, BLANTYRE, Jun15 – Malawian President Joyce Banda on Thursday said she acted in the “interests of Malawi and Malawians” by refusing to host Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, a war crimes suspect, at an AU summit.
The African Union moved next month’s meeting of the continental bloc to Ethiopia after Banda said she would not invite Bashir and anger foreign donors.
“I respect that decision. I respect Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir as head of state of Sudan, but I as President Joyce Banda, my main agenda right now is economic recovery,” Banda told reporters on her return from visits to Britain and the United States.
The late president Bingu wa Mutharika hosted Bashir at a regional conference in October, worsening aid-dependent Malawi’s ties with donors who suspended their support over that and a host of governance issues.
“How did the AU support us and who supported us? And who lost? We lost in the end,” said Banda.
She said Malawi had “closed the issue” on Bashir, a decision made in the “interests of Malawi and Malawians.”
The AU insisted that Bashir must be invited, while Banda wanted the Sudanese leader to send a representative in order to maintain ties with donors, who contribute up to 40 percent of her country’s development budget.
The International Criminal Court has an arrest warrant for Bashir on charges of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes committed in the troubled Darfur region.
Under current ICC rules, signatories — which include Malawi and 32 other African states — have a duty to arrest Bashir.
He is the first sitting president indicted by the court and his visits spark diplomatic headaches for African nations, with some signatories vowing his arrest on their soil while others flout the court’s rules.
Malawi was reported to the council in December for refusing to arrest Bashir last year.
In 2009, the AU said it would not respect the ICC warrant and urged the United Nations to suspend the arrest order.