Malawi was required to invite all presidents including Bashir.
“The commission said if Malawi was not willing to host al-Bashir, the venue should be shifted to another country,” he said, adding that the summit would be hosted by Ethiopia.
Sudan on Thursday said it had urged the pan-African bloc to shift the summit to its Addis Ababa headquarters after the host nation’s refusal to welcome Bashir.
In response, the commission had written Malawi commanding it to either accept al-Bashir or forget hosting the summit.
“While we have obligations to abide by the decisions of the African Union we are also under an obligation to abide by international laws including the Roman Statute,” said Mr Kachali.
Sudan’s president is wanted by The Hague-based International Criminal Court on charges of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes in the country’s troubled Darfur region.
Malawi’s new president, Joyce Banda, said in May that she wanted Bashir to stay away from the summit scheduled in Lilongwe on July 9-16, to avoid straining ties with key donors for her impoverished country.
Banda has embarked on a major drive to smooth ties with the international community which were soured under her predecessor Bingu wa Mutharika.
Under current ICC rules, its members, of which Malawi is one, have a duty to arrest Bashir, who has visited several countries, including some court signatories, without any action being taken.
Earlier this week, ICC prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo told the UN Security Council that failure to detain him and other Sudanese officials accused of war crimes and genocide was “a direct challenge to the council’s authority.”
He said the council should consider calling on all 193 UN member states and regional organisations to carry out the arrest warrants.
Malawi was reported to the council in December for refusing to arrest Bashir after Mutharika gave him a red carpet welcome at a regional trade summit.