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Malawi bars al-Bashir from AU summit

Summit snub ... Malawi has asked African Union not to invite Sudanese leader Omar al-Bashir

05/05/2012 00:00:00
by Mabvuto Banda I Reuters
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MALAWI President Joyce Banda said on Friday she had asked the African Union to prevent Sudan's wanted leader Omar Hassan al-Bashir from attending a summit in her country, saying his visit would have "implications" for the economy.

The International Criminal Court (ICC) has issued arrest warrants for Sudan's President Bashir to face charges of masterminding genocide and other war crimes during his nation's Darfur conflict.

Malawi angered international donors when it played host to Bashir last year - ICC members countries like Malawi are supposed to arrest people wanted by the global court.

Banda, who became president last month with promises to restore relations with donors, said on Friday she had asked the African Union not to invite Bashir to the African heads of state summit in her country in July.

"I have written them because of the economic implications this may have on Malawi," she told a news conference.
"Let the AU decide on his position. He (Bashir) should forgive us this time as we are struggling to fix the economy."

She did not go into details of what economic implications Bashir's visit would have on her impoverished southern African nation.

But Banda has in the past promised to restore a flow of overseas aid cut under the rule of her predecessor Bingu wa Mutharika. That cut left a gaping hole in a budget that relies on overseas assistance for about 40 percent of its funds.

The announcement is likely to infuriate Bashir, who has already had to restrict his movements to a relatively small circle of friendly nations since his indictment.

The Sudanese government said Malawi had no right to make such a request.

"This will not happen, because the host country does not have the right to dictate who comes. This is according to the AU," Sudanese foreign ministry spokesman El-Obeid Morawah said in Khartoum.

"Since Sudan is a member of the AU, it has a right to attend the summit. The hosting country does not have the right to say who comes," he said.

Mutharika's government allowed Bashir to attend a regional trade summit last year, citing "brotherly coexistence".

The move strained ties with donors, including the United States and European nations, who had already frozen projects in Malawi due to Mutharika's suspected human rights violations and growing autocracy. Mutharika died last month of a heart attack.


Malawian government press secretary Ruth Govati said on Friday Banda would not be able to comment immediately on why Malawi was going through the AU to block Bashir or what she planned to do if he came.

The International Criminal Court, the world's first permanent war crimes court, has no police force of its own and relies on member states to carry out arrests.

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