Malawi Cancels AU Summit Over Bashir Controversy

Posted June 8th, 2012 at 8:30 am (UTC-5)
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Malawi says it will not host an upcoming African Union summit, after the AU insisted on inviting Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir, who is wanted for war crimes.

Speaking on state radio, Malawi Vice President Khumbo Kachali said the cabinet met Friday and decided not to host the summit. He said ministers based their decision on “what is best in the interest of Malawians.”

A Malawian newspaper reported this week that authorities were prepared to arrest President Bashir if he came to the summit, which was scheduled to begin July 9.

Sudan's foreign ministry had requested the summit be moved to Ethiopia, saying Malawi's stance was contrary to the AU's position on Mr. Bashir.

The Sudanese leader is wanted by the International Criminal Court for alleged war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide in Sudan's Darfur region. The Bashir government has been fighting rebels there since 2003.

Despite the ICC arrest warrant, Mr. Bashir has traveled to several countries in Africa that are either not members of the court or allowed the Sudanese president to enter the country without being arrested. He visited Malawi last October.

The Bashir visit, a crackdown on protesters last July and other incidents hurt Malawi's relations with the international community and led to a reduction or cutoff in aid from foreign donors, including the United States and Britain.

Malawian President Joyce Banda is attempting to improve foreign relations following the death of her predecessor, Bingu wa Mutharika, in April.

The state-owned Malawian news agency said Friday that hosting Mr. Bashir would “jeopardize the country's mended good relationship with the international donor community.”