BLANTYRE--Malawi has said it will go ahead and host next month's African Union (AU) summit despite Sudan asking that the summit be shifted to AU headquarters in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, following Lilongwe's attempts to block President Omar Hassan al-Bashir from attending because he was a wanted war criminal by the International Criminal Court (ICC).
In a statement issued in Khartoum Thursday the Sudanese Foreign Ministry said Malawi's was violating AU rules, including an obligation to provide "the required propitious frameworks and environment for the summit".
But Malawi's Information Minister Moses Kumkuyu said Lilongwe was going ahead with hosting the conference, dismissing Khartoum's position as lacking basis.
"The statutes of the African Union give freedom to member states to make their grievances known," Kumkuyu told MaraPost Thursday. "We were only making our position known and that is not infringing on any statute of the AU."
Kumkuyu, who is the Malawi Government spokesman, said final touches for the summit are under way and "the summit is definitely taking place in Malawi. It is no offence to make our position known".
Malawi is scheduled to host the AU summit in the capital, Lilongwe, from July 9 to 16. Soon after assuming office following the sudden death of Pres Bingu wa Mutharika in April, Pres Joyce Banda disclosed that she had written the AU secretariat asking it not to invite al Bashir because he was "an economic risk" to Malawi.
Western donor capitals, notably the US, have made it clear they would cut off aid to all countries that host al Bashir without arresting him. Malawi already suffered consequences when it hosted the Sudanese leader last year. Washington froze US $350.7m meant to revitalise Malawi's ageing energy sector.
Africa, over 30 of whose countries have ratified the Rome Statute that set up ICC, is divided on how to handles the Hague-based court. Many African countries believe ICC targets African leaders but Botswana, Zambia and now Malawi have openly said they would perform their obligation to the ICC and arrest al Bashir if he visits their countries while South Africa has said it would not guarantee his security if he visits.
In-coming ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensouda, a Gambian, has since dispelled suggestions that the court targets Africans only.
"A lot of it is only perception," Bensouda, who takes over from the Argentine Luis Moreno-Ocampo this month, told a recent week-long Open Society conference in Cape Town, South Africa. "The perception is a dangerous thing; it's given to impress that the only place ICC is working is in Africa."
She added: "There are some elements that want this perception to persist."
The Lilongwe summit is particularly crucial for Sudan since its agenda includes talks over Khartoum's relations with South Sudan which seceded last year under a 2005 peace deal. The two countries are at odds over a long list of issues, including the position of the border, oil payments, debt and the status of citizens in one another's territory.
The summit will also attempt to break the logjam over who becomes AU Commission chairman. At its last summit in Addis, members failed to vote in a new chairman as there was a tie between incumbent Jean Ping of Gabon and South Africa's Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma.
----©2012 The Maravi Post. Reproduction authorised, with usual acknowledgment.