5/4/2012 3:08 PM ET (RTTNews) – Malawi’s new president Joyce Banda said Friday that she does not want her Sudanese counterpart Omar al-Bashir, who has been charged with war crimes by the International Criminal Court (ICC), to attended a summit of African leaders due to be held in her country in July.
Banda reportedly told a press conference held Friday that she has already requested the African Union to prevent Bashir from attending the summit and suggested that Sudan send another top level official instead.
She said the summit comes at a time when her government was in the midst of attempts aimed at wooing back western donors who had stooped funding Malawi due to concerns of poor governance as well as the growing dictatorial tendencies of her late predecessor, Bingu wa Mutharika.
Banda was sworn into office on April 7, following the sudden death of President Mutharika due to a heart attack. She was the country’s Vice-President at the time of Mutharika’s unexpected death. She became President under a law which stipulates that the Vice-President would automatically become the head of state if the sitting President is either incapacitated or died.
Banda said Friday Bashir’s visit to Malawi for attending the forthcoming African Union summit could have serious economic “economic implications” for Malawi. She was apparently referring to the international criticism triggered by Bashir’s last visit to her country.
Bashir had visited Malawi in last October when President Mutharika was in power. That visit had triggered an international outrage, with many nations accusing Malawi of failing to honor its obligations as a member of ICC by failing to arrest Bashir despite a standing arrest warrant issued by the UN-backed international court. The ISS has since referred the issue to the UN Security Council.
The ICC has issued two warrants against Bashir for crimes committed in Sudan’s Darfur region, the first in March 2009, and the second warrant in July 2010. The UN estimates that about 300,000 people have been killed and some 2.5 million displaced in Darfur since ethnic Africans of the region took up arms against the Arab-dominated government in Khartoum in 2003 to fight discrimination.
Bashir, who is accused of ordering a campaign of murder, torture and rape in Darfur during the conflict, has denied the charges. Incidentally, the ICC warrants against Bashir marked the first such action against a sitting head of state.